Most Affordable Online MBA Programs

by Doug Wintemute
TheBestSchools.org

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MBA degrees can provide graduates with a competitive advantage, and affordable online MBA programs can help make this training more accessible.

Earning master of business administration (MBA) degrees can help graduates build professional networks, pursue leadership positions, and earn higher salaries. However, they can be pricey.

Affordable online MBA programs reduce costs by expanding school options, minimizing travel expenses, and offering in-state tuition for out-of-state learners. Furthermore, the best online MBA programs offer flexible asynchronous study options, access to innovative technologies, and more diverse and globalized classrooms.

This guide examines online MBAs, explores available career pathways, and ranks the most affordable online MBA programs.

Featured Online MBA Programs

The Most Affordable Online MBA Programs

  1. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
    Location

    Edinburg, TX

    Tuition

    $4095

    Located in Edinburg, UTRGV strives to provide affordable, high–quality postsecondary education. As the fourth–largest school in the University of Texas System, UTRGV hosts a vast student body and alumni network. Students can choose from over 120 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. UTRGV also prioritizes student–centered learning, inclusion, innovation, and community engagement.

    Students considering careers as executives and leaders in business can earn an MBA in business administration from UTRGV's College of Business and Entrepreneurship. This accelerated, online MBA comprises 36 credits and can be earned in 12 months. Courses include accounting and financial analysis, managerial economics, production and operations management, and marketing strategy.

    Distance learners access coursework through the Blackboard learning management system. UTRGV courses typically follow an asynchronous format that allows students to complete coursework when their schedules permit. Professors upload supplemental reading materials and assignments into weekly modules. Assignments may include essays, exams, group projects, and discussion posts.

    Students who require additional assistance can schedule appointments with professors during digital office hours, sessions with online tutors, and Skype consultations with the writing center. Online students also gain access to UTRGV’s career center, which provides student’s with resume building assistance and career planning.

  2. Texas A & M International University
    Location

    Laredo, TX

    Tuition

    $4857

    Established in 1970 in Laredo, TAMIU enrolls over 7,500 students each term. The school offers over 80 programs, including a master of business administration. This online MBA requires 30 credits and can be earned in 15 months. Concentrations are available in management, international banking finance, international trade and logistics, and international business. Courses include business research methods, strategic management, financial statement analysis, leadership and decision-making, and financial management.

    Online students access coursework through TAMIU’s learning management system, and courses follow an accelerated seven–week format. Asynchronous instruction allows students to complete assignments at their convenience. Assignments typically include discussion posts, exams, essays, and group projects.

    Distance learners can access e–books, online databases, and audiovisual materials through the school’s library. TAMIU distance learners also work with academic advisors, and additional assistance is provided by the Office of Information Technology.

  3. California State University-Dominguez Hills
    Location

    Carson, CA

    Tuition

    $4957

    Founded in 1960, CSUDH provides student–centered instruction and uses innovative teaching methods. The university promotes intellectual inquiry and information literacy, and students gain access to a diverse and inclusive environment. Enrollment is just over 15,000 individuals, and students benefit from an alumni network of over 100,000 members.

    The master of business administration requires 30 units and follows a 12-week format. Students can earn their degree in just 18 months. Courses include financial accounting and business finance, advanced topics in information systems, essentials of human resources management, advanced topics in international business, and management information systems.

    CSUDH utilizes the Blackboard online learning management system, and courses typically follow an asynchronous format that allows students to complete coursework when their schedules permit. Learners engage with classmates and professors through discussion posts, and professors upload all assignments and supplementary materials to weekly modules. Other assignments may include essays, exams, and group projects.

    Distance learners can access instructional support through online tutoring or during office hours. Online databases, e–books, and catalogs provide additional resources. Students may contact librarians over the phone for research support, and CSUDH learners also receive access to one–on–one academic advising. Additionally, the school’s career center helps students plan their career paths and construct resumes. Admission requires GRE scores and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

  4. Fayetteville State University
    Location

    Fayetteville, NC

    Tuition

    $5626

    For over 150 years, FSU has provided postsecondary programs. As the second–oldest state–funded school in the state, FSU is a member of the North Carolina System and Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Students gain access to over 40 programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. FSU offers a vast alumni network and features a 15–to–1 student–to–faculty ratio that allows learners to build meaningful relationships with peers and professors.

