How should you search for an online MBA program that takes personal and professional factors into account? Most online MBA students are working professionals, so they need a program that fits into their work, family and social life.
This comprehensive guide answers the most common questions facing prospective online MBA students. Education is an investment, and selecting an online MBA program can be challenging. You may consult this guide at any point during your journey.
Where Can an Online MBA Take You?
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) has been a fixture of business education since 1908. MBA graduates have gone from a small cohort of academics to workplace-ready leaders and experts in the past century.
Online MBA programs have increased the value of this degree, building students into innovative leaders. Promising entrepreneurs, executives, and managers can select their ideal programs without worrying about location.
Why Should I Choose an Online MBA Over a Traditional Program?
Traditional MBA programs tout in-person mentorship, networking, and real-world projects to prospective students. Recent advances in video conferencing and course management technology make online MBA programs comparable to their traditional counterparts.
You don't need to sit in a classroom or head to a library to earn an advanced business degree. High quality online MBA providers tailor their programs to facilitate networking and collaboration opportunities.
The Princeton Review summarizes the benefits of an online MBA for those new to virtual learning, including:
- Schedule flexibility
- Lower costs to students due to lower operational costs
- Realistic use of new apps and technologies for the workplace
- Greater diversity of student backgrounds without geographical barriers
- International collaborative opportunities for students and faculty
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAT) found online MBA enrollment exceeded enrollment for other MBA types in 2019, indicating high demand.
Flexibility is a must-have for working professionals. Denise Lons described her online MBA program by saying:
"You can get onto the program whenever it works for you, whether it's 3 am or 4 pm or 11:30 at night."
Adult learners increasingly prefer online MBA degrees to traditional programs because they make balance possible. You can fit online MBA courses between work, family, and worship times.
What Will I Learn in an Online MBA?
Online MBA faculty develop their courses in response to the needs of the marketplace. MBA graduates must incorporate the business and interpersonal skills sought by employers around the world.
Programs should start MBA students with core courses covering accounting, marketing, and international business, with an orientation to prepare them for the online MBA experience.
Your journey will take you to a fork in the road when it comes to specialization. MBA concentrations make candidates competitive against business generalists when pursuing leadership roles.
Popular concentrations include:
- Executive Leadership
- Human Resource Development
- Organizational Consulting
- Healthcare Administration
Your choice of concentration should match where you see yourself in a decade. The best approach will take your life experiences, values, and skills into account.
Online MBA candidates are asked to complete capstone projects synthesizing the lessons and concepts learned in previous courses. By the end of your program, you should have mastered critical skills like adaptability, collaboration, and creative leadership.
What are the Financial Benefits of an Online MBA?
The most obvious measurement of how an online MBA benefits your career is your annual salary.
MBA graduate compensation varies based on location and industry. Bonuses and other compensation also add to an MBA degree's annual benefits.
State variations in costs of living and regional industrial competition create differences in MBA salaries. ZipRecruiter calculated the five states with the highest MBA salaries:
- New York: $90,734
- Massachusetts: $89,876
- Washington: $89,249
- New Hampshire: $87,470
- Hawaii: $86,319
Poets & Quants studied the impacts of MBA degrees on salaries across industries. The largest percentage increases from pre-MBA to post-MBA average salaries occurred in:
- Food & Beverage: 65.4% increase to $104,319
- Consulting: 53.8% increase to $132,601
- Investment Management: 47% increase to $121,376
- Technology: 43.1% increase to $121,879
- Private Equity: 38.3% increase to $136,132
Your post-graduate salary could even be enhanced by additional compensation like signing bonuses. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) determined 56% of companies offered signing bonuses to new hires with MBAs. The average bonus compensation was $10,500.
What Leadership Positions Open to Online MBA Graduates?
