Earning an online master's degree in business administration, commonly known as an MBA, can be your ticket to success in a wide range of business professions. Top MBA programs can help you establish a career in business fields such as marketing, finance or public relations and give you the knowledge and skills you need to advance into management positions.
Graduates with a business administration master's degree can go on to work in the upper echelons of small, medium-sized or large corporations, either in the U.S. or abroad. If you've ever thought about going into business for yourself, certain specialized MBA programs can teach you what you need to know to start your own company.
In the course of completing an MBA program online or on campus, students build on their prior business experience or education to learn more about classical and modern principles of administration, marketing, management, leadership and investor relations. Through a combination of online classroom instruction and peer collaboration, MBA students can learn about proper business acumen, entrepreneurship and new technologies that are changing the world of business.
Read on to learn about some of the best MBA online programs and get valuable insight into the career market for graduates.
Business administration is the art of conducting business operations in an effective way, simultaneously serving an organization's mission and generating profits for investors and other stakeholders. An MBA, or master's degree in business administration, is an advanced academic program that covers the essentials of the business administration field and may permit you to specialize your study in a specific business discipline. You can complete an MBA program online at dozens of colleges and universities nationwide.
An accredited online business school is one that meets a detailed national standard for the quality of its degree programs and academic services. There are two types of accreditation to look for when seeking an MBA program online or on campus: regional accreditation, which applies to the entire institution, and programmatic accreditation, which applies to specific business programs in a school's catalog. The following agencies accredit MBA programs specifically:
While many online MBA programs can be completed entirely via distance education, some online MBA students may need to visit campus once or twice a year for strategic residency sessions that last anywhere from a few days to one week. During these sessions, online MBA students collaborate with classmates to practice the skills they've learned.
Earning your master of business administration degree online can also lay down the foundation for highly advanced study. Programs that lead to a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or a Ph.D. in business administration often require applicants to have a master's degree, and the MBA curriculum offers some of the best preparation for these top-tier degrees.
How long does an online MBA take?
The typical online master's in business administration degree takes around two years of full-time study to complete. If you're unable to attend school full-time or you're hoping to shorten your time to completion, however, alternative schedules may be available to better suit your goals.
Earning a part-time MBA online can be great for adult students returning to school — the programs may take longer overall, but the lighter course load each semester can place less of a burden on your existing schedule. Students hoping to earn their MBA as quickly as possible can find accelerated programs that take as little as one year to complete in some cases.
What are the requirements to start a master's degree program in business administration?
To enroll in an MBA program, you must first hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Many of the best MBA programs also require official documentation of your scores on the GRE or GMAT, as well as an application essay and letters of recommendation from colleagues, employers or former teachers.
Some institutions may offer undergraduate programs that connect directly with the MBA curriculum, allowing students to earn both their bachelor's degree and their MBA in roughly five years. Admissions requirements for programs like these may be handled differently — if this option is available at your chosen school, check with your advisor to learn more.
Why earn a master's in business administration?
A bachelor's degree can open the door to a wide range of entry-level business occupations, but moving up in your field often requires years of experience on the job for those who have only an undergraduate degree.
Earning an online master's in business administration can enhance your career opportunities, increase your salary potential and help you qualify for promotions at an existing job. MBA graduates are also tending to be better prepared secure management positions at various for-profit and non-profit organizations or pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures.
Take core business courses
Core business courses are an essential part of an MBA curriculum and are typically included in the first two semesters of the study plan. Depending on the program you choose, your core courses may cover topics like economics, finance, business information systems and organizational behavior.
Choose an MBA specialization and take elective courses
Many MBA programs offer specializations for students hoping to concentrate their study in a specific aspect of business administration. The specializations available to you depend on your school, but you're likely to see a sampling of the following options:
Some more unique specializations include:
Complete a degree capstone
Near the end of your studies, you can be asked to participate in a capstone experience that works to help you synthesize the lessons you've learned during your degree program and apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. MBA capstones typically consist of a substantial project that you work on with the assistance of advisors and may include a special seminar class.
Some institutions offer joint or dual MBA programs that allow students to complete an additional graduate degree while they work toward their master's in business administration. A wide range of interdisciplinary study opportunities are available — check out our in-depth look at joint and dual MBAs for more information.
Managing investments can be a challenging profession, and the CFA Institute's Chartered Financial Analyst credential can show that you're capable of navigating the sensitive procedural and ethical requirements of the field.
Requirements: A bachelor's degree or four years of professional experience; students in the final year of their bachelor's program may also register for the exams.
Exam Format: Three exams of increasing difficulty, featuring 240 multiple-choice questions at Level I, 120 multiple-choice questions at Level II and a variable number of questions at Level III, each with a six hour time limit.
How long does the certification last?: No formal expiration date is listed for CFA certification.
Offered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), this certification serves to demonstrate your expertise with the strategies and policy-making skills necessary to plan and develop sound practices in human resources.
Requirements: Four years of professional HR experience for MBA or other master's degree holders, five years of experience with a bachelor's degree or seven years of experience with a high school diploma.
Exam Format: 150 multiple-choice questions with a three-hour time limit
How long does the certification last?: The SPHR credential requires holders to earn 60 recertification credits or retake the exam every three years.
This internationally recognized credential, offered by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), can help you land a job at a high-performance bank or other firm that deals with significant financial risk.
Requirements: Passing scores on two FRM exams and two years of full-time work experience in a financial risk management position are required. The exams can be completed before the required experience, and students in the last year of their degree programs can apply for the entry-level exam.
Exam Format: 100 multiple-choice questions on Part I and 80 multiple questions on Part II, with a four-hour time limit for each
How long does the certification last?: Continuing professional development (CPD) of 40 credits or more every two years is encouraged but not required of FRMs.
Any marketing professional can tell you how important Google ads can be to the trajectory of a brand, and earning certification from the ad providers themselves can boost your marketing career.
Requirements: No formal requirements are listed for candidates hoping to take a Google Ads certification exam.
Exam Format: The four exams in different aspects of the use Google ads can be taken individually; each one consists of 46-50 questions with a 75-minute time limit
How long does the certification last?: Certifications are good for one year, after which you may retake the exam to recertify.
Joining a professional association can boost your employment prospects, provide professional development opportunities and more. Here are a few organizations that MBAs might consider: