Best Online MBA Programs 2021
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The best online MBA programs can help students get leadership positions.
Graduates of the top online MBA programs have many career opportunities and higher-than-average salary potential. They often out-earn those with only a bachelor's in business administration.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that in 2020, master's degree-holders earned about about $350 more per week than those with only a bachelor's degree. Also, master's degree-holders saw a 1% lower unemployment rate than bachelor's degree-holders.
What Is an MBA?
An MBA is an advanced business degree that leads to leadership roles. Courses cover topics like leading and managing, using analytics for decision-making, and how to use and develop marketing tools. Students gain analytical, management, marketing, and communication skills.
Online MBA program applicants can be recent bachelor's graduates, current business professionals looking to advance their careers, or professionals in other fields seeking a career change.
Featured Online MBAs
The Best Online MBA Programs of 2021
UF offers one of the best MBA online programs in the country. UF's online MBA offers an accelerated, 16-month option or a two-year option, both of which use course material developed at the Warrington College of Business.
UF limits online MBA class sizes to promote interaction between classmates. Applicants must provide official transcripts, recommendation letters, a resume, and GMAT or GRE scores for admission. The university requires at least two years of full-time work experience to enter the program.
This public institution in Tallahassee,Florida, offers an online MBA program for motivated individuals. During the 39-credit program, learners collaborate with classmates to strengthen their creativity and problem-solving skills, and they can receive individualized attention from instructors.
FSU ranks among the best MBA online programs thanks to its specialization options. Degree-seekers can pursue in-demand specializations like business analytics, management information systems, real estate, or risk management and insurance. Applicants must submit a portfolio demonstrating their qualifications, including GMAT or GRE scores.
UNC-Chapel Hill is a public university that offers one of the top-ranked online MBA programs in the country. Enrollees build leadership skills through challenging coursework and assignments.
Learners can customize the curriculum by choosing from five concentrations and over 25 electives. UNC-Chapel Hill offers concentrations in entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, strategy and consulting, and data analytics and decision-making. The program also includes two in-person, immersive experiences. Degree-seekers can join the program on four start dates each year.
From its Tampa campus, USF offers an online MBA program that builds analytical skills and creative abilities. Incoming students work with advisors to design the MBA online curriculum around their interests. For example, the program offers concentrations in cybersecurity, data analytics, healthcare analytics, and compliance.
During asynchronous courses, degree-seekers participate in collaborative sessions and team projects. USF also encourages network building throughout the program. Most USF students work full-time while pursuing the MBA, though the program also offers an accelerated one-year option.
Penn State offers highly customizable online MBA programs. Students can choose from over 20 concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. Concentration options include business sustainability strategy, corporate innovation, homeland security, and public administration.
The degree trains learners to manage high-performance teams and solve complex business challenges. Learners also study business operations, strategic management, and organizational behavior. Each Penn State MBA student must complete a five-day residency, during which they interact with their instructors and peers in person. The residency also includes career management workshops.
USC offers the Marshall online MBA for students seeking a rigorous program with a flexible schedule. Throughout their coursework, learners explore real-world business scenarios to strengthen their practical skills. The degree trains enrollees to become strong communicators, effective decision-makers, and forward-thinking executives.
The MBA uses live class sessions to connect classmates with one another. During the online MBA, each student completes a one-week residency on USC's campus. Applicants need accredited bachelor's degrees and at least two years of work experience. USC also requires GMAT or GRE scores.
This private college in Wellesley, Massachusetts, offers a fully online MBA program. The program provides a flexible schedule that emphasizes experiential learning. Degree-seekers customize their degrees by selecting two-thirds of their courses from Babson's elective options. Electives allow students to complete independent research, pursue study abroad opportunities, or choose an intensity track, like social innovation, tech ventures, or science and technology.
The interdisciplinary curriculum covers organizational management, entrepreneurship, finance, and business analytics. During the Babson consulting experience, each enrollee completes a project-based assignment with a client partner.
FIU is a public institution in Miami that prioritizes flexibility in its online professional MBA program. Students choose from three pacing tracks, five start dates, and eight specializations. Degree-seekers can complete the program in as little as 18 months.
During this MBA program, learners study strategic management, strengthen their collaboration and leadership skills, and solve complex problems. Online enrollees also participate in professional development seminars, a two-day residency, industry nights, and business career management services that help them connect with the FIU community.
The professional online MBA program at NC State offers accelerated and flexible options. Students can complete the program in as little as 21 months or in up to six years, working with virtual teams to complete projects.
Each distance learner must complete two residencies in Raleigh as part of the degree. Applicants must submit a personal statement, resume, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and GMAT or GRE scores. NC State also requires an admission interview. The program enrolls new students for fall or spring start dates.
As the flagship institution in its state, U of I offers a fully online MBA program with no travel requirements. Enrollees complete live class sessions with interactive components, strengthening their strategic leadership skills while studying business analytics, value chain management, and entrepreneurship.
U of I reports that over half of its current MBA students received a promotion, job offer, or new position while pursuing their degrees. Spplicants need an accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA for the final two years.
Online MBA Programs Ranking Guidelines
We selected the following degree programs based on quality, curricula, faculty, and reputation for providing quality online programs. Our online MBA rankings use the same methodology as our ranking of the best online colleges.
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.
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.
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.
