How to Choose an Online MBA Program

Choosing an online MBA program is an individual choice and will depend on each student’s personal situation, preferences for education and career goals. There are, however, certain aspects of an MBA program that students should take into consideration when deciding on one.


Institutional Accreditation

It is important for students to enroll in a school that is accredited by an agency approved of by the U.S. Department of Education. Schools that are accredited are able to offer federal funding to their students and are generally considered more legitimate than schools that lack accreditation. Students can check on a school’s accreditation by looking at either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Specialized Accreditation

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or the AACSB, accredits all business programs, and most major business schools in the United States are accredited by the AACSB. Some of these schools offer online MBA programs that are also accredited by the AACSB. However, none of the most well known online schools that offer MBA degrees are accredited by the AACSB. Students who are considering earning their MBA degrees from these schools should proceed with caution.

Avoiding Degree and Diploma Mills

Degree and diploma mills are schools that offer degrees and certifications from schools that are not accredited by appropriate agencies. These schools usually operate online and prey on students who are looking for degrees that are less expensive and less time consuming than degrees from accredited schools. Degree and diploma mills’ websites often use language that suggests they are accredited and legitimate, but if a degree program seems to have too few requirements or is too good of a deal, it is probably not a safe option.


The faculty of an online MBA program is an influential aspect of a student’s business education experience. Because students learn from their professors’ academic and practical knowledge and experience, business professors’ resumes should include both academic and real world accomplishments. Although most interactions between professors and students will be online, business school professors can help students network with potential employers.

For-profit vs. nonprofit

Despite major differences between for-profit and nonprofit schools, both can receive accreditation and both offer online MBA programs. Students interested in earning their MBAs online may choose to attend either for-profit or nonprofit schools.

For-profit Schools

Often called proprietary schools, for-profit schools are privately owned and operated. These schools were pioneers in online education and offer a wide variety of online degree programs including masters programs in business administration. If a for-profit school is accredited, students are eligible to take out education loans from the federal government. However, many online for-profit schools have poor reputations due to high loan default rates. Students who are concerned about a school’s loan default rates can investigate them at the U.S. Department of Education’s database.

Nonprofit Schools

Nonprofit schools can be private or public and like for-profit schools, are eligible for federal financial aid if the schools are accredited. The online degree programs offered by nonprofit schools have increased over the past few years in both number and popularity. Many of these online programs offer students the opportunity to earn a degree online from a traditional school. A benefit of studying online at a traditional school is that future employers will be less likely to question the value of a student’s MBA.

Fully online vs. hybrid programs

Students can complete MBA degrees in fully online programs or in hybrid programs, which have on-campus and online components.

Fully Online Programs

Fully online MBA programs present almost all of their course materials online, including articles, textbooks and assignments. Exams are either un-proctored and online or proctored and taken offline. Student and professor interaction usually occurs through online discussion boards and e-mail, although professors often make themselves available for phone calls as well. An advantage of enrolling in a fully online program is that students have the flexibility to work from anywhere as long as they have a computer and access to the Internet. A disadvantage to earning an MBA in a fully online program is that many MBA programs require coursework to be completed by groups or teams of students. Organizing and executing group projects can be difficult in a fully online program.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid online MBA programs present part of the course material through online platforms, but also require students to spend time on campus. In a hybrid program, assignments might be submitted online or in person, depending on a professor’s preference. The same is true for exams. Hybrid programs are usually designed with working professionals in mind, so on-campus classes meet in the evenings and on weekends.

Although hybrid MBA programs do not have the same level of flexibility that fully online ones have, they still reduce the amount of time that students spend in transit and on campus. An advantage to hybrid programs is that students can do a lot of their work online while still having the opportunity to meet their professors and classmates in person.

Capstone and project requirements

Some, but not all, online MBA programs require their students to complete a capstone project at the end of the degree program. A capstone project is a culminating project that asks students to integrate aspects of their MBA education with a real world assignment. Most capstone projects are team projects. Students should check with the schools to which they are applying to see if a capstone project is part of the degree requirements.