The Best Online MBA Programs

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The master of business administration, or MBA, is one of the most highly sought-after graduate degrees in the country. The versatile curriculum prepares students to work in a wide range of industries, and the degree offers a strong return-on-investment (ROI) due to the high earning potential among graduates.

Entry-level workers with an MBA earn up to 22% more than peers with only a bachelor’s degree.

Job prospects for students holding MBAs are strong and continue to grow; according to a recent report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, around 88% of corporate recruiters said they planned on hiring recent MBA grads in the year 2016 — up 8% from the year before.

While many follow a traditional track and earn their MBA from a brick-and-mortar business school, a growing number of students are choosing to enroll in online MBA programs. This convenient, cost-effective alternative is ideal for learners who wish to pursue an advanced degree but are forced to juggle their education with other major commitments, such as employment or childcare.

Learn more about what you can do with an online MBA and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.


The best online MBA programs build on the foundational knowledge of undergraduate studies and introduce more advanced concepts related to business management and administration. In order to earn a degree specialization, students must complete entire course sequences in the niche area of business that most interests them. Many programs also culminate in a master’s thesis or capstone course; these final projects allow students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have acquired over the course of their MBA studies. Internships are widely available to MBA students, as well.


MBA online programs are designed to be flexible and easy to access. Students can download course materials, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors any time of day from the comfort of their personal computer. Additionally, they will be able to study away from home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device with Wi-Fi capabilities. Course faculty will also offer consultations for students who are composing a master’s thesis or capstone project.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a bachelor’s is considered the minimum education requirement for many management titles. These include high-salary roles like top executives, financial managers, and human resources managers. MBA graduates are often considered top candidates for these positions, as well as top-level jobs reserved for applicants with an advanced degree. On the other hand, those who earn an MBA with a specialization in entrepreneurship will be qualified to launch businesses of their own or provide their services to a startup enterprise.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online MBA programs in the United States. If you are considering an online MBA, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of Florida 88.62 3/5 53% Gainesville, FL

UF’s online MBA degree is offered to students through the Warrington College of Business Administration. Those who complete all coursework in the program earn a degree equivalent to any other MBA program offered at the university in Gainesville, FL. The program takes two years to complete for students entering with any bachelor’s degree, and only one year for students with a business bachelor’s degree -- making this online MBA program an especially efficient, affordable option for students who already hold an undergraduate degree in the field. Tuition and fees are offered at $129.18 per credit hour for in-state students, while out-of-state students pay $552.62 per credit hour. Regardless of one’s undergraduate degree or state of residency, all online students at UF are eligible to apply for federal, state, and institutional financial aid.

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2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 85.74 3/5 11% Chapel Hill, NC

The online MBA degree offered at UNC -- Chapel Hill offers courses in a notably flexible and personal manner. Students have the choice to start classes four times per year, and the online classes have a personal component that brings students face-to-face for weekly discussions. Classes are capped at 15 students per professor to encourage networking between students and faculty. The online master of business administration curriculum consists of 66 credits, and students typically complete the program between 18-36 months, depending on their lifestyle and schedule. UNC at Chapel Hill’s online MBA program is unique in the concentrations that students can specialize in as they earn their degree from anywhere in the world. From corporate finance to entrepreneurship, classes in this program cater to students’ academic pursuits and career goals.

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3 North Carolina State University at Raleigh 83.15 3/5 35% Raleigh, NC

Through this university located in Raleigh, North Carolina, students can choose from more than 85 online programs, and complete their MBA degree online in an accelerated or flexible timeline that ranges from 21 months to six years. The adaptable nature of this program makes this one of the best online MBA programs for individuals who live in North Carolina, as the tuition rates for distance learners who live in state pay notably less than those who live out of state. The content for all of the MBA courses in this program can be accessed from NCSU’s WolfWare website, a single sign-in learning management system where students can access necessary materials for their studies.

