A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree is one of the most coveted and prestigious educational programs in the US, and rightly so. An MBA degree is a resume-boosting qualification that opens up endless career opportunities across several industry domains, right from academia and business to healthcare and IT.
MBA challenges students to develop the skills and insights to lead organizations in every sector of the economy. They help learners to develop the right insights and skills required to lead organizations and push them into senior-level managerial roles in top companies and organizations.
In the US, most MBA programs require candidates to have a minimum of two years of work experience. This makes them professionally mature, goal-oriented, and capable of bringing real-world business expertise to the table.
However, with a plethora of accredited programs offered by reputed B-schools in the US, aspirants get easily confused between the choices. The choice becomes further complicated when learners choose between on-campus and distance (online) learning MBA programs.
While on-campus MBA courses demand your full attention, online courses offer you the flexibility to progress through the coursework according to your convenience. Although online MBA programs haven’t always been massively popular, today, they are gaining as much importance as on-campus MBA courses.
According to the Application Trends Survey Report 2019 by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), “half of US online MBA programs received more applications this year than they did last year (50%), a greater percentage than any other US professional MBA program type.”
A vast majority of these applications were domestic (95%). Most US online MBA programs reported 40% growth and 30% stability in applications from underrepresented populations in 2019.
How to choose the right online MBA course?
As the age-old stereotype and reservations against online MBA programs are gradually lifting, here are ten factors that you must consider before deciding to opt for an online MBA program in the US:
When choosing an online MBA course, the foremost consideration is accreditation. It is wise to enroll in MBA programs recognized and accredited by established universities or national/international B-schools.
Check if the course is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or AACSB International. Such accreditation proves that the course adheres to the global MBA standards and guidelines. It assures aspirants that the coursework and education delivered is of the highest standards.
The next criterion is to check out the course curriculum of your shortlisted online MBA programs. Typically, the standard MBA course curriculum will include modules covering six core areas – finance, accounting, marketing, economic statistics & operations, leadership & teamwork, and accountability & ethics.
To get a good idea of the standard MBA coursework, check out the curriculum of online and on-campus programs from reputed institutes/schools. While all courses may not have the same modules, they should cover these major specialization areas and additional interests like business development, operations management, human resources, entrepreneurship, etc.
The best way to go about these criteria is to identify your MBA goals and interest areas and then look for courses that best align with your interests.
3. Program Cost & ROI
Granted that online MBA programs are cheaper (more affordable) than on-campus programs, you must pit the program cost (tuition, learning materials, etc.) against the ROI it promises to deliver.
This essentially means that you must not calculate the program cost to the end value that it offers. Since there are plenty of options for online MBA programs in the US, you must consider the course’s overall value – just because one course is cheaper than the others doesn’t make it a feasible option for you.
After all, what’s the value of an MBA degree if you do not get any return on investment (ROI) after course completion!
4. Financing choices
This is a particularly useful criterion for aspirants who wish to avail of financial aid for pursuing an MBA education. It is essential to know whether an institution accepts and acknowledges financing options like education loans, grants, or national scholarships.
Often, many institutions offering online courses have their unique grants and scholarships for deserving students. Try to find out how to avail of this option and whether you can qualify for internal grants/scholarships. Furthermore, it helps if your preferred institution extends flexible payment options like EMIs.
5. Academic support
This goes without saying – you must dig deep to find out what kind of academic support your preferred online programs promise to students. Irrespective of the education delivery (online or offline) method, every MBA program must disclose its instructors’ and mentors’ list, qualifications, and professional experience.
Plus, when opting for an online learning platform, it becomes imperative to know if the institution is willing to help students. Here’s what you should look out for:
- Are the instructors prompt with their feedback?
- Are all the learning resources delivered digitally?
- Can students access the course material anytime and anywhere?
- Is there a provision for faculty support for students during different time slots?
- Are the instructors available to answer questions or solve issues when students need them?
6. Placement assistance
Yes, just like on-campus programs, online MBA programs also offer placement assistance to students to help fast-track their careers. This comes as a massive advantage as you get the opportunity to land an excellent job with a standard salary package right after course completion.
You can narrow your search by shortlisting institutes or schools that offer placement support in their online MBA programs. Usually, these programs also encourage students’ overall grooming through mock interviews, resume building sessions, and offline networking events.
7. Recruiter’s recommendation
Perhaps the most sound option is to take advice directly from recruiters and potential employers. Many companies often have set preferences for MBA graduates hailing from specific B-schools.
You could connect with recruiters or HR professionals who primarily deal in hiring talented MBA graduates and ask them about the top preferred schools and institutions that companies tend to prefer and those that hold little or no value to recruiters. Their recommendations will help you understand which institutes deliver the optimal education quality and value. You can then make an informed decision.
What better than getting a firsthand review from present students or alumnus of schools offering online MBA courses? This approach allows you to learn about their personal experiences and find out all the necessary information on the institution (what’s their academic support and placement record, how’s the learning material, how competent is the faculty, and so on).
You can also check out the testimonials section via the official websites of different institutions. While these reviews shouldn’t be the ultimate deciding factor, they certainly make the selection process easier.
Given that you’ll put in considerable time, effort, and money into your MBA education, it is wise to invest your time in researching different schools and programs to know what’s your best fit. You can use these eight steps as a checklist to weigh the pros and cons of various online MBA programs.
Top MBA Specializations in the US
If you’re looking to pursue your MBA education in the US, here are the top ten specializations to consider:
1. General Management
General Management is one of the most pursued MBA specializations of all time. This is because the skills and knowledge students gain through this course apply to almost all industry sectors. It teaches learners to develop valuable skills like critical and analytical thinking, problem-solving mindset, and risk management, which come in handy for various administrative and managerial posts.
