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Complete Guide to Getting Your MBA Online

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The Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is a graduate degree that teaches students about the methods and theories used to administer and manage an enterprise. An online MBA degree can greatly enhance your employment and promotional prospects; many career fields require an it for advancement, such as banking, consulting, and finance. However, these degrees are also useful for people who want to change careers or make themselves marketable in a variety of fields.

Prospective students should make sure that the school they are considering is accredited by the AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), which is the premier accrediting organization for business degrees. This designation signals to employers that the MBA program meets the highest academic standards. Those looking for a fast-track program should consider one year and accelerated online MBA programs. Read More

Comprehensive List of AACSB Accredited Online Colleges & Universities

Overview of Available Online MBA Degrees

The standard online MBA takes two years to complete. Students spend the first year completing general business classes and the second year taking electives in their interest area. Examples of general courses may include organizational behavior, principles of accounting, management information systems, principles of finance, or strategic management. Top MBA programs emphasize communication and the ability to network, so students will participate in group projects, case competitions, and group presentations in order to gain interpersonal skills and writing skills. The ability to write and speak concisely yet comprehensively is a highly coveted skill. Students also learn how to develop their leadership abilities through techniques that enhance their analytical and decision-making skills.

In addition to acquiring general business skills, students in MBA programs typically focus on one particular aspect of business. This is an important part of the MBA, since many students already have an idea of their strengths and interests before applying to graduate school. Instead of trying to master all forms of business administration, MBA programs have found it beneficial for students to specialize in one form of business, such as organizational leadership, in order to ensure their graduates are competitive in the job market after graduation.

Pursuing an MBA is an important career and life decision, so it's important to take the time to adequately prepare before you begin a program. Be sure to get a financial plan together, and consider your funding options such as scholarships, loans, and savings. Identify your long-term goals, and choose a school that best coincides with your goals, aspirations, and interests. Many of the best MBA programs require either the GMAT or GRE, so be sure to prepare for and take the exams that are necessary for admission to your chosen school.

AACSB Accreditation

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB, is the premier accrediting organization for business degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate level. With approximately 700 accredited members (as of May 2014), representing the top 5 percent of the world's business degree programs, attending an AACSB-accredited program ensures that students receive a business education of the highest regard. AACSB evaluates business degree programs based on the quality of the faculty, the depth and breadth of the curriculum, the level of innovation involved in its academic research, and its ability to graduate highly qualified business professionals. AACSB has the most stringent requirements for both learning environments and learning outcomes. Companies are aware of AACSB's rigorous accreditation process, and many choose to only hire candidates who have attended a business program that has been accredited by the AACSB.

MBA Degree Specializations

There are many different types of MBA programs and degree specializations. Programs vary in their course structure, course delivery, and focus. When choosing a degree program, consider factors such as your field of interest, how much money you are willing to invest, and how much time you are able to spend earning your degree. General MBAs open up a variety of business opportunities through a curriculum in topics like information analysis, financial accounting, and marketing. Specialized MBAs add a more focused group of classes in areas like finance, healthcare management, information systems, public administration, or human resources.

Executive MBA

An Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) is a degree for aspiring executives. Executives are top-level managers with the top companies in the world, leading large teams of people to complete new projects, run advertising campaigns, expand internationally, or control financial investments and spending. Most people who pursue EMBAs already have experience in the corporate world, as well as some kind of business specialization, such as finance or human resources. Having an EMBA can give students a slight edge over other applicants in the extremely competitive world of executive business professionals.

The Executive MBA is often billed as the most prestigious of all MBAs. The curriculum of this degree is specifically structured so as to help students build their executive skills and become top administrators and leaders in the corporate world. Students will study business models, leadership and administrative techniques, finance, project management, and public relations. While most general MBA students have a specific concentration, like accounting or human resources, Executive MBA students must learn to do it all. These programs are also specifically designed to drive results in the actual corporate world, so they will emphasize real-world examples, collaboration and communication skills, and problem solving. 

Executive MBA programs, especially the best ones, are more competitive than traditional MBA programs because they cater to a very select clientele. Almost all applicants have some experience in the professional world, which means that almost no students are being admitted right out of college. A resume or personal statement detailing their experience and professional aspirations will be among the most important components of a student's application package. Prospective students will also likely be asked to submit their undergraduate transcripts and letters of recommendation from former professors or employers. 

Every Executive MBA program has a different approach, covers different topics, and has a different reputation; therefore, extensive research to choose the most suitable program is imperative. Students should choose their EMBA program based on course requirements, student profiles, quality of instructors, employability for graduates, thesis support, cost, and financial aid options. A one-year EMBA certificate can be just as useful as a full-length program, provided students already have connections and experience in the business world. 