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4 University of Virginia-Main Campus 82.80 3/5 4% Charlottesville, VA

For students looking to deeply develop their leadership skills through their graduate studies, the University of Virginia’s online master of business administration degree aims to sculpt students into leaders who understand how to act analytically, ethically, and decisively in the business world. The curriculum for this MBA online degree is designed around the courses taught on campus in Charlottesville, VA. Classes utilize case studies that demonstrate relevant, real business problems and solutions to students. These case studies vary in topic, ranging from entrepreneurship to business sustainability. Distance learning students also have the option to take continuing education classes outside of the MBA program, and can participate in numerous overseas exchange programs to enrich their graduate studies in a unique and unforgettable way.

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5 Babson College 80.95 4/5 9% Wellesley, MA

Located in Boston, MA, Babson College focuses on the individualization of one’s degree, offering an online MBA program that aims to connect with each student’s professional and academic goals through flexible curriculum options. Putting this methodology to work, students can pick a concentration such as business analytics, global management, or finance. To further customize learning experiences, Babson College offers unique business-related programs for online students to engage with in the form of electives that contribute to the completion of their graduate degree. These programs include the management consulting field experience, experiential learning programs, and student consulting projects. Students who opt to complete this MBA degree through online courses typically enroll as part-time students and complete the program within 21 months.

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6 Johns Hopkins University 77.65 4/5 28% Baltimore, MD

The Flexible MBA online degree offered through John Hopkins University’s Carey Business School can be completed in Baltimore, MD, Washington, D.C., or online. Students pay the same rate of tuition regardless of location. The university offers financial aid to all online students as well as those completing their degrees on campus to help offset this cost. The 54-credit online MBA degree consists of different courses that focus on applicable business concepts and skills such as negotiation, economics for decision making, and statistical analysis. Courses in this degree program are offered online as well as on campus during evenings and weekends to fit into the schedules of full-time working individuals. To further meet the interests and goals of online students, John Hopkins also offers three MBA concentrations through their online program: financial businesses, healthcare management, and management.

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7 George Washington University 76.95 4/5 15% Washington, DC

The School of Business at GWU in Washington, D.C. offers an online MBA degree consisting of 55 credits to be completed on a part-time basis. This school offers one of the most flexible MBA online programs to graduate-level students: all coursework is offered completely online, but students can opt to take classes on campus instead. These options provide a framework for a successful learning environment to those who need to learn at a distance, but want the chance to attend class in person if they so choose. For those taking classes online, George Washington University’s learning management system creates a highly personal and interactive experience; courses consist of live online classroom sessions where students participate in lectures and case study discussions.

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8 University of Maryland-College Park 75.52 3/5 6% College Park, MD

One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland-College Park, the Robert H. Smith School of Business offers an online MBA degree to students in a flexible distance learning format. Students in this program can earn their master’s degree in as little as 21 months. The program’s courses are taught by the same faculty that teach on campus at the University of Maryland-College Park, and students have the opportunity to specialize in one of the following concentrations to further enhance their graduate studies: accounting, finance, information systems and business analytics, marketing, or supply chain management. The courses associated with these concentrations and the degree at large can be accessed through the school’s Enterprise Learning Management System, which provides a single sign-on platform for students to complete their degree remotely.

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9 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 75.10 3/5 18% Minneapolis, MN

For students looking for a part-time MBA degree that can be completed entirely online, the UMN-Twin Cities’s Curtis L. Carlson School of Management has just that. The school offers an online MBA degree designed to help working professionals reach their career goals. The courses taught in this business administration master’s degree program are taught by the same instructors with the same program requirements and curriculum as on-campus classes. All online students pay in-state tuition, making this one of the most affordable online MBA programs for distance learners. And, unlike some universities, online students are not restricted from applying for any form of financial aid at the University of Minnesota.