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How to Get an MBA Online
Online MBA programs take two years of full-time study. Many also offer accelerated timelines, where students can graduate in 12-18 months. Also, some schools offer 4+1 programs for recent bachelor's graduates, allowing them to earn an MBA in just one year after undergrad. Executive MBA programs are often 1-2 years long.
Most online MBA students start by researching program options, then applying to schools. It is common to attend online MBA programs part time, while still working full time. Part-time programs take longer than full-time programs.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online MBA Program?
When researching online MBA programs, students should look for concentrations and courses that match their career goals. Offerings vary by program, but there are a few common courses and concentrations found in online MBA programs.
Online MBA Courses
Online MBA programs focus on business best practices and leadership and management skills. A few common courses are outlined below.
- Legal and Ethical Decision-Making: This course covers common ethical and legal considerations in business. Students in this class learn how to make company-wide decisions, avoid unethical behavior (like insider trading), and stay up-to-date with legal regulations. They review case studies, participate in roleplaying assignments, and complete group projects.
- Leadership Theory and Practice: This is often a core class in MBA curricula. Learners study how effective leaders provide oversight and support for employees to help their companies achieve goals. The course uses case studies to help students learn effective leadership strategies. Students write papers and do assignments to help identify their own leadership styles.
- Information Technology: Businesses use information technology to create computer networks, collect and protect data, and make data-driven decisions. In this course, students learn how to use databases, manage digital strategies, and extrapolate data for use in business decision-making.
- Personnel Management: Also called human resource management, this course explores talent management. Students learn how to hire good employees, manage benefits programs, set salaries, and provide training. Coursework may cover industrial-organizational psychology basics, too.
- Finance and Accounting for Managers: Business professionals use accounting to assess business performance and set strategic goals. This course covers financial accounting principles, international financial reporting standards, and industry standards and trends. Many online MBA programs also offer finance and accounting concentrations.
- Marketing Management: This course teaches marketing, branding, and advertising strategies. Topics include segmentation and targeting, pricing and promotion, distribution, and brand allegiance. Students review case studies from real companies and industries to learn best practices.
Online MBA Concentrations
Business is a broad topic, so most online MBA programs offer concentrations to help students focus their skills. Below are a few common concentrations.
Marketing concentrations teach students to lead marketing departments and make high-level decisions about brand strategy. Courses cover marketing analysis and development, global brand strategies, and how to use data analytics in marketing. Graduates can pursue titles like brand and product marketing manager, public relations director, marketing data analyst, or marketing director.
MBA finance concentrations explore the tools used to improve company bottom lines. Students learn to make financial decisions and keep organizations profitable. Classes cover international financial markets, advanced corporate finance, venture capitalism, and behavioral finance.
Entrepreneurs create their own business ventures. Students in this concentration learn about building business plans, covering finance, marketing, human assets, and management strategies. Classes also cover venture capital, the finance of buyouts and acquisitions, and intellectual property strategy for innovation-driven enterprises.
International business concentrations cover global markets, international trends, and the rules governing multinational corporations. They cover traditional business topics — like human resource management and finance — through an international lens. Common courses include international business environments, international business law, and global operations for supply chain strategies.
Human resource management concentrations prepare students for roles like training manager, compensation and benefits manager, or human resource manager. Courses cover human resource staffing, talent management and development, and leading the strategic change process. Programs may also examine negotiation and conflict resolution strategies.
How Are Online MBA Programs Accredited?
Online MBA students should look for two types of accreditation when researching schools: regional and programmatic. Regional accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards for faculty, academic rigor, and student learning outcomes. There is also national accreditation, but it typically applies only to vocational or trade schools, not to business schools.
Programmatic accreditation applies to programs within a school. MBA accreditation usually comes from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
There are MBA graduate jobs in most industries. Here are some common jobs and salaries for MBA graduates.
|Median Salary 2020: $87,660||Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 14%|
Also known as management consultants, management analysts help organizations be efficient. They may work for a single corporation or in a consulting role for several companies. Management analysts observe the workplace to identify efficiency problems. They interview staff and review financial data.
Next, management analysts develop solutions based on organizational needs. They may introduce new systems or work with management teams to train staff or set company goals.
|Median Salary 2020: $107,680||Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 8%|
Top executives run companies at a high level, directing activities and setting goals. They devise strategic plans, manage other department leaders, and decide company priorities. They may also set budgets, negotiate large contracts, and review financial statements.
Executives need strong leadership, problem-solving, communication, and decision-making skills.
|Median Salary 2020: $98,890||Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 9%|
Administrative service managers oversee clerical staff, set department goals, enforce operational policies, and manage recordkeeping. They may also manage an organization's facilities.
Sometimes, administrative service managers hire outside vendors or specialists to repair equipment or install technology. They also ensure that companies follow local, state, federal, and industry regulations.
|Median Salary 2020: $134,180||Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 17%|
Financial managers help companies manage finances and increase revenue. They prepare financial statements, create income and loss forecasts, develop business activity reports, and present financial information to stakeholders. Financial managers need a keen eye for detail and strong analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Popular Questions About MBAs
MBA stands for master of business administration.
An MBA is a graduate degree that prepares students for high-level business roles in fields like finance, human relations, and marketing.
MBA graduates can earn managerial and leadership roles, including executive roles like CEO or CFO.
Yes, an MBA is a master's degree. So is an online MBA. Applicants need a bachelor's degree to apply for an online MBA program.
Common jobs for MBA graduates include top executive, marketing manager, and administrative service manager. However, graduates can pursue many other business careers as well.
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