MBA in Accounting

Accounting students should be detail oriented, organized, and good with numbers. They use their business and math skills to help organizations plan their budgets, stick to their budgets, cut their spending, handle their investments, and file their taxes. Some accountants work with individual people, though those accountants do not typically have Master of Business Administration degrees. Someone with an MBA will likely have more opportunities in the business world than the average CPA. They will have gained specific training in accounting for large corporations and often have training in international accounting, which is not provided in the average accounting degree program.

A mini MBA certificate is a shortened version of the general MBA, lasting one year or less. The mini MBA is best for people who are already full-time professionals and seeking educational opportunities to advance in their careers. This certificate program will eliminate many of the non-accounting related classes, but it does not lead to any other kind of certification. 

To earn an MBA in accounting, students must become experts in tax law, particularly as it relates to businesses. They must also develop excellent financial planning and budgeting skills. Many top MBA programs help students develop these skills through practice, giving them real-world business problems to solve. Additional courses will include finance, leadership, and business law. All people who begin an MBA program with an accounting emphasis are expected to have general accounting knowledge and a bachelor's degree. Some programs require that applicants have a certain amount of professional experience, and some actually require applicants to be Certified Public Accountants. Applications may require letters of recommendation, test scores, and writing samples. 

MBA in Finance

The MBA with a focus in finance is a great way to prepare for a number of careers in finance. The best graduate business programs allow students to take extensive coursework in general business principles, specific financial instruments, types of finance, and financial management. Classes like debt markets and international financial markets explore the many methods and tools companies and investors can use to increase their wealth. Others, such as corporate finance and institutional money management teach students the techniques for managing money for different types of clients. Upon graduating, students will have a well-rounded, in-depth understanding of the finance world. Most MBA degrees are aimed at business professionals who want to increase their practical understanding of useful business skills. Because of this, most of the top programs require that applicants have at least two years of professional experience in business.

Many financial career specializations utilize the skills learned in an MBA in finance program. Financial managers are the professionals who work within companies to keep the firm's financial strategy in line with its overall goals. They might work for private firms or government agencies to help them grow capital, choose investments, or prepare reports of financial information. Financial analysts are professionals who provide similar services, but from a third-party, consultant standpoint. They may help investors select stocks, buy or sell stocks for firms, or manage a company's investment portfolio. Personal financial advisors give individual clients advice about achieving their financial goals. They help clients prepare for retirement, grow wealth, and manage their money.

Although not always required for employment, voluntary professional certifications may help finance graduates land a job, negotiate a better salary, or advance to a higher position. Financial managers and financial analysts can pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) title from the CFA Institute. This rigorous credential requires at least four years of finance experience beyond graduation. Personal financial planners can earn the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential, which is awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board. This test requires a bachelor's degree and three years of work in a finance position. A Certified Management Accountant credential might be relevant for some financial roles that require significant accounting work or knowledge.

MBA in Human Resources

Human resource managers act as a bridge between an organization's administrators and its employees. They are responsible for supporting staff members, coordinating the recruitment of new professionals, handling payroll and employee scheduling, administering employee benefits, and occasionally disciplining employees. Some human resources professionals work in teams, especially at larger companies, each taking on a specific task in the department. Others are responsible for all aspects of human resources. Having an MBA can make it easier for graduates to get jobs in top companies and move up through the ranks of human resources departments. 

The MBA is a popular degree in the field of human resources. Earning this degree requires two years of study, which is often structured in a way that allows students to maintain full-time jobs while pursuing their MBA. Students will have to take a number of general business courses, including finance, leadership, accounting, communications, business law, and business ethics. Students often find that these courses all relate to human resource management in some way. MBAs in human resources concentrate on reading and writing assignments. Because students work alone, they have to be comfortable working without immediate help of teachers or other students. Traditional MBA programs in human resources may use case studies and group work to help students develop problem-solving skills.

Admission to an MBA in human resources program requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree. This degree does not have to be in business, but that is the most common undergraduate degree that applicants have. Psychology and sociology are also popular majors for future human resource managers. Students will likely be asked to submit GRE scores, personal statements and writing samples, and letters of recommendation. People applying to most MBA programs are not required to have any practical experience in human resources, though many applicants do. 

MBA in Marketing

Marketing is the act of communicating the value of goods and services for sale to consumers, so it's a key component to any successful business. The marketing specialist or marketing manager for any large firm is responsible for knowing how to assess, value, and present a given product so that it can be sold as often as possible to as many customers as possible. It takes a unique combination of skills and knowledge to succeed in marketing, including proficiency with artistic and design elements, a mind for numbers and data tables, and good leadership skills for managing a marketing and promotional team. The MBA in marketing is a valuable professional degree that will help students understand and master the technology and tasks required in advanced marketing careers.