    The school’s College of Business and Economics offers a master of business administration comprising 36-39 credits, including 27 core credits and up to 12 elective credits. Several concentrations are available, including business intelligence and data analytics, entrepreneurship, international business, project management, and healthcare management. Courses include managerial accounting, business policy and strategy, managerial economics, financial management, and a culminating capstone project.

    FSU utilizes the Canvas learning management system, and courses typically follow an asynchronous format where students complete coursework within given deadlines. Learners can engage with classmates and professors through discussion posts. Other assignments include group projects, essays, and exams. Individuals who require additional support can access online tutoring through Smarthinking.

  5. Western Governors University
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Tuition

    $6500

    Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, WGU emphasizes strategic solution development and student–centered instruction. WGU provides accessible education through online coursework that allows students to learn independently as their schedules permit. The university offers competitive rates and prioritizes return on student investment. Through competency–based education, WGU students can earn their degrees quickly.

    WGU offers a master of business administration that emphasizes strategic acumen and pertinent leadership skills. This online MBA requires 34 units, and students can earn their degrees in 13-24 months. Classes include managing human capital, managing organizations and leading people, accounting for decision-makers, global economics for managers, and data-driven decision-making. Students also complete a culminating MBA capstone course where they gain hands-on experience with an organization, developing solutions to a business dilemma.

    Distance learners gain access to many digital resources, including e–textbooks, library services, web tutorials, and learning communities. Students can also talk with program mentors. WGU accepts transfer credits, and participants transfer in an average of 32 credits.

  6. California State University-Stanislaus
    Location

    Turlock, CA

    Tuition

    $6768

    Founded in 1957, Stan State offers over 100 programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The university promotes inclusivity, global awareness, equity, ethical decision–making, and academic excellence. The Carnegie Foundation has recognized the university for its efforts in community engagement.

    The College of Business Administration at Stan State offers a master of business administration. Students complete 30 units, including 21 core units and nine elective units. Learners must also complete 18 foundational units prior to program admission. Courses include integrated business strategy and project development, computer information systems, business organization and behavior, managerial finance, and marketing management. Individuals also take a seminar in quality and productivity management. Students may pursue a nine-unit concentration in finance.

    Distance learners benefit from instructors who hold online learning consortium certifications. Students may contact their professors during digital office hours for additional support. Stan State also provides online tutoring and writing support, and the school’s Career and Professional Development Center offers guidance and assistance with resume development. Applicants to the program must submit their GRE or GMAT scores.

  7. Southeastern Oklahoma State University
    Location

    Durant, OK

    Tuition

    $8289

    Established in Durant, SE offers over 85 bachelor’s and master’s programs, prioritizing rigorous coursework and a student–centered learning environment. SE possesses a diverse student body and alumni network, and the university emphasizes the importance of global awareness and community engagement.

    SE’s business school offers a master of business administration that qualifies graduates for leadership roles. This online MBA comprises 36 credits, including 30 core credits and six elective credits. Students can choose from several concentrations, including strategic communication, Native American leadership, human resources, aerospace logistics, and healthcare information systems. Notable courses include principle-centered leadership and ethics, crisis preparedness and occupational security, contemporary issues, and tribal sovereignty.

    SE utilizes the Blackboard online learning management system, and the MBA program does not require any in–person attendance. Courses follow an asynchronous format that allows students to complete coursework on their own time within given deadlines. Professors typically offer digital office hours, and SE provides online tutoring through Smarthinking. The school’s distance education library offers additional resources that include online databases, e–books, and videos. Students may also contact librarians for research support during office hours.

    Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA from an accredited institution. However, SE may accept applicants with a minimum 2.75 GPA if they have a strong entrance statement, work experience, and recommendation letters.

  8. Cameron University
    Location

    Lawton, OK

    Tuition

    $8410

    Based in Lawton, Oklahoma, CU prioritizes experiential learning and instruction. Small class sizes allow students to build meaningful relationships with professors and peers. Students have access to nearly 50 degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. The school also stresses the importance of community engagement, inclusion, and ethical conduct.