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10 The University of Texas at Austin 74.91 3/5 10% Austin, TX

For students without a business bachelor’s degree who are interested in earning their MBA, the University of Texas at Austin’s MBA online degree could be the perfect fit. The program is geared toward students with undergraduate degrees in a wide variety of disciplines. Once students are admitted into the MBA program through the McCombs School of Business, they can choose to focus on a specific area of study such as accounting, finance, operations management, marketing, or technology commercialization. Most students who enter this program have between 2-7 years of business experience and opt to take classes at a part-time pace so they can continue working as they earn their master’s degree. For this online MBA, no GMAT is required. Instead, students can submit scores from the GRE.

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11 Carnegie Mellon University 74.90 4/5 3% Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburg, PA is home to Carnegie Mellon University, which offers an MBA degree online. The MBA program, provided through the Tepper School of Business, features the same curriculum, professors, and graduation requirements as the school’s on-campus programs. Students have the option to complete their coursework synchronously (through one live internet-based evening class once per week, per course) or asynchronously (by accessing recorded academic material including voiced-over presentations, readings, assignments, and group work). One of the main benefits of completing the MBA degree online through Carnegie Mellon is that they offer "Access Weekends". These events are held every two months at Carnegie Mellon locations throughout the U.S., so students can meet in person and develop valuable relationships with staff and students.

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12 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 74.24 3/5 22% Champaign, IL

UI in Urbana-Champaign, IL has an online MBA degree accessible to anyone with internet access around the globe. Known as the iMBA program, the University of Illinois creates "virtual study teams" with online students through its learning management system so groups of students can learn about various business-related topics in a collaborative environment. From financial management to statistics for management decision making, the online MBA curriculum focuses on the managerial and leadership components of business -- making this master’s degree in business administration highly relevant to students looking to obtain and grow in a leadership role within their career of choice.

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13 Stevens Institute of Technology 73.60 4/5 42% Hoboken, NJ

The online MBA degree through SIT’s School of Business can be taken online or on campus in Hoboken, NJ, depending on what best meets students’ needs. Regardless of whether the student is taking classes in person or remotely, they are expected to have at least two years of business-related experience. Those admitted to the MBA degree program are asked to select a concentration within their studies: business intelligence and analytics, finance, information systems, marketing, or project management. The online program aims to provide real-life experience to enrich the master’s degree curriculum. As such, the institute offers a field consulting program that matches individual students with a partner company to work on and solve a real-life business problem.

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14 New York University 73.23 5/5 4% New York, NY

TRIUM is a global executive master’s in business administration program offered through NYU. The program uses a blended learning format that incorporates online classes with six on-site classes accessible at several global locations over a 17-month period. The EMBA is comprised of courses and methodologies from three renowned schools: the NYU Stern School of Business, London School of Economics and Political Science, and HEC Paris School of Management. The fusion of these three schools creates an online MBA degree that offers a high amount of collaboration and discussion to students who have business experience and are looking to deeply engage in global business. The program does require students to potentially take time off of work to travel to different learning locations, but as a result, students grow a strong network of global business leaders and peers.

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15 Boston University 72.53 5/5 8% Boston, MA

The Questrom School of Business at BU offers a part-time online MBA degree to students who are looking to gain management experience to leverage their business careers. This competitive program has an annual class of around 150 students and considers professional background, leadership skills, academic credentials, and diversity in the selection process. Those who are accepted into this program are rewarded with insightful classes taught by BU faculty that assist in networking to build strong relationships that students can take along with them upon graduation. To further enrich professional connections and apply learnings to the real world, students are also offered the chance to attend an international field seminar in Asia, Brazil, or India.

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16 Lehigh University 71.88 4/5 6% Bethlehem, PA

Located in Bethlehem, a city in eastern Pennsylvania, Lehigh University has a Flex MBA program for those interested in taking online classes at a part-time pace for two years. Qualified candidates for this program must have at least two years of business work experience. Once admitted, students in this online MBA degree can choose to take classes in person or remotely, providing highly flexible options that adapt to students’ schedules and lifestyles. The program focuses on growing leadership skills, developing inclusive thinking and problem solving, and understanding domestic and global business. These topics are woven into the curriculum and covered in the different concentrations that students can select from as they complete their degree: corporate entrepreneurship, finance, international business, marketing, project management, or supply chain management.

