When thinking about pursuing a post-graduate degree, you have many more options today than you did decades ago. One of those options is to do coursework and earn a degree completely online. And seeing as MBAs tend to be one of the more valuable degrees in the market place, it stands to reason that many schools would eventually gravitate towards making their MBAs available to students online, instead of just in-person.
While some of the top MBA programs in the country have yet to jump onboard (and I’d bet that some of them eventually will in the next 5 years), some very reputable, long-standing universities have embraced this evolution in higher education and have made their MBAs available online, like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Boston University, Arizona State University, and University of North Carolina, to name just a few.
Despite that, there are still certain stigmas associated with online degrees, and in this article, I cover the top 3 myths I come across related to online MBAs specifically. To add, I had these same questions and doubts as I was researching MBA programs, and after having been 2 years into the MBA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I’m now in a much better place to address some of those questions that might come up.
Myth #1: Online MBA Programs Are EASIER Than In-Person Programs
This is a myth because, quite frankly, it depends on the school, the course work, the professor, and the resources. Any one of those elements can make a program either easier or more difficult. I’m not saying that there probably aren’t schools that make MBAs minimal work and easy to earn, again, to that I say it really depends on the school and program.
But, in my experience at an established public state university offering their MBA online, it’s no easier or more difficult than when I did my bachelors in business, in person, at another established public state university (The University of Texas at Austin). In fact, the workload for some courses can be quite high, to the extent that some course pairings are actually discouraged. Like in-person classes, you have tons of group work and projects, so that’s no different other than it’s all virtual.
Lastly, keep in mind, you’ll be juggling work and maybe a family in addition to pursuing an MBA, so you’ll have more than your fair share of work to handle.
Myth #2: Online MBAs Are Not As Valuable to Employers as “In-Person MBAs”
Again, another myth partly for the same reason as the last, which is it depends on the school and program. Not to mention, the degree you get at the end usually does not say “Online MBA”; it simply says MBA. Nonetheless, the school is important to a degree (pun intended). Like I mentioned in my other video/article about whether an online MBA is worth it, if you get an MBA from some institution that just set up shop a few years ago that maybe doesn’t have an established brand, employers may not find much value in that compared to getting an MBA from, say, a university that has been around for 100+ years, has traditionally offered an in-person MBA, and has a list of accolades to its name.
Although this hasn’t happened yet, I’d wager that within the next 5 years, some top 20 MBA schools will be offering their degree online as an option. I’d also wager that if in the future you got your MBA from MIT or Harvard, online, no one is going to stop you and say “Oh, you got your MBA from Harvard? That’s great. But you got it online, so it doesn’t matter”
HIGHLY UNLIKELY because higher education is evolving, and the way it is being delivered and the price at which its being offered is evolving to meet the demands of the market, and in the past few years, the market is unequivocally leaning online. To get a degree online will simply be another delivery method.
Myth #3: You Can’t Build a Network or Meet People
This one is my favorites because I believed this to be the case before joining the program. In fact, networking wasn’t a big priority for me, and I didn’t have high expectations for it.
Come to find out, (fortunately) I was incredibly wrong.
For one, the community of students is highly engaged online. We use Workplace (which is a business/work oriented spin off from Facebook) to chat among ourselves, and in a cohort of a few thousand from around the globe, there is tons of discussion and activity about school, certain courses, global events that impact the economy and market.
Second, and this will depend on the program, but some schools do a great job of hosting events either at the school (for ex, everyone comes together once a year for a 4-day weekend of events), or regionally at some hotel conference room, restaurant, or elsewhere, so you do, to the extent that you care to be involved, have the option to network.
Third and final point, in larger online programs, if you live in a big metropolitan city, there’s a really good chance you’ll have some folks in the program in your same area that you can coordinate meet ups with, which I happen to have done plenty of and have gotten to connect with other students that way here in Austin.
To be fair, networking takes more work and initiative on your part in an online program, and it depends a bit on where you live and how many students are in the program to make that work well. But it is certainly quite possible, especially if it’s a priority for you.
That’s all I had for today – hope this clarifies a few questions you might’ve had and helps you refine your decision making when it comes to an MBA program.