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Choosing the Right Online MBA Program

By Meg G.
Financial Analyst and Graduate Student

To choose the online MBA program that will help you meet your personal and professional goals, you will have to understand what you want to do in the future. In addition, you will need to have a basic understanding of how employers and universities look at different programs when they choose employees and future students.


The single most important aspect of an online MBA program is accreditation. At minimum, an online MBA program should be regionally accredited. Regional accreditation boards include the following:

The six regional accreditation boards accredit programs in the states that are within their jurisdiction. If you have a degree from a regionally accredited institution, it will be accepted by most employers. In addition, college credit should transfer from one regionally accredited school to another.

The gold standard for business degree programs is accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). If you plan to pursue a doctorate in a business field at a major state university, you will most likely need a master's degree from an AACSB accredited institution.

If you want advanced study in a specialized field such as marketing, finance, accounting, or economics, many schools offer specialized MBA programs. These give you a well-rounded understanding of how business operates, and then a more in-depth knowledge of your desired specialized area.

Course Format

Many online MBA programs are taught in an asynchronous format. This means that you log on and complete lessons whenever you feel like it, whether it is on your lunch break or at 3 AM when you can't sleep. Other courses are taught in a streaming format online. This is where students log on at a particular time to listen to and view a lecture. Online MBA programs offered by major universities sometimes have periodic brief "residency" programs that require online students to travel to a campus for a weekend or a week.

Before you enroll in a program, understand the course schedule, and make sure you can meet the requirements of the course format.

Red Flags

In the past, degree scams were blatantly obvious, especially the mail order "diploma mills." With the invention of the Internet, it has become easier for a company to set up what looks like a legitimate degree program that is nothing more than a scam. Some of the red flags that might signal a phony online MBA program are:

  • Degree programs that award credit for "life experience"
  • Degree programs that are priced per program. Legitimate programs tend to be priced per course, or per semester hour
  • Names that sound very similar to well known schools
  • Addresses that are P.O. boxes or a suite
  • List of accrediting agencies that sound too impressive

An online MBA can help you meet your personal and professional goals. Knowing what you want from an MBA program and understanding what to look for are key to making the right decision. If you properly research your options and ensure a program is legitimately accredited, you will find that pursuing an online MBA is one of the best decisions you will ever make.

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