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17 The University of Texas at Dallas 71.00 3/5 18% Richardson, TX

Working professionals looking to obtain their MBA have several flexible options to consider through the University of Texas at Dallas. The school's Naveen Jindal School of Management gears its MBA programs around working professionals and aims to help students think strategically in a competitive global marketplace. Students interested in learning in a part-time, online environment can choose from two Professional MBA formats: the PMBA Flex, or the PMBA Online. As the name suggests, the PMBA Flex program is highly flexible: students decide to take classes online or on campus, what semester they start, and how many courses to take at a time. Students in the PMBA Online complete all their classes online. In either case, most PMBA Flex and PMBA Online students work full-time and take classes on a part-time basis. One highlight of the UT Dallas MBA programs is the broad array of electives open to MBA students, offering relevance across professions.

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18 Purdue University-Main Campus 70.87 3/5 14% West Lafayette, IN

Purdue’s robust online master’s degree offerings include an MS in business administration that focuses on agribusiness. Within this online MBA degree, students can choose from two tracks: food and agribusiness management or agricultural economics. Each option is offered through a partnership between Purdue University and Indiana University's Kelley School of Business in West Lafayette, IN; 30 students are admitted to this MBA degree program each year. The tight-knit cohort of students completes the majority of their classwork online so they can continue working as they complete their graduate studies. Students meet in person for five, one-week residency sessions throughout the duration of the program, so having the ability and flexibility to travel is necessary to successfully engage in this program.

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19 University of South Carolina-Columbia 70.79 3/5 3% Columbia, SC

At the USC in Columbia, SC, students with a bachelor’s degree can earn their MBA online through the Darla Moore School of Business. This school offers several MBA program options, one of which is geared toward working professionals who want to earn their master’s degree while continuing to work. The Darla Moore School of Business is known for focusing on international business, and as such, students can choose to have a concentration in international business as they take courses in the graduate program. The online MBA degree creates flexible options for graduate students by offering classes online and through video conferencing at regional classroom locations. Students who want to take courses in person can attend classes on the Columbia campus as well as in Aiken, Bluffton, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Spartanburg, SC and in nearby Charlotte, NC.

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20 Villanova University 70.58 4/5 15% Villanova, PA

Students interested in the Villanova School of Business’s MBA program can earn their degree online without sacrificing quality instruction, as Villanova University’s online MBA degree employs the same curriculum taught by the same faculty as the school’s on-campus program. The degree is made up of 48 credit hours that typically take students two years to complete. Villanova’s program has notable community-building aspects. Students must attend a residency and two practicum experiences in addition to their online classes. They also are required come to the campus in Villanova, PA for networking opportunities with faculty, students, and alumni. As they complete their degree, students have the option to specialize in one of four subject areas (finance, marketing, analytics, or strategic management) to make their learning as applicable and relevant as possible.

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21 Pepperdine University 69.72 4/5 2% Malibu, CA

Malibu, CA is home to Pepperdine University, a Christian university that offers a MBA degree online. The school’s program is specifically designed for working professionals and has flexible online course offerings that allow students to continue working full time as they complete the online MBA. Students typically take two years to complete this degree offered through the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management. While doing so, students can engage in relevant, hands-on experience with executives from a company, observing a "live" case study taken directly from the business world. The connections that come from this interactive learning environment encourage students to develop their professional network for career success upon graduation.