    CU’s business department offers a master of business administration that emphasizes pertinent competencies and skills needed for effective management. This online MBA includes 12 leveling course credits, 24 core credits, and nine elective credits; individuals who have completed undergraduate business classes may receive a waiver for some/all leveling courses. Full-time students typically earn their degrees in 2-3 years. CU offers concentrations in human/organizational administration and economics. Courses include issues in global economics, organizational behavior, applied business statistics, and managerial economics.

    CU utilizes the Blackboard learning management system to administer distance coursework. This program requires no in–person attendance, and courses typically follow an asynchronous format. While professors offer digital office hours, distance learners also gain access to 10 hours of free tutoring through Tutor.com. The CU library also offers online databases, e–books, and research support from librarians over the phone. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit GRE or GMAT scores.

  9. Northeastern State University
    Location

    Tahlequah, OK

    Tuition

    $8833

    Located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, NSU features a diverse student population and unique Cherokee Nation academic heritage. The university values ethical conduct, accountability, and inclusion. NSU also encourages immersive educational environments and community engagement.

    NSU’s College of Business and Technology offers a hybrid master of business administration in professional business administration (PMBA). This degree track consists of 36 credits, including 24 core credits and 12 elective credits. Students can graduate in two years or less with full-time attendance. Notable courses include organizational leadership and conflict management, leadership skill development, corporate strategy and simulation, and domestic and global marketing management. Participants must also engage in integrative research or complete a project.

    NSU uses the Blackboard learning management system to administer the online components of this program. However, students must also attend on–campus courses on Monday nights. Learners in need of additional instruction can access free online tutoring, and academic advisors are available to help map out educational pathways.

    Admission requirements include three years of work experience, a bachelor’s degree earned at an accredited university with a minimum 2.5 GPA, and a GMAT score of 450 or higher.

  10. University of Alaska Fairbanks
    Location

    Fairbanks, AK

    Tuition

    $9010

    Established in 1922, UAF is the only national university in the state. The school educates learners from around the world, creating a diverse and inclusive college experience. Students benefit from an 11–to–1 student–to–faculty ratio, which creates opportunities for hands–on instruction and engagement.

    UAF offers a master of business administration that focuses on the core competencies and skills needed to manage organizations. This online MBA requires 30 credits, including 15 core credits and 15 concentration credits. On average, full-time students earn their degrees in 2-3 years. Concentrations are available in general management and STEM, and the program culminates with a capstone in corporate strategy where students resolve modern problems within organizations at an executive level.

    Distance learners access online coursework through the Blackboard learning management system. Online courses typically follow an asynchronous format, which provides students increased flexibility. However, some courses follow a synchronous format, which requires real–time audio or video conferencing. Professors upload weekly modules that contain all assignments, supplementary reading materials, and/or recorded lectures. All eCampus students pay in–state tuition rates. Distance learners also gain access to technical support, academic advisors, and career development resources.

Affordable Online MBA

Affordable Online MBA Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

What Is an Online MBA?

An online MBA offers business professionals a supportive learning environment. Enrollees develop research, communication, and problem-solving skills while building experience in networking, presentations, and leadership. In addition to learning from teachers and textbooks, MBA students learn from each other's experiences.

An affordable online MBA appeals to both aspiring and experienced business professionals. These degrees can open the door to positions within large corporations and provide entrepreneurs with the skills and confidence they need to run successful businesses. In most cases, MBA students already have several years of experience, but need advanced training to take the next professional step.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA?

MBA degrees typically take 1-3 years to earn, depending on the school, student, scheduling options, and delivery methods. Full-time students can often complete these programs in one year through accelerated pathways, while working professionals may prefer part-time options.

Affordable online MBA programs may offer asynchronous or synchronous delivery, which can also influence how much time a student needs to dedicate to their studies. Some programs even offer transfer credits for prior business training or relevant experience, reducing overall program length.

Choosing an Online MBA Program

Prospective students need to weigh multiple factors when researching affordable online MBA programs. Below are a few things to consider when selecting a program.