Graduates of online MBA programs are ready for the challenges of the 21st-century economy. Harvard Business Review's survey of corporate leaders resulted in a list of essential leadership skills today, including:
- High ethical and moral standards: 67%
- Sets goals and objectives with a hands-off approach to execution: 59%
- Clear communication of expectations: 56%
- Flexibility to change opinions: 52%
An online MBA degree attracts experienced business professionals looking to take their next career steps. Graduates are prepared for leadership positions like:
- Chief Creative Officer: $139,912
- Division Manager: $101,962
- Senior Executive Vice President: $155,542
Your MBA coursework and capstone are realistic simulations of the challenges facing any organization. MBA graduates can adapt their skills and knowledge to startups, regional companies, and global corporations alike.
How Much Can I Personalize my Online MBA Path?
Working your way up the traditional corporate ladder might not be your ideal career path. An online MBA degree develops the skills necessary to succeed as your own boss.
Entrepreneurs, business coaches, and management consultants establish their brands to serve others. This work allows you to see the global business landscape from different perspectives.
Cultivating contacts and turning leads into contracts require an entrepreneurial mindset. Successful people in these professions tend to possess the following skills and personality traits:
- Creative thinking
- Empathetic communication
- Problem-solving capacity
- Time management
McKinsey & Co. Director Fred Gluck offered a summary of how these skills help independent business professionals:
"The more I've thought about it over the years, the more I've concluded that what really leads to outstanding consultants, and I think then outstanding performance in almost anything you can think of, is the willingness to really take risks, take risks with your thinking, to take risks in how far you're trying to push the client, and not to be conservative and too cautious."
The online MBA experience has to prepare students to evaluate risk. A focus on sound business principles and ethics allows you to take leaps when necessary.
What is the Current Demand for Online MBA Graduates?
Online MBA graduates benefit from the globalization of business and higher standards for leaders. GMAC published the following MBA hiring projections for companies by region in 2019:
- Asia Pacific: 87%
- Europe: 69%
- United States: 77%
Within those numbers are even rosier hiring projections based on company size and type; 94% of companies with 10,000 or more employees planned on hiring MBA graduates. GMAC also estimated 93% of Fortune Global 500 companies anticipated MBA hires in 2019.
Business coach Rhett Power listed four leadership trends in 2020 helpful to MBA graduates:
- Intelligent risk-taking
- Higher priority on interpersonal skills
- Leading the whole person, not just the employee
- Flattening hierarchy to inspire change
Online MBA programs train future leaders to incorporate these lessons into traditional management models. The flexibility and adaptability of an online program make it ideal if you want to meet industry needs.
How Long Will an Online MBA Take to Complete?
Your time is a valuable asset, so your ideal MBA fits within your schedule. The Princeton Review outlined typical MBA program lengths in the United States:
- 18 months for an accelerated MBA
- Two years for a full-time MBA
- Three years for a part-time MBA
The best online MBA programs provide excellent value on shorter timelines than conventional programs.
An accelerated MBA can complete their courses and projects in 12 months. The full-time online MBA provides opportunities for graduation in 18 months of coursework.
What are the Benefits and Costs of an Online MBA?
The time and energy one needs to commit to an MBA program can seem daunting at the outset. You may also feel overwhelmed by the financial investment of graduate studies.
It is crucial to keep the personal and professional benefits in mind as you progress through an online MBA. An investment in personal development and fulfillment is never wasted. You can point to your completed MBA as a sign of success and a stepping stone to bigger things.
Improved career prospects could also lead to higher salaries than your colleagues with bachelor's degrees. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) calculated a 36.3% salary premium for MBAs in 2019.
How Do I Apply to an Online MBA Program?
You might be ready to get started on an MBA application after reading these benefits. The application for a typical MBA program requires documents like:
- Current resume
- GMAT or GRE scores
- Personal essays
- Letters of recommendation
Online MBA applicants are often not required to submit GMAT or GRE scores for admission. You may also have the opportunity to work with a dedicated admissions representative, who will support you during the application process.
How Can a Concentration Enhance the Value of an Online MBA?