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22 George Mason University 67.89 3/5 20% Fairfax, VA

The executive MBA program at George Mason in Fairfax, VA caters to working professionals over online course delivery. For this online MBA, no GMAT is required to apply. Once admitted, students choose from three programs to focus their business graduate studies: global, national security, and critical infrastructure protection. It typically takes students 20 months to complete their degree, and during this time students access coursework remotely and meet three Saturdays a month on George Mason’s Arlington campus. All program participants take classes in a progressive sequence with a cohort of other students all at the same time, creating a collaborative environment that can lead to valuable professional connections upon graduation.

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23 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 67.85 3/5 15% Baton Rouge, LA

Of the five MBA degree options at LSU and Agricultural & Mechanical College, only the online Flores MBA Program can be completed entirely online. This degree is specifically designed for professionals who have been working in the business world for a minimum of three years since earning their bachelor’s degree. Students who meet this qualification and who cannot physically meet on campus are eligible to partake in this online program on a part-time basis while working. Students take one course for seven weeks at a time and can graduate in 27 months, but also have the ability to finish in 18 months if desired. The program’s low day-to-day time commitment caters well to the working professional seeking career advancement through a graduate degree.

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24 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide 67.53 3/5 89% Daytona Beach, FL

Accessible from anywhere in the world, ERAU’s Worldwide campus offers an MBA in aviation. This program is ideal for working professionals who are looking to specialize in the field of business aviation. The courses within this online MBA degree offer instruction applicable to aviation, such as advanced aviation economics and strategic marketing management in aviation. These classes are conducted through the College of Business Worldwide, a globally-accessible college associated with ERAU. This online workplace gives students an array of online resources such as a library of aviation-specific reading materials to help them complete their online degree successfully.

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25 East Carolina University 67.25 3/5 39% Greenville, NC

ECU's online MBA program is entirely self-contained, meaning no prerequisite business experience or coursework is needed. The program is made up of two main components: business foundation and business body of knowledge (CBK) courses. Although the program is listed as 54 hours, the average is closer to 42 hours; for students with a business degree, it can even be as few as 33 hours. Foundation courses cover financial and managerial accounting, comparative management, marketing management, and more. CBK courses include strategic management, marketing strategy, and operations and supply chain management, among others. Students must also complete three required electives. The MBA can be pursued entirely online or in hybrid online/on-campus format. The degree is extremely flexible; students set their own pace and can even choose to take off one semester or more if they need to. Applicants to the MBA program must have at least a 2.7 GPA and a GMAT score of 450 or more. Only GRE scores from the Revised GRE Exam are accepted for consideration. ECU's College of Business is AACB-accredited.

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Online MBA degree programs have grown in popularity in the past few years, and each provide the skills and knowledge you need to obtain a leadership position in the business world. While certain details are dependent on the particular school and program you choose, this guide provides a clear framework to work with as you do research and decide which option is best for you.


Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Entrepreneurship Students learn to create and present business plans, plan venture capital, and learn about the economy of the startup market. This prepares them to build their own business from the ground up or work as consultants to help other people and even companies create and sustain their own projects. Small business owner, startup creator, venture capitalist, business consultant
Marketing This is one of the most popular specialization areas. Students learn about buyer behavior, data mining, product design and development, and the fundamental practices of marketing management. Graduates are prepared to work in brand management and lead teams as social media specialists for pharmaceuticals, retail, and other industries. Brand manager, social media specialist, product developer, marketing manager
Leadership Students pursuing the leadership track learn to manage individuals, teams, and organizations. Coursework includes executive leadership, creative decision making, team building, and human resource management. These courses provide students with the tools they need to motivate and incentivize employees as well as improve efficiency and the bottom line in order to become successful organizational leaders. Business operations manager, compliance officers, sales manager, management consultant


Online MBA programs build upon undergraduate business topics and tend to be similar in order to meet accreditation guidelines. Certain courses depend on the history and focus of the school you choose as well as the interests and expertise of the faculty. Below are some classes you can expect to take in your MBA curriculum.

