Best Online MBA Programs 2021
| TBS Staff
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The best online MBA programs give students the skills they need to assume leadership posititions in diverse industries.
Graduates of the top online MBA programs have many career opportunities and higher-than-average salary potential.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that in 2013, business leaders with a master's degree earned substantially more than their peers with only a bachelor's degree. For example, professionals with a master's degree who worked in securities, commodities, and financial services earned median annual wages of $170,000, while professionals with just a bachelor's degree earned $90,000.
|#1||University of Florida Gainesville, FL|
|#2||Florida State University Tallahassee, FL|
|#3||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC|
|#4||University of South Florida Tampa, FL|
|#5||Penn State World Campus University Park, PA|
|#6||University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA|
|#7||Babson College Wellesley, MA|
|#8||Florida International University Miami, FL|
|#9||North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC|
|#10||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL|
Related Programs That Might Interest You
What Is an MBA?
An MBA is an advanced degree that prepares students for leadership roles in diverse industries. Courses cover topics like leading and managing, using analytical tools for decision-making, analyzing and developing marketing tools, and understanding operations management. Students gain analytical, management, marketing, and communication skills, which they can apply to a variety of roles.
It is common for online MBA program applicants to be recent bachelor's graduates, current business professionals looking to advance their careers, or professionals in other industries seeking a career change.
How Are Online MBA Programs Accredited?
Prospective online MBA students should look for two types of accreditation when researching potential schools: regional and programmatic. The U.S. Department of Education oversees six regional accrediting bodies, which accredit schools based on where they are located. Regional accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, 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. Online MBA programs may hold accreditation 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.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online MBA?
Online MBA programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete, but many programs also offer accelerated timelines that allow students to graduate in 12-18 months. Additionally, some schools offer 4+1 programs for students who want to pursue an MBA immediately after earning a bachelor's degree, allowing learners to graduate with an MBA in just one year.
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 strength, school awards, rankings, and reputation, including the school's reputation for providing quality online programs. Our online MBA rankings employ the same methodology that we used to produce our ranking of the best online colleges.
The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:
The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.
To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):
1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
- Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business
6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.
To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!
If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.
Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
What Else Can I Expect From an Online MBA Program?
When researching prospective online MBA programs, students should ensure potential programs offer concentrations and courses aligned with their career goals. Offerings vary by program, but the following sections outline common courses and concentrations found in online MBA programs.
Online MBA Courses
Online MBA programs focus on leadership and management skills in addition to traditional business best practices. A few common courses are outlined below.
- Legal and Ethical Decision-Making: Typically taken in the first year, this course introduces students to some of the ethical and legal considerations that business leaders commonly encounter. Because many MBA graduates pursue managerial positions, they must understand how to ethically and legally interact with customers, clients, suppliers, and employers. Students in this class learn how to make effective individual and company-wide decisions, understand common areas of unethical behavior (e.g., insider trading), and stay up-to-date on legal regulations. Learners may review case studies, participate in roleplaying assignments, and complete group projects.
- Leadership Theory and Practice: Because so many MBA graduates work in leadership positions, this is often a core class in MBA curricula. Learners study how effective leaders provide oversight and support for employees and help their companies achieve goals. The course may use case studies of business and non-business leaders across history to help students identify effective and ineffective leadership strategies. Students often complete reflective papers and assignments that help them identify their leadership styles.
- Information Technology: Businesses often rely on information technology to create internal and external computer networks, collect data and make data-driven decisions, and keep sensitive information secure. This course examines how information technology can inform and improve business functions. Students learn how to use databases, manage digital strategies, and extrapolate data for use in business decision-making.
- Personnel Management: Sometimes known as human resource management, this course teaches students how to manage talent across their companies. Students learn how to hire effective employees, manage benefits programs, set competitive salaries, and provide meaningful training opportunities. Coursework also incorporates topics from industrial-organizational psychology to teach future managers how to maintain effective, efficient, and fulfilled employees.