An MBA gives you an advantage when competing for promotions and new jobs. Your MBA concentration attracts the attention of employers looking for specialized business skills.
Below, we'll cover five online MBA concentrations that provide graduates with in-demand skills and experiences. Each concentration trains MBA candidates for a distinct path in the business world. It is helpful to consider your interests, skills, and long-term career plans when selecting a concentration.
What is an Online MBA in Management?
MBA candidates who select the management concentration are preparing for the daily challenges of leadership roles. As a management student, you gain advanced insight into the following topics:
- Human Resource Development
- Management of Organizational Behavior
- Strategic Planning & Management
The Princeton Review rated management as one of the five most popular MBA concentrations. The publication noted a perennial demand for management skills from startups through international corporations.
This ongoing demand creates multiple career paths in business operations for management graduates. Your online MBA can put you into position for the following leadership roles and average salaries:
- Business Development Manager: $126,865
- Project Management Director: $122,944
- Senior Strategy Manager: $119,255
Managerial and director positions require professionals who can balance long-term strategy with short-term needs. You might be asked to develop a departmental budget in the morning and solve a product rollout issue in the afternoon.
A management MBA provides the skills to juggle these tasks while communicating with your entire organization. After graduation, you are ready to communicate complex issues with direct reports and executives.
What Can You Do With an Online MBA in Executive Leadership?
Executive leadership focuses on long-term strategy and budget development for an organization. This leadership category requires collaborative thinkers who can account for every contingency when looking to the future.
Building a corporate strategy for a growing organization can be a daunting task. Every strategy-focused company plans for the future while learning and adjusting from past initiatives and current challenges. Executives also need to consider:
- Development and deployment of personnel
- Adapting to ever-changing economic and social climates
- Weighing risks and rewards for current and future projects
The executive leadership MBA grounds graduates in sound theory and practical management skills. You can aim for an executive position by excelling in the following concentration courses:
- Management of Organizational Behavior
- Strategic Leadership
- Strategic Planning & Management
Your professional experience, combined with executive leadership education, raises the bar on future career options. Executive leadership MBAs typically move into high-level director and executive positions in short order. You can build paths toward the following positions after graduation:
- Chief Executive Officer: $156,128
- Director of Strategy: $128,690
- Vice President of Operations: $128,692
Online MBA candidates who want to steer and grow companies pursue the executive leadership concentration. An online MBA helps students acquire the skills necessary to do so with courses taught by experienced faculty, built on real-world lessons.
How Does an Online MBA in Human Resource Management Help Your Career?
Human resource managers and executives oversee the lifeblood of any organization. Employees, from interns to executives, work with HR leaders to develop and succeed in the workplace. As an HR leader, you might deal with any of the following tasks each day:
- Conducting staff evaluations
- Developing a recruiting plan for a new position or location
- Researching the compensation, benefits, and training landscape;br> Responding to employee complaints or requests for mediation
A human resource management concentration teaches you to anticipate the future of personnel needs. Online MBA candidates in this concentration complete courses in:
- Human Resource Development
- Organizational Behavior
- Workplace Learning & Professional Development
Companies of all sizes are looking for highly skilled HR leaders because staff recruitment is expensive. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found a $4,129 average cost for hiring a new full-time employee with a 42-day vacancy period.
The consistent demand for HR experts and the high costs of staff development leads to higher compensation for HR leaders. You can use your MBA concentration to pursue the following jobs:
- Compensation and Benefits Managers: $122,270
- Human Resource Managers: $116,720
- Training and Development Manager: $113,350
SHRM surveyed HR professionals on their thoughts about education requirements. Forty-one percent of participants saw advanced degrees like MBAs as necessary for future HR leaders.
Aspiring HR leaders can get ahead of the trend by completing an MBA degree. You can improve business outcomes and shepherd talented professionals with a human resource management MBA.
How Can an Organizational Consulting MBA Help Your Career?