  • Information Technology: This course provides students with an in-depth look at information systems management issues, including support applications, systems acquisition, best practices in implementation, and other topics needed to thrive in a global economy as a team leader and social media analyst. Students usually analyze case studies to come up with solutions for new or existing business initiatives in order to improve consumer, enterprise, and social technologies.
  • Financial Accounting: A fundamental course in the online MBA curriculum that prepares students to be managers and accountants, among other positions. This course emphasizes contemporary practices in financial accounting and reporting systems, including the evaluation and interpretation of a company’s external fiscal reports. Students also focus on the accounting cycle, profitability analysis, the structure of financial statements, and changes to the field.
  • Strategic Management: In this course, students study the fundamental practices of integrating decisions into functional areas of business, including the formulation of strategy and policy within the organization. Students also learn to develop and implement a specific management plan, using case studies as examples. This course prepares students to be effective team leaders in a variety of business environments and is usually a prerequisite to more advanced management classes.


The total number of credits needed to earn the degree vary depending on the program. The majority of online MBA programs require 48 to 62 credits. Students usually finish their degree in approximately two years if they take classes full-time. Part-time students take about three years, and most schools allow students to take as long as five. The length depends on certain degree requirements, including prerequisites and capstone projects.

For online degrees, it’s important to look at what kind of on-campus requirements, if any, are required. This may depend on whether an MBA program subscribes to a cohort learning model, where students work in teams with their peers and progress through the degree together, or if they value the increased flexibility of asynchronous learning.


  • Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certification: The SHRM is a globally recognized measure of expertise in the human resources field. The exam is divided into two levels: the certified professional or the senior certified professional. The levels are based on the education an applicant has as well as the amount of work experience they wield. The SHRM exams are competency-based, universally-relevant, and backed by the premier professional organization in the field, which means those who earn the credential can use it to pursue a variety of HR positions worldwide.
  • Certified Public Accountant Certification: The CPA license is the oldest and one of the top credentials in the accounting and finance industry. This certification validates your expertise in forensic accounting, compliance, risk management, taxes, and others. A minimum of 150 education hours are needed to sit for the exam, and the cost ranges from $2,000 to $3,000.

While the General Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a standard requirement of many online MBA programs, many schools are offering applicants ways around taking it. While the GMAT is a good indicator of a student’s capability in a business school, it is not an accurate representation of talent, drive, or success after graduation. Applicants with an exceptionally high GPA, another graduate level degree, and/or a long history of work experience, may find that they are automatically exempt from taking the GMAT or that they can apply for exemption based on a case-by-case basis.

Top scorers of the GMAT clock approximately 120 hours of study, and sometimes more. How you divide up those hours is up to you, but you should proceed with a detailed plan for studying, spending the appropriate amount of time on each area. Test areas include verbal competence, sentence correction, statistics, economics, and data sufficiency. The test also measures overall critical reasoning and problem solving skills. Perhaps the best advice is to practice as often as possible in order to get used to the materials and to the computerized test environment. Success may also entail taking the GMAT multiple times, so plan for that as you research MBA program applications.

National recognition is the baseline standard all nonprofit, accredited online MBA programs must achieve in order to have any validity. This designation is conferred by the United States Department of Education (DOE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The next form of accreditation comes at the regional level and is the most important. It means the particular college or university adheres to specific standards set forth by the state or consortium of state in which it operates, a necessary stamp of approval for most employers. There are seven regional accreditation bodies.

The best online MBA programs will have national, regional, and industry-specific accreditation. Business students should look for programs recognized by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the oldest and most well-respected organization in the field. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is another professional organization of this kind. Though newer, the ACBSP is growing in popularity and prominence among the top online MBA programs.

National accreditation is the standard form of recognition for all online MBA programs and is conferred by the DOE and the CHEA. Both organizations work to establish and ensure academic and professional quality that nonprofit colleges and universities must gain, and reobtain every three to five years. The DOE and CHEA are also in charge of establishing the legitimacy of regional accreditation organizations, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Higher Learning Commission. For more information of DOE and CHEA recognized schools, visit their websites.