  • Availability of Specializations: Specializations allow learners to focus their training in niche areas of business management. Enrollees who develop specialized skills may have more employment opportunities and postgraduate certification options. Common concentrations include marketing, international management, finance, and consulting.
  • Program Cost: Attending a university in your state is usually the most affordable option, but online learners should also check if other schools offer in-state tuition rates for out-of-state online learners. Earning a degree online can also mean saving on transportation and moving costs, though some programs also include technology fees.
  • Transfer Policies: Generous transfer policies can help reduce tuition cost and program length. Though transferring credit between graduate programs is often more difficult than it is at the undergraduate level, some schools do accept these credits — typically three, six, or nine of them.
  • School Size and Type: The size of a school often determines class sizes as well. Generally, private schools enroll fewer students than public schools, meaning smaller classes. With MBAs, students should weigh the benefits of more personalized learning experiences in smaller classes against the networking opportunities afforded by larger programs.
  • Program Length: MBAs typically require 30 credits (or 60 quarter units), and enrollees typically take two years to graduate. However, accelerated programs can allow learners to progress through courses more quickly. While MBA students usually take one three-credit course per term, an accelerated program may allow learners to double up on their credits, graduating in a year.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Hybrid MBA programs require students to attend some classes, workshops, or seminars in person. For students who cannot make the trip, these on-campus requirements may present too great an obstacle. For these students, the best online MBAs are the ones that require no campus visits.

Accreditation for Online MBA Degrees

Prospective students should always ensure that their online MBA program holds the proper regional and programmatic accreditation. Attending a school without regional accreditation may lead to issues with access to federal funding, certification eligibility, and employment qualifications.

For business schools, programmatic accreditation may come from one of three major institutions: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

Online MBA Program Scholarships

While affordable online MBA programs provide learners with access to high-level business training, even at discounted rates, the cost of an MBA can still put the degree out of reach for many. In many cases, prospective students can pursue MBA scholarships to reduce the overall price of their education.

Degree-seekers can research scholarships through online scholarship databases, school and government websites, and local and national organizations. Scholarships may target students from specific locations, schools, or demographics.

What Can I Expect in Pursuing an MBA Online?

Affordable online MBA programs have different curricula and structures, which can alter the learning experience. Many programs offer courses entirely online, with some using asynchronous delivery while others run synchronous classes. Even in primarily asynchronous programs, students should expect some live collaboration elements, such as video meetings, live group projects, and enforced deadlines.

Choosing the right MBA program means finding the most suitable MBA specialization for your educational and professional goals. Concentrations allow learners to hone skills in a specific discipline, qualifying them for niche roles. The following information showcases some of the most popular MBA concentration options and some common courses within each focus.

MBA Specialization Typical Courses
Executive MBA
  • Marketing management
  • Management accounting
MBA in Entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurial finance
  • Entrepreneurial sales
MBA in Finance
  • Corporate finance
  • Advanced financial statement analysis
Master's of Healthcare Management
  • Healthcare data and analytics
  • Comparative healthcare systems
MBA in International Business
  • International economics
  • International business law
MBA in Management Information Systems
  • Cybersecurity
  • Enterprise systems
MBA in Project Management
  • Strategic project management
  • Risk assessment
MBA in Sustainability
  • Business strategies for sustainability
  • Ethics and social responsibility
MBA in Marketing
  • International marketing
  • Operations management
MBA in Consulting
  • Managerial quantitative analysis
  • Business communication
MBA in Human Resource Management
  • Organizational behavior
  • Organizational change

MBA Joint and Dual Degrees

In addition to pursuing specializations, MBA students can advance their skills in particular areas through joint programs and dual degrees. Many schools offer accelerated pathways for learners who wish to complete multiple degrees in complementary fields.

Compared to an MBA specialization, which helps students specialize their skills within business and management studies, dual and joint degrees offer more advanced and technical training in secondary disciplines. These degrees can work well for students looking to pursue careers in areas like law, healthcare, and technology.

Dual MBA Degree

A dual MBA degree allows students to earn two degrees through an accelerated pathway, often back to back. Learners usually complete both degrees at the same university, but work through different departments. The second degree often omits general education requirements, and some programs have specific curricula for dual-degree-seekers.