Management consultants have proven invaluable in helping companies improve everything from product development to recruitment. A consultant brings an outside view and in-depth analytical skills to find underlying issues.
Successful consultants know how to manage meetings, conduct assessments, and lead to large-scale changes. They also understand how to handle institutional inertia and complicated interpersonal relationships. It's important to build the right skillset during your MBA to expand your corporate consulting business.
The organizational consulting concentrationrefines student skills to meet challenges in the following areas:
- Organizational Consulting
- Strategic Leadership
- Workplace Learning and Professional Development
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 14% growth in management consulting by 2028. Global-Regulation Advisors Corp. CEO Karrie C. Prehm highlighted the importance of an MBA for taking advantage of this growth:
"MBA programs are generally designed to help refine certain hard and soft skills that professionals might not otherwise have the opportunity to exercise."
Building a client list and a portfolio of successful consultations can be rewarding for organizational consultants. PayScale lists a high-end salary of $144,000 for management consultants.
You also have the flexibility to specialize in particular industries or build your consultancy on helping faith-based organizations.
Where Can an Online MBA in Healthcare Administration Take You?
Hospital administrators across the United States handle $1.1 trillion in annual expenses.
The healthcare industry balances caring for patients of all ages with financial realities. Clinics and hospital systems need administrators with business acumen.
An online MBA concentrating on healthcare administration trains the hospital leaders of tomorrow today. You learn the ins and outs of managing a clinic or hospital division with courses in:
- Managerial Finance in Healthcare
- Managing Quality in Healthcare
- Trends in Healthcare Administration and Management
This curriculum infuses the Six Sigma process for identifying flaws in products and systems. MBA graduates use this process to identify areas where the quality of care, personnel use, and finances can be improved.
Healthcare administration candidates can follow several paths as they continue their careers. This concentration provides the necessary skills to succeed in the following professions:
- Hospital Chief Financial Officer: $139,001
- Hospital Chief Operating Officer: $118,750
- Medical and Health Services Managers: $100,980
The stresses, personnel turnover, and changing regulatory landscape make healthcare leadership difficult. No matter your path, an MBA teaches team-building and leadership skills essential to producing high-quality care.
What are the Benefits of an MSN/MBA Dual Degree?
The online MSN/MBA dual degree helps current nurses transition into nursing leadership roles. This option differs from the healthcare administration track by concentrating on nurse management, adding business acumen to the clinical setting.
Healthcare institutions are experiencing nursing shortages and an aging workforce. The BLS estimated a deficit of 1.1 million nurses by 2022 due to these factors. The next generation of nurses will need experienced leaders familiar with the profession's challenges.
The MSN/MBA program covers advanced topics tested by several nurse leadership exams. Your online MBA work prepares you for the AONL Certified Nurse Manager and ANCC Nurse Executive Certification tests.
MSN/MBA candidates learn how to translate their nursing experiences into managerial roles. Graduates of the program are ready to handle tasks such as:
- Scheduling and evaluating nurses
- Developing departmental budgets and plans
- Applying healthcare law and hospital policy changes
Your nursing experience and MBA education could naturally lead to managerial and executive positions. Experienced nurses can use MSN/MBA dual degrees to move into positions like:
MSN/MBA graduates have the option to select flexible work environments. You can fulfill your desire to serve by working with nonprofits and public agencies. Private hospital systems and clinics provide valuable resources to magnify your talents.
Why is an Ethical Approach to Business So Important?
Ethics refers to social standards for determining what behaviors are right or wrong. Business leaders often balance legal requirements, financial pressures, and personal views when making decisions.
A Christian-centered approach to business draws on Biblical ethics to inform choices. Let's look at how well business ethics informed by Christian beliefs fit into the 21st-century corporate world.
