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3 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Online MBA Program

Mar. 6, 2015 US News and World Report

Be it a salary boost, larger network or expanded skill set, school officials are quick to rattle off the benefits of MBA programs.

And MBA graduates share the enthusiasm. Nearly 90 percent of business school graduates in the class of 2014 thought their graduate management education was a great value, according to a report by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Prospective students who want the benefits of an MBA, but who don’t have the flexibility to earn a business degree on campus, can now enroll in a growing number of online MBA programs. But with so many options available, it can be hard to home in on the right one.

Fortunately, experts say students can easily separate the quality programs from the less-impressive alternatives by asking the questions below.

1. How flexible is the program? Jason Butz, who graduated from Lehigh University’s online MBA program in December 2014, says it’s important for students to look into how long they have to complete their degree. Ideally, he says, students should be able to take a break from the program or scale back their courses if something comes up.

“If you are a distance student and you are taking one class a semester or two, and something happens – you get married or you change jobs – you don’t want those two years you put into it to be gone,” says Butz, a senior IT manager for a national Catholic health system. Lehigh gives students six years to finish the program. Butz went through in three, instead of the five allowed at the time.

Students should also look into the day-to-day​ flexibility of the program, says Bob Monroe, director of the online hybrid MBA program at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.​ They should know how much of the program is synchronous, requiring students to log in at a specific time, and how much of it is asynchronous, allowing students to access the material at their own pace.

Another component to consider is whether students can easily move between the online and on-campus portion of the program, he says. At Carnegie Mellon, he says, MBA ​students can attend online and on-campus courses as they choose.

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