Job Placement: MBA vs Bachelor of Business Administration

According to the BLS, the management sector is expected to grow by 6% — or roughly 505,000 jobs — between 2014 and 2024. This growth rate is slower than the projected rate for all industries, and those who earn an online MBA enjoy a more favorable employment rate than their counterparts with lesser degrees. A recent survey by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce revealed a significant difference in job placement rates between recent bachelor’s graduates, experienced bachelor’s graduates, and candidates with advanced degrees. Using data from this survey, the table below looks at these differences in five niche areas of business.

Professional Field Unemployment Rate for Recent Bachelor’s Graduates Unemployment Rate for Experienced Bachelor’s Graduates Unemployment Rate for Graduate Degree- Holders
General Business 7.0% 4.8% 4.2%
Accounting 6.8% 4.8% 3.8%
Business Management and Administration 8.1% 5.4% 4.4%
Marketing and Marketing Research 7.3% 6.0% 5.4%
Finance 6.6% 5.2% 4.6%

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

As shown in the table above, the average unemployment rate was 4.5% for MBA-holders all five fields, compared to 7.2% for recent bachelor’s graduates and 5.2% for experienced bachelor’s graduates. The low unemployment rate for candidates with an MBA is partially due to the relatively low number of business professionals who earn a master’s compared to those who complete their studies with an undergraduate degree. According to the BLS, masters-holding employees make up 17% to 23% of MBA-friendly occupations such as marketing and sales managers, financial managers and marketing research analysts, and marketing specialists.

Earning a Living

In addition to better employment rates, MBA graduates also enjoy higher earning potential than their bachelor’s-holding colleagues. The CEW survey found that business professionals stand to earn an annual salary of roughly $84,000; by comparison, recent bachelor’s graduates make $39,000 per year and experienced bachelor’s graduates pull in $63,000 on a yearly basis. However, the wage premium for an MBA salary will vary by their specific business field. The following table uses data from the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report to compare the average entry-level salaries of these two groups in different areas of business and management.

Degree/Professional Field Median Entry-Level Salary for Bachelor’s Graduates Median Entry-Level Salary for Master’s/ MBA Graduates Wage Premium for Master’s/MBA Graduates
General Business $44,900 $52,500 17%
Business Administration $45,800 $55,600 21%
Finance $51,900 $63,200 22%
Human Resources $41,300 $50,400 22%
Supply Chain Management $53,900 $62,300 16%
International Business $47,200 $54,600 16%
Marketing and Management $44,100 $53,100 20%
Project Management $52,400 $64,100 22%

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

The table above reveals a 19.5% average wage premium for master’s graduates in all eight professional fields. However, it’s important to note that these numbers only reflect entry-level wages — and that an MBA-holder’s salary will increase incrementally over the course of their career. The next table features expected annual salaries for these eight MBA concentrations at five different career benchmarks.

MBA Concentrations Median Salary (1 year or less) Median Salary (1 to 4 years) Median Salary (5 to 9 years) Median Salary (10 to 20 years) Median Salary (20+ years)
General Business $53,030 $58,010 $76,171 $100,208 $120,095
Business Administration $47,364 $56,024 $70,789 $88,105 $103,292
Finance $53,640 $64,055 $82,673 $102,197 $130,948
Human Resources $43,848 $50,569 $61,453 $74,654 $93,057
Supply Chain Management $62,212 $68,008 $81,091 $98,413 $105,404
International Business $54,496 $58,798 $78,276 $99,047 $129,169
Marketing and Management $50,000 $57,323 $79,185 $102,467 $138,754
Project Management $50,251 $58,026 $77,343 $87,660 $95,964

Source: PayScale

MBA-holders with a concentration in marketing and management enjoyed a career salary increase of 178% between the entry-level and late-career marks — the highest wage premium of all eight concentrations listed in the table above. Other MBA concentrations with high salary increases include finance (144%), international business (137%), general business (126%), business administration (118%), and human resources (112%).