Examples

  • MBA and JD
  • MBA and MD
  • MBA and Master of Public Policy

Joint MBA Degree

Joint MBA degrees offer condensed pathways to studying two disciplines, resulting in one degree with two majors. Joint degrees can occasionally occur through two different universities at the same time, especially when those universities are focused on specific disciplines.

Examples

  • MBA and MA in International Studies
  • MBA and MS in Biotechnology
  • MBA and MS in Engineering Science

Career Paths With an MBA

MBA graduates can access some of the most promising careers in the business, finance, and management sectors. While MBA degree-holder salaries vary depending on location, employer, and career, the median annual salary for management professionals was $109,760 in 2020, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

When deciding an educational pathway, prospective MBA students should consider the best jobs for MBA graduates. Below are a few industries that value the skills and training developed by MBA graduates.

  • Finance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business
  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Consulting
  • Marketing
  • Media/entertainment

MBA Professional Organizations

AMA offers solutions and services for management professionals. Members can access educational programs, management development training, and a professional network for sharing and social learning opportunities.

BBPA supports Black business professionals by providing them with access to career resources, higher education, and economic development opportunities. The association also rewards member excellence, promotes community equity, and offers several mentorship programs.

ABWA unites women working in business to help increase networking opportunities and promote their successes. The association offers members access to leadership training, educational opportunities, and career connections.

Founded in 1988, Prospanica seeks to empower Hispanic business professionals through professional development, education, and mentorship opportunities. The organization also offers educational funding, advocacy, and networking events and programs.

ROMBA supports and promotes the LGBTQIA+ business community. Members can access conferences, events, fellowship programs, and community networking opportunities.

Meet an MBA Graduate

Has getting an MBA been worth it?

Yes. Having the marketing undergrad perspective coupled with the communication graduate student perspective has yielded a fulfilling career in both areas of practice. I spent over a dozen years in nonprofit management, and marketing and communications are usually, if not always, lumped together.

What's most important when selecting an MBA program? Program prestige, location, cost, or something else?

Importance is relative. It was important to me that the school be geographically convenient to where I may have gotten a job, manageable in terms of the loans I would take out, and where the coursework was interesting.

On the whole, it has to "feel" like a good fit to the degree-pursuer. If you are comfortable taking two years off to pursue a MBA full time, awesome. If you want to continue working in a full- or part-time capacity, then the school should be geographically convenient to your workplace. If you are concerned with cost, then a public institution may be better suited than a private one.

What do you think has been the biggest advantage to your career from completing your MBA?

There is a lot of competition in the job marketplace. I think that my MBA has been a source of differentiation and has made my resume stand out among others. I also think that the way I talk about the benefits of an MBA has been an advantage in this area — not the coursework, but the general "management" outcomes.

Portrait of Laurie Ehrlich

Laurie Ehrlich

Laurie Ehrlich (preferred pronouns: she/her), founder and chief strategist of Elevate Marketing Strategy, is a 19-year marketing and communications veteran, touching the nonprofit, education, technology, financial, and publishing industries. Her expertise lies in multi-channel marketing strategy and planning, corporate communications, and digital media.

Ehrlich built the marketing department of a $60 million non profit from the ground up, constructed the social media presence of many organizations, led the design and development strategy process for more than a half-dozen websites, and established and grew content channels including blogs, podcasts, and whitepapers. She also led crisis communications and manages ongoing communications strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ehrlich received her MBA from Fordham University - Lincoln Center.

Frequently Asked Questions

true How Much Does the Average Online MBA Cost?

Online MBA tuition often exceeds $60,000 per year. The average total cost to attend a top-25 school for two years is $195,416.

true Is It Worth Getting an Online MBA?

MBA degree-holders can access better positions and earn higher salaries than bachelor's graduates. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, MBA graduates earn an average of $29,000 more than bachelor's graduates.

true Do Employers Care if Your MBA Is Online?

Many employers do not see a difference between an affordable online MBA and an on-campus program, especially after the shift toward online education in 2020. In fact, transcripts and degrees typically don't note delivery method, so employers often don't know the difference.

Portrait of Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

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