For most people, this past year has been unusual, to say the least, and has prompted many of us to reconsider what’s important in our careers and our lives more generally. In a lot of cases, future employability and financial security, in particular, are a big concern. So if you’ve been working in the same job role for a number of years now and feel that perhaps you’re stuck in a rut, it could be a great opportunity to take advantage of the extra free time at home and return to formal education. The best part is that with the increased popularity of online study, you don’t have to attend classes on campus anymore – perfect for lockdown learning!
There are a plethora of options available for those who wish to engage in distance learning, but if you work (or want to work) in the business or entrepreneurial world, then an online MBA might just be the best choice. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly the program involves, who it’s suitable for, the benefits you can expect to gain, and some specific considerations for online study. Hopefully, this will help you to figure out whether or not it’s the right degree option for you. If you think it is, there are also some tips at the end for how you can prepare for the program. Let’s get started!
What is an online MBA?
Just in case you’ve never heard of the program before, an MBA stands for a Master of Business Administration. It’s a postgraduate-level degree that is designed to prepare students for top managerial roles within a range of businesses and industries by covering a wide range of relevant topics. The MBA is a very prestigious qualification that continues to be highly valued by employers all around the world, and taking one can open a lot of doors for you. Bear in mind that it also tends to have hefty tuition fees and a challenging curriculum, which is why you want to be sure that it’s the right choice for you before you apply.
The course generally takes one or two years to complete, depending on whether you study on a part-time or full-time basis. In addition to the online MBA, you can, of course, also take a more traditional program on a college campus. You also have the choice between a general MBA and those that have a particular focus, such as marketing, international business, finance, business analytics, or entrepreneurship. This gives you plenty of chances to tailor the program you follow to your specific interests and career goals.
Who is an online MBA suitable for?
Both the online MBA and on-campus programs are usually aimed at people who already have a few years of professional work experience under their belt because this enables you to bring more to the table and get more out of the course. Having said that, there are now some programs that are specifically designed for career changers without relevant experience or new graduates who want to fast-track their careers straight after their undergraduate degrees.
Alternatively, if you are already working in a managerial role, you’re likely to be better suited to an executive MBA. This is a program aimed at those who are a bit older and have a substantial amount of relevant work experience. These tend to be structured so that classes fall on evenings and weekends to enable you to study around a full-time job easily.
Whichever type of MBA you want to apply for, you will normally be required to hold an undergraduate degree already. However, there is a lot of flexibility regarding the subject you majored in, and if you have no degree but extensive professional experience, you still might be eligible. You may also be asked to take an entrance exam such as the GMAT.
Thanks to its flexibility, an online MBA, in particular, is well suited to people who wish to boost their qualifications alongside working in their current job role or fulfilling existing family commitments.
What kind of topics does an online MBA cover?
An online MBA is normally structured as a series of modules, often including some primer courses to be taken before the beginning of the first semester. Some of the modules will be compulsory, whilst others will be optional electives that you can choose from a list of available topics. It’s always a good idea to check the course list of the colleges you’re interested in before applying to ensure that the electives you have open to you are of interest and relevant to your career goals.
The specific modules that you’ll study are going to vary according to the institution you study with, but the following list gives you an idea of the sort of topics you can expect to cover:
- Organizational Behavior
- Business Ethics
- Leading Organizations
- Legal Environment of Business
- Data Visualization and Analysis
- Project Management
- Financial Modeling
- Managerial Economics
- Consumer Behavior
- International Marketing
- Business Strategy
- Accounting for Managers
- Marketing Science and Strategy
- Critical Leadership Decisions
- Leading Global Teams
- Engaging Digital Customers
- Innovative Problem Solving
- Investments and Risk Management
- Banking and FinTech
- Mergers and Aquisitions
- Family Business
- Clean Technology Investment
- Managing Negotiations
- Sustainability and Competitive Advantage
- Brand Management
- Pricing Strategy
As you can see, the potential topics you can study are very varied. This gives you flexibility to focus on those areas of business that you are most passionate about. Most modules will involve a variety of different learning and teaching methods, from reading and lectures to seminar discussions, group exercises, and written assignments.
In addition to the modules, you will also normally be required to complete a group or individual Capstone project. This will involve working on a real-world business issue with an external company and is often one of the most challenging but rewarding parts of the program.
What are the benefits of doing an online MBA?
There are a whole wealth of benefits to taking any form of MBA, whether online or on campus. Firstly it’s a fantastic way to boost your business skills and knowledge in a wide range of related areas, from finance and marketing to management and entrepreneurship. All of this will be hugely helpful if you are hoping to progress to high-level job roles in the field, and thus the qualification can be effective at increasing your employability. Naturally, these managerial and executive positions also tend to come with larger salaries and other benefits, so you can expect to enjoy greater financial stability too.
One of the major advantages of doing an MBA is the opportunity it provides for networking. You’ll be studying alongside a cohort of like-minded, driven, and passionate professionals – whether online or in-person – who may well end up becoming lifelong friends, colleagues, or even business partners. Similarly, the faculty members you learn from can be useful connections to have, in addition to the industry partners you work with on consulting projects.
In addition to this, you’ll also have the opportunity to develop a wide range of transferable skills during your studies. These include communication and presentation, decision making and problem-solving, critical thinking and analytical skills, plus leadership and teamwork. All of these are sure to prove very valuable in whatever future career you progress to after you graduate.
In terms of an online MBA in particular, the flexibility it offers is, of course, a major plus point. You can study at a time, location, and pace that suits you, with the ability to combine study with work, family, hobbies, and your social life. It also enables you to enroll in a program with a college anywhere in the country (or even the world!) because you’re not restricted by where you can easily travel to or are happy to move to. In fact, an online MBA can even be cheaper than a campus course because not only do the tuition fees tend to be lower, but you can save money on term-time accommodation, commuting costs, and other similar outgoings.
Finally, an online MBA can also add an extra level to your studies. This is because, in addition to all the business knowledge and skills you’ll be working on, you’ll also be learning how to use a range of online teaching tools and resources. In today’s digital world, these skills are becoming more and more important in a business context, too, so by exploring them in a supportive academic environment; you’ll definitely be giving yourself an advantage.
Are there any disadvantages to doing an online MBA?
Doing an online MBA rather than a course that’s based on campus does not have any inherent disadvantages; however, there are some differences to this mode of study that it’s worth being aware of. Firstly have a think about the exact experience you’re hoping to have during your MBA. If you want the traditional college atmosphere with sports events, extracurricular activities, social excursions, and cram sessions in the campus library, then an online course might not be fully satisfying. However, if you are more interested in getting the work done and acquiring the qualification, distance learning can be ideal.
If you’re concerned that doing an online MBA will reduce your opportunities for networking compared to during an in-person course, you don’t have to be. It just might mean that you need to put in a little bit more of an effort to make those connections. You won’t have serendipitous meetings in hallways or the cafeteria, but you will have plenty of opportunities to make meaningful contact with people virtually.
Finally, doing an online MBA means that you will have to take more responsibility for your studies than you might have to on a traditional course. There won’t be anyone watching over your shoulder to ensure you’re doing your reading and meeting your deadlines! However, most students don’t find this a problem because if you’re driven to do the work, then that self-motivation is more than enough. It’s also a great way to develop a range of useful skills such as time management, self-discipline, and organization – all of which will be highly valuable in your future career.
How can I prepare for taking an online MBA?
Once you have chosen a program, submitted your application, and heard the good news that you’ve been accepted, there are several actions you can take to help you prepare for your initial semester. Firstly find out if there are any primer courses that you need to take before the program begins, and if so, make sure that you complete them in plenty of time. Even if there aren’t any, you could contact an admissions advisor or course tutor to see if you can get a preliminary reading list that you can get started on in advance.
Another useful tip is to reach out to people you know who have taken an online MBA already and find out first-hand what studying for the degree is like. That way, you can get some top tips and advice to help you prepare for and complete the course more effectively. This will be especially helpful if you’ve been out of formal education for a long time and are apprehensive about going back to college. Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone who has done the course, though – you can always search for blogs, books, podcasts, or other resources and get the information that way. There are plenty of useful ones out there!
If you’ve never undertaken any online study before, it might be a good idea to sign up for a free short course on a relevant topic to get used to how virtual learning works. That way, you can try out some of the different teaching methods you’re likely to be utilized in a low-pressure environment, so by the time you start your MBA, you’ll feel confident with most of the distance learning styles. Plus, of course, don’t forget to stock up on all the pens, pencils, notebooks, highlighters, and other stationery items that you might need. Good luck!