There is a fear amongst students that online masters degrees, such as online MBAs, are less well-respected by employers than their campus-based equivalents. This concern is rooted in the long history of fraudulent “diploma mills”, and the scepticism that some companies showed toward online masters degrees when they were first launched. This question of whether this concern is justified is particularly important to students who want to pursue a professional qualification – like the MBA.
Fortunately, fears about online courses are unfounded. When online courses were first released by universities several years ago, some commentators and employers were indeed rather sceptical about whether qualifications gained through independent study in this way would be as rigorous as those attained through the traditional, campus-based experience. But these early reservations voiced by employers have quickly disappeared, as the technology that supports online learning has matured, and universities have put time and resources into perfecting the syllabus it provides using these platforms. Indeed, online masters courses like an online MBA can have significant advantages over the alternatives in certain circumstances. Online MBAs represent how business schools around the world have well and truly entered the digital age.
One of the best things about an online degree as far as an MBA is concerned is that you don’t need to stop working in order to complete it. Although this kind of arrangement is also supported by campus-based degrees – like the Executive MBA, which schedules classes at evenings and weekends – an online MBA takes this even further; cutting the time taken to commute to campus altogether, and allowing you to complete your studies whenever and wherever you wish. This kind of flexibility makes the process of studying while working even easier. This is particularly important for mid-level professionals who might not wish to take a break in their career while they’re trying to work their way up an organisation, or entrepreneurs who are busy trying to grow their business, and can’t afford to take time away. Finally, the option to study online for your MBA means you have a much wider range of business schools to choose from – you can apply for courses that best suit your needs, wherever the institution providing them is based in the world, without having to go through the expensive and inconvenient process of relocating.
But as with all online courses, an online MBA requires an ability to work independently, outside a structured curriculum, with little or no contact hours in person. If you struggle with self-motivation, or with working on your own, then it could be that an online MBA might not suit your educational needs.
The main determinant as to whether an MBA course is worthwhile, is not whether it’s online or not, but rather whether the course is accredited, and whether the business school offering it is well respected. An accredited online course from a well-regarded business school is no different to a normal, full-time MBA, in terms of how it is received and valued by potential employers.
For students who are just starting out in their business career or who are seeking to drastically change their career direction, campus-based courses still offer the best mix of great teaching, practical experience, professional placements, and networking opportunities. But if you’re already on an established career track, and you’re seeking progression within the organisation for whom you currently work, then an online MBA is a great option.