High Demand for Moral Leadership
Business training firm LRN published a 2019 report showing a deficit of moral leadership in American workplaces. The report concluded:
- 7% of respondents saw managers always exhibit moral leadership
- 18% reported seeing no moral leadership from managers
- 41% reported seeing moral managerial leadership less than 25% of the time
LRN defined moral leadership based on seven practices of good managers. These practices include:
- Starting with a pause
- Seeing employees as people
- Fostering freedom
- Demonstrating humility
- Acting with courage
- Seeking the truth
- Upholding ethical standards
As a prospective MBA candidate, these statistics may give you pause. The gulf between good leadership skills and their application can seem daunting. You can help fill this gap and demonstrate your values after finishing an ethics-minded online MBA.
LRN respondents overwhelmingly supported more moral leadership in their workplaces. The study found:
- 87% of respondents viewed moral leadership as more important than ever
- 73% argued moral leadership was essential for setting up their colleagues for success
- 72% felt their companies would be more successful with more moral leadership
LRN founder Dov Seidman offered a vital distinction between a leader's job description and its mission. Seidman said:
"While formal authority can be seized, won, or bestowed, moral authority must be earned by who you are and how you lead."
An online MBA from a Christian university grounds your leadership in ethical principles. Gaining the respect of your peers and direct reports requires connecting work to a larger purpose.
Gaps Between Purposeful Leadership and Purpose in Work
MBA graduates can move quickly up the corporate ladder, thanks to their education and experience. You must keep purpose and ethics at your side as you move into leadership positions.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) surveyed 1,500 employees and 500 managers about purpose in the workplace. The report found:
- 79% of managers saw purpose as central to their organization's success
- 83% of employees wanted meaning in their daily work
- 56% of employees wanted a strong sense of community in the workplace
These findings are promising for finding purpose and meaning in work. After all, a purpose-driven career follows closely with ethical decision-making.
The problem is some managers aren't living up to their views of purpose. Employees reported only 27% of managers connected daily work to a larger purpose, while 34% used greater purpose as a guide for decision-making.
You could be ready to lead others toward more significant goals after completing an online MBA.
This degree helps you establish a culture of inclusion, growth, and responsibility wherever you work. In short order, you can fill the purpose gap while modeling Christian values in the office.
What Is the Impact of Ethical Business Practice?
Businesses are often measured by their stock prices, revenues, and other financial results.
This focus raises the question, "What is the bottom-line value of business ethics?" Doing the right thing for customers, communities, and the world provides financial and spiritual returns on investment.
Accenture surveyed consumers around the world about their responses to brand values. The U.S. section of this survey found:
- 64% of respondents based their purchasing decisions on a company's values
- 64% felt consumers could influence brand values through their actions
- 42% did not make additional purchases from companies with conflicting values
Consumers aren't just buying products and services based on prices or new features. A company's ethical standards and values make a difference in expanding reach.
The values modeled by a company are incredibly impactful on young consumers. Millennials — or those born between 1980 and 2000 — respond positively when a brand exhibits good values. 5W Public Relations found:
- 83% of millennials viewed shared values as necessary for purchasing decisions
- 76% supported CEOs and other leaders who expressed support for shared values
- 71% will pay more for a product if a portion of the price goes to charity
- 67% considered charitable efforts by brands as important to purchasing choices
Your customers and clients want to work with a company exhibiting ethical and responsible behavior. These trends mean you can secure your company's bottom line while living your values.
What Are the Benefits of a Christian-Focused Online MBA?
MBA programs across the country offer theoretical courses in business ethics. However, these theories remain abstract and may not actually be the practical norm of the real world.
A Christian ethics-focused MBA program infuses every advanced lesson in business with Biblical values. This fosters the development of an ethical framework so today’s leaders are equipped to create meaningful change in the real-world.
Faculty and staff demonstrate how the following ideas function in the modern workplace:
- Learning and growth governed by ethics and morality
- An inclusive and supportive community from different backgrounds
- A view of personal and professional success based on faith
An MBA curriculum rooted in Christian values produces servant leaders. Business philosopher Robert Greenleaf describes servant leaders as those who "share power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible."