- Finance and Accounting for Managers: Business professionals typically need a basic understanding of finance and accounting to assess business performance, identify areas of improvement, and set strategic goals, even if they don't work in finance. This course examines 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 students how to incorporate marketing, branding, and advertising strategies to help organizations meet goals. Topics include segmentation and targeting, pricing and promotion, distribution, and brand allegiance. Students review marketing management case studies from a variety of companies and industries to identify best practices and areas of improvement.
Online MBA Concentrations
Because business is such a broad topic, most online MBA programs offer concentrations to help degree-seekers focus their skills. Below are a few common concentrations.
Marketing concentrations are ideal for students who want to lead marketing departments and make high-level decisions about how companies are portrayed internally and externally. Courses cover topics like marketing analysis and development, global brand strategies, and how to use data analytics to inform marketing decisions. Graduates can pursue senior-level titles such as brand and product marketing manager, public relations director, marketing data analyst, and marketing director.
Finance concentrations provide an in-depth understanding of the financial tools and concepts that can improve companies. Students learn how to make effective financial decisions and keep organizations financially healthy. Classes cover topics like international financial markets, advanced corporate finance, venture capitalism and financial innovations, and behavioral finance.
An entrepreneurship concentration teaches students how to create their own business ventures. Learners study concepts like finance, marketing, human assets, and management. Classes also cover venture capital and entrepreneurial management, strategies and practices of family-controlled companies, finance of buyouts and acquisitions, and intellectual property strategy for innovation-driven enterprises.
Designed for students who want to work in multinational corporations, international business concentrations teach students about global markets, international trends, and the rules governing how business is done around the world. Rather than focusing on a single topic, this concentration reviews 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 managing human capital, such as training manager, compensation and benefits manager, and human resource manager. Courses may cover topics like foundations of human resource staffing, human resource management for general managers, talent management and development, and leading the strategic change process. Programs may also examine negotiation and conflict resolution strategies.
What Are Some MBA Salaries?
Online MBA programs prepare graduates to compete for a variety of jobs in diverse industries. The following list outlines common jobs and potential salaries for graduates.
|Median Salary: $83,610||Projected Job Growth: 14%|
Also known as management consultants, management analysts help organizations improve efficiency. They may work in house for a single corporation or in a consulting role for several clients. When starting a new project, management analysts observe the workplace to identify efficiency problems. They may interview staff, review financial data, and collect other relevant information.
After identifying a problem, management analysts develop solutions based on organizational needs. They may introduce new systems, institute changes, or work with management teams to ensure effective implementation of plans.
|Median Salary: $104,980||Projected Job Growth: 6%|
Top executives sit at the helm of their companies, directing activities and setting short- and long-term goals. They devise strategic plans, liaise with other department leaders, and set organizational policies. They may also set budgets, negotiate large contracts, and review financial statements.
These individuals need strong leadership, problem-solving, communication, and decision-making skills.
|Median Salary: $96,180||Projected Job Growth: 7%|
Administrative service managers oversee clerical staff, create and monitor departmental goals, develop and implement operational policies, and oversee company-wide recordkeeping. These professionals may also oversee an organization's facilities.
When necessary, administrative service managers may call on outside vendors or specialists to repair equipment or introduce new technology. They must also ensure companies abide by local, state, federal, and industry regulations.
|Median Salary: $127,990||Projected Job Growth: 16%|
Financial managers help companies understand their finances and increase their revenue. They may 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
MBA stands for master of business administration.
An MBA is an advanced degree that prepares students for high-level business roles in fields like finance, human relations, and marketing.
Online MBA programs prepare graduates for managerial and leadership roles in diverse industries.
Yes, an online MBA program is a master's degree. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree to apply for enrollment.
Graduates can work in a variety of fields, depending on their interests and goals. Common jobs for graduates include top executive, marketing manager, and administrative service manager.
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