The course includes industry-relevant topics like Business Analytics, Thought Leadership, Professional Development, Project Management, Marketing Management, and Organisational Behaviour.
2. International Management
Candidates who desire to work in MNCs or overseas should opt for an MBA in International Management. The course trains students in various domains like finance, business strategy, operations management, international business, etc. The skills you gain through this course will qualify you for doing business with people and organizations on the global front.
An MBA in Marketing is the perfect choice for aspirants who wish to scale up to managerial or senior executive positions. The subjects covered in this course Product Development, Marketing Research, Branding, Advertising Management, Digital Marketing, etc.
Students learn how to strategize on product development, promote products/services, plan and implement marketing campaigns, and communicate with customers. These skills are relevant to both B2B and B2C companies.
4. HR Management
Human Resource Management is designed to help learners take their interpersonal and people skills to the next level. It focuses on teaching students how to deal with matters on business administration and people management.
The course curriculum includes Organisational Behaviour, Business Law, Managerial Finance, Management Principles, etc. HR skills are versatile since they apply to all sectors.
5. Management Consulting
Management Consulting focuses on training students to help organizations improve their overall performance. Students learn subjects like Marketing, Consulting & People Skills, Enterprise Resource Planning, Leadership & Managing Change, Managing People & Organizations, Supply Chain Management, Project Management, and Managerial Economics, among other things. This course is ideal for candidates possessing a knack for communicating with people and influencing them positively.
An MBA in Finance is the right choice for candidates who love numbers and possess an analytical mind. This course offers in-depth knowledge of Portfolio Management, Corporate Budgeting, Investment Analysis, Fund Management, etc. MBAs in Finance can bag promising roles like Investment Bankers, Finance Managers, Financial Controllers, and Chief Financial Officers.
As the name suggests, an MBA in Entrepreneurship is designed for aspirants passionate about launching their business and becoming their own boss. It covers relevant matters such as Product Design, Marketing, Business Innovation, Business Development, Venture Feasibility, Resource Management, and Entrepreneurial Strategies.
8. Operations Management
An MBA in Operations Management course exclusively focuses on planning, organizing, managing, and optimizing business operations and production activities to maximize efficiency. Students learn how to apply analytical skills and use statistical models to improve systems performance, enhance product quality, and minimize production costs.
9. Business Strategy
A Business Strategy program helps students understand and diagnose business challenges and develop appropriate solutions. It teaches students various concepts like business planning & development, risk management, consulting, and making actionable business decisions. The subjects include Business Policies & Strategic Management, Modern Business Organization and Management, Accounting & Financial Management, Strategic Marketing Management, and Strategic HRM.
10. IT Management
IT Management is best suited for aspirants who are passionate about technology. Students learn about System Analysis and Design, Strategic Management of Information Technology, Strategic Analysis, Managing IT-Enabled Services, Business Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Communication, and Information Technology Management. By gaining knowledge in these areas, candidates can find innovative IT solutions to help companies stand out in the market.
Learn MBA online: The upGrad advantage
Online MBA programs are becoming the new favorite, particularly for working professionals, because they are incredibly flexible, affordable, and globally acknowledged. Anyone willing to pursue an MBA course can opt for online courses as they allow you to balance between your education/work commitments and upskill simultaneously. You need not compromise on your professional or personal life while studying an MBA specialization online.
If you’ve been on the hunt for the right online MBA program, here are a few upGrad offerings that are worth considering:
This is a two-year Global MBA program offered in collaboration with Deakin Business School and IMT Ghaziabad. The course curriculum covers subjects like Business Growth Strategies, Financing Strategies, Strategic Thinking, Design Thinking, Change Management, and International Business.
It will prepare you for leadership roles in Business Development/Strategy, Management Consulting, Operations, Marketing, Finance, and HR Management. upGrad promises 360-degree placement support to all candidates.
This 20-month MBA course is offered in partnership with Liverpool Business School and IMT Ghaziabad. Students can choose from six different specializations – Finance, Operations, Marketing, Business Analytics, and Strategy & Leadership.
They learn various subjects, including Business Growth Strategies, Marketing Strategies, Digital Business Innovation, Leadership, Strategic Thinking, Risk Management, and Project Management. Not just that, learners participate in a week-long immersion program at the university campus (LBS). On course completion, students get an MBA degree from LBS and PMP in Management from IMT Ghaziabad.
This is an Executive MBA program in Business Analytics. In 15 months, students learn the nitty-gritty of Economics, Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, Operations, and Supply Chain. Apart from developing the core management skills across these domains, learners also learn how to leverage Big Data and Machine Learning technologies.
With this certification, candidates can take on Marketing, Sales, Finance, Management Consulting, Business Development, and Business Analytics roles.
This exclusive MBA course in Digital Finance & Banking trains aspirants to build a successful career in BFSI. The course duration is 24 months. upGrad has designed this course in partnership with O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) – internationally acclaimed as an ‘Institute of Eminence.’
The course covers industry-specific topics like Financial Management, Fintech Ecosystems Management, Data Visualization in Finance, Design Thinking, Business Leadership, Artificial Intelligence in Business, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, and Digital Fraud & Risk Analytics.
upGrad has joined hands with Essex Business School to offer this MBA course. In 24 months, the course aims to prepare and train aspiring entrepreneurs to enter the business world.
The unique aspect of this MBA course is the Director’s Workshops. In this initiative, all upGrad MBA aspirants (irrespective of which upGrad MBA course they pursue) come together with the faculty members to engage in interactive discussion sessions with industry leaders.
Each of these online MBA courses is designed, keeping in mind global MBA standards. Students learn theoretical concepts and work on case studies and real-world projects and engage in live discussions, mock interview sessions, resume building sessions, and offline networking events. By the end of the course, students are groomed and ready to step into the job market.