A Christian-focused online MBA harnesses your talents as a purpose-driven professional. 1 Peter 4:10 places your future career in context by saying:
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
Which Online MBA Helps You Fulfill Your Career Potential?
You can prepare yourself for faithful service in the workplace with an online MBA combining world-class business education with a Christian focus.
The online MBA fulfills the university's core values of:
- "The importance of learning grounded in God's Creation"
- "The development of Christian character and the living integration of faith and learning"
- "Effective, redemptive participation in society and culture"
An online MBA student sees this Christian grounding through every course. Business questions and challenges are posed in the context of ethical decisions. Graduates of the program are ready to make responsible and faith-centered decisions in the corporate world.
Recent MBA graduates attest to how a Christian-focused program helps in the workplace. Troy Trahan offered the following insights on how the online MBA helped his career:
"Getting an online MBA was a great way to separate myself... Earning my MBA online from a Christian perspective was a game-changer."
Christian Universities know online MBA candidates have to balance coursework with the obligations of life. The MBA program is entirely online—with no required start times, and no residential or on-campus requirements.
As an online MBA student, you're in charge of your own time.
How Can I Customize My Online MBA Experience?
A significant advantage of an online MBA compared to a traditional program is flexibility for students. Traditional classes and projects require set schedules that may not work for every student. Online MBA programs provide a few options for your virtual experience.
You can choose an accelerated MBA path that quickly puts you into a position to land better jobs. This track can be completed in 12 months of full-time study.
The online MBA can also be completed on a part-time schedule for those with multiple obligations. Part-time candidates complete one course at a time over an 18-month period.
Advanced core courses presented online get every candidate on the same page, no matter your path or concentration.
Experienced faculty navigate MBA candidates through any number of different kinds of classes, including:
- Leadership in Business
- Marketing for Managers
- Statistics for Business Managers
A Nationally Recognized Leader in Business Education
The Higher Learning Commission placed SAU in rarefied air with an accreditation. Online MBA candidates enter the program knowing the school meets high standards.
Every accredited university has been placed through a 19-step checklist, including:
- Stable operations
- Financial capacity
- Learning resources
- Student support services
- Integrity of business and academic operations
Recognized for academic excellence, Spring Arbor University has made US News & World Report's 2020 rankings, such as:
- No. 25 in Best Value Schools
- No. 28 in Best Colleges for Veterans
- No. 43 in Regional Universities Midwest
You can find national recognition for Spring Arbor University from other sources, including:
- No. 2 in Long-term Economic Value among Michigan Universities from The Economist
- Gold-Level Status from the Michigan Veteran's Affairs Agency
- Placement in the Best Colleges of Distinction of 2020
The school's online MBA degree has earned similar recognition. Online MBA Today placed the program among Michigan's Top 15 Online MBA Programs.
Rooted in Michigan, Support Nationwide
Spring Arbor University has been educating future leaders from its Michigan campus since 1873. The university's online MBA curriculum draws from and contributes to the following economic conditions in Michigan:
- An estimated 18.4% growth in financial management positions by 2026
- An annual growth rate exceeding the national growth rate
- A lower unemployment rate than the national unemployment rate
Remote learning can be challenging, especially as you pursue a graduate education. That's why each online MBA student at Spring Arbor is assigned a personal Student Success Advisor. You’ll be supported throughout the program, from the start of class until graduation.
The online MBA program encourages candidates to take advantage of the virtual learning environment. Student Success Advisors recommend the following steps to make the most out of the program:
- Managing your time well with to-do lists and deadlines
- Participating in courses to exchange ideas with faculty and fellow students
- Develop a lifelong network of mentors, colleagues, and friends
Program graduate Sharon E. Washington is a testament to the value of this advice. Washington said the following about her Spring Arbor experience:
"From the initial contact with admissions, the business office, financial aid, success support staff and the professors, each and every one of the University representatives I have come into contact with has made me feel welcome, aided me with problem-solving, and encouraged me along the way."
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