The MBA is not dead.
In fact, its demand is seeing a resurgence, in part due to increasing accessibility thanks to an online format. For those already earning a decent salary and leading too-busy lives, taking the time out to complete a physical, two-year MBA program is not always practical, making the pandemic boost to online learning a boon.
“Now, more types of business professionals are going for online MBAs. There’s so much growth here,” said Lance Lambert, editorial director of Fortune Education, a hub curated by a team of expert journalists designed to help readers develop skills and advance their careers.
From those well into their career to the younger generation, “there’s a realization that the cost of a traditional and full-time MBA is astronomically higher,” he said.
“For someone earning $70,000, to give up two years of wages in order to go for an MBA which includes tuition, room and board can run over $360,000.”
Amid COVID-19, “Online MBA programs saw the biggest spike in applications — more than four in five,” said Lambert.
At Hofstra University, online MBA program enrollments have doubled since last fall — up from an average of 30 students to around 60, said Kaushik Sengupta, executive director of the online MBA program there.
“The average level of work experience for incoming MBA students used to be 13 or 14 years,” said Sengupta. “Last year, we relaxed our standard work experience requirement [of four or five years] for admittance, as a lot of people wanted to pursue the degree online. But the average incoming student’s experience level is still 11 to 12 years.”
At Hofstra, online MBA students can complete the credential in full or part-time mode.“Going part time, people have five years to complete the program, but it typically takes an average of 36 months,” said Sengupta. “Full time takes three semesters, or 16 months total.” The cost-benefit for online MBA candidates is evident as well.
“Today’s MBA grads typically earn 70 percent more than bachelor’s degree grads out of the gate,” said Lambert. “A starting salary of $115,000 is not unusual.”
Over the past decade, the hottest fields for MBA grads are finance, tech and consulting, but lately both the financial technology and entrepreneurship sectors have grown to be more sought-after, too, said Lambert.“
More MBA programs have spawned business incubators, which specialize in helping students to get their startups off the ground,” he said.
At the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University, the newest, fastest-growing MBA programs are the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) MBA and the analytics MBA, according to Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D. and dean of the program.
To be successful, diligence with study time is key.
“Most of our students are working while they earn their MBA, so time management is crucial,” said Sharpe. “Our most successful students are skilled at using their time effectively and balancing their time between studying and a half or full-time job.”
Sengupta agreed. “It’s not easy. It’s rigorous,” he said. “Students have to spend at least one to three hours each day going through course material and finish ing the requirements. Courses run for seven weeks at a time — things go fast. Students don’t have the luxury of slacking off.”
Another top tip for online MBA candidates is to opt for a cohort option with a group of other folks, rather than completing it solo.
“You can’t do this on your own. You need a peer group,” said Sengupta.
It’s also advisable to stay in touch with the physical campus as well. “A few in-person components help to bind students together,” he said.
With action heating up in the online MBA space, applicants should be aware of fraudulent or nonaccredited programs.
“The best tip is to talk with students who have gone through the program. They will tell you whether it was legitimate. They have no incentive to lie to you,” Lambert said. While the online delivery of this higher degree is still evolving, “Things like dealing with Zoom fatigue, and communicating through this type of platform — all of it is getting so much better,” Lambert said.
Recently, Lambert’s team produced a ranking of the best online MBA programs of 2021.
Rankings took several factors into account, including the alumni network (since this has value throughout your career), the scale of each program, the number of Fortune 500 executives who went to the school, the image of the programs and job placement across top companies.
Among the top online MBA programs, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill claimed the top spot, followed by Indiana University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Southern California and University of Florida.