Career Opportunities

Graduates from accredited online MBA programs will qualify for dozens of jobs after leaving school, although individual eligibility will depend on their degree specialization. Some of the most common career pathways for MBA-holders are listed below.

Financial Managers: These managers oversee all of the financial activities of a company or organization. They develop short- and long-term budget plans, and often provide guidance to top executives about asset management and investment opportunities. Specific organizational roles for financial managers include chief financial officers (CFOs), controllers, treasurers, and insurance managers.

Human Resources Managers: Human resources managers (HR managers for short) are responsible for their company’s administrative activities. They often lead HR personnel teams in the recruiting, screening, interviewing, hiring, and training of new employees. HR managers also meet with executives to discuss strategies for pursuing top talent.

Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers: These managers work with other personnel — including creative directors, financial officers, and salespeople — to help companies generate public interest in the products they sell. They often take the lead in major advertising campaigns, and conduct post-project evaluations to determine areas of potential improvement.

Top Executives: Executives oversee all operational activities of their firm, from finances and budget planning to marketing campaigns. Their day-to-day duties depend on the size of their company or organization. Specific executive roles include the chief executive officer (CEO), the chief operating officer (COO), and operational manager.

Profession Median Annual Salary Projected Growth (2014-24)
Financial Managers $117,990 7%
Human Resources Managers $104,440 9%
Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers $124,850 9%
Top Executives $102,690 6%

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to business administration is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for business professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • Association of MBAs: Based in London, AMBA is the only international organization specifically dedicated to educating, supporting, and connecting MBA graduates across different industries. Members are given a platform to network with fellow MBA-holders from more than 200 accredited business schools. Other benefits include continuing ed opportunities through the AMBA career center and access to online webinars.
  • National Association of Women MBAs: This not-for-profit organization is aimed at female business students, established professionals, and entrepreneurs who have earned an MBA. The NAWM specializes in four core areas: education and professional development; mentorship; networking; and collaboration. Members are invited to attend the organization’s annual conference, and local chapter meetings are held throughout the year.
  • National Black MBA Association, Inc.: Founded in 1970, the NBMBAA represents more than 30,000 members in 74 professional and collegiate chapters. With the aim of empowering minorities in the business world, the organization has awarded more than $5 million in scholarship aid to minority high school and college students.
Despite the relative affordability of online MBA programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Commercial Links

Supply chain management is a field that encompasses the materials, facilities, finances, and information that comprise day-to-day operations for any business or organization. Be sure to check out or ranking of the country’s top master’s degree programs in supply chain management.

Finance — the study of money and asset management — is one of the most popular degree concentrations for MBA students. Learn about the best schools for this area of study with our comprehensive degree guide.

Another popular specialization field for MBA students, human resources (or HR) focuses on hiring, new employee orientation and other administrative needs. Visit our guide to master’s degrees in HR for more information.

Non-commercial Links

Our page dedicated to resources for business students includes links to professional organizations, open courseware, industry publications, books, and business-minded users to follow on Twitter.

Our career page for business degree graduates includes a state-by-state breakdown of business careers and academic options for business students, as well as popular job sites, professional organizations and continuing education opportunities for established professionals.

Best Online MBA Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN
2 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
3 University of Florida Gainseville, FL
4 University of Texas at Dallas Richardson, TX
5 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
6 University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI
7 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
8 Temple University Philadelphia, PA
9 Auburn University Auburn University, AL
10 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
11 The University of Arizona Tuscon, AZ
12 University of Michigan - Dearborn Dearborn, MI
13 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
14 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
15 Ball State University Muncie, IN
16 University of Mississippi University, MS
17 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
18 Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS
19 University of Tennessee - Martin Martin, TN
20 University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln, NE
21 Washington State University Pullman, WA
22 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
23 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI
24 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY
25 University of Maryland - College Park College Park, MD