In many cases, the MBA in marketing is a listed degree program through master’s degree-level schools’ business departments. However, some schools that provide a marketing program only offer it as a specialization within a general MBA degree, such as an MBA in management. These programs, if properly accredited, may offer the same quality of education, but unless the focus or specialization is listed on your transcript, your general MBA degree will not stand out as much to a prospective marketing employer as an MBA in marketing. Alternatively, there may also be specializations within the marketing discipline itself, like advertising or public relations.

To qualify for admission to a marketing MBA program, applicants will need a bachelor's degree along with a minimum GPA. In some cases, top MBA programs will require, or at least prefer, a certain kind of undergraduate degree or range of undergraduate majors; in these cases, programs that stress business management, communication, organizational leadership, and visual design are most appropriate for marketing MBA students.

MBA in Organizational Leadership

Organizational leadership is a largely research-based field that combines practical business needs with the theories of sociology and psychology. Graduates of organizational leadership MBA programs are brought in to companies to help them streamline their office personnel organization, to maximize their employees' effectiveness, and to improve their human resources department overall. Examples of job titles include operations manager, executive coach, corporate recruiter, or human resources manager. Students will study a variety of theories and practical applications of these theories and learn to develop their own ideas to solve problems in real businesses. Earning an MBA in organizational leadership can help students develop their careers. These degrees have become especially popular because there are relatively few undergraduate degrees that offer specializations, or even offer courses, in organizational leadership. 

Organizational leadership is centered around the motivation and process of command required of leaders of complex organizations. It is particularly important when dealing with multiple communities within a workforce; for instance, communication between executives, employees, customers, and the media. Training in organizational leadership results in professionals who are experts at galvanizing staff, lending harmony and productivity to work environments and uniting communities.

While earning an MBA in organizational leadership, students will take classes in sociology, employee training and general human resources, and corporate structure. All of these topics complement each other in unexpected ways, teaching students to improve the productivity and employee satisfaction with various corporations and businesses. Graduates of the best MBA programs often build high-earning careers that take them all over the country or world, assisting organizations in restructuring and increasing productivity. 

MBA in Public Administration

The MBA in public administration program prepares graduates for advanced positions in governmental and non-profit organizations. It focuses on the skills for directing every aspect of the public administration organization, touching on marketing, accounting, management, public relations, and finance as they apply to non-profits and public agencies. Students will learn how to structure public service programs and lobby for policies in the public interest. Graduates can go on to positions in policy or administration within governmental agencies or nonprofits.

Public administration courses examine the relationship between government organizations and society at large. Common classes include marketing social change, fundraising, social entrepreneurship, global sustainability, and public policy. Courses in financial management and financial reporting discuss how organizations can save and invest money. Economics courses expose students to issues of large- and small-scale production and strategy with the larger economy in mind. Other common core classes discuss information technology in business, organizational behavior, business law, data analysis, and marketing management.

Even within the public administration specialization, there are many directions from which students can approach the MBA coursework, depending on their career goals. For example, aspiring policy wonks could focus their classes in public policy and ethics, while students interested in non-profit public relations might focus more on communications, marketing, and advertising. Students with a concrete idea of the role they want to take in the public service world should search for the best MBA online that can accommodate their curriculum needs.

The MBA online program is designed to be directly applicable to the graduate’s future career, and thus hands-on and experiential learning is a big part of the degree program. Many public administration MBAs require an internship in a government agency, non-profit, or other service-oriented organization. Some also require consulting projects or other on-site work.

MBA in Technology Management

An MBA in technology management will train students to use technology, critical thinking, and management skills to help a business succeed. Developing technologies can also be used in corporations and businesses, even schools, to help improve productivity and increase business capacity. Graduates will be prepared for a management career in the fields of information systems, biotechnology, or other high-tech areas. Some technology managers may have their own consulting firms, while others may work for a single business or corporation.

Most students who apply to technology management MBA programs are current professionals in technology fields such as engineering, biotechnology, finance, or aerospace, but applicants may have a wide background of academic and professional experience. Students may apply to these programs with bachelor's degrees in business, information technology, computer science, or communications. Applicants will likely have to submit a personal statement, letters of recommendation, a resume, undergraduate transcripts, and test scores. 

Common courses in a technology management MBA degree program include management information systems, technology competition and strategy, supply chain management, global IT management, and project management.

Choosing a Reputable Online MBA Program

The MBA is an excellent degree for professionals to have, whether you’re an engineer moving into a supervisory role or an entrepreneurially-minded college grad looking to start your own business. While researching the top MBA programs, remember to keep your career goals, learning style, and work-life balance in mind, in order to pick the best option for you.

In general, the following criteria can help you evaluate other online MBA programs you are considering:

  • Costs and Financial Aid: MBA programs can vary greatly in price. Shop around and make sure that you consider applicable fees and enrollment costs, as well as tuition.
  • Course Structure and Delivery: Part time or full time? Asynchronous or synchronous online classes? Traditional semesters or accelerated classes? All options are available online, but only you can decide which one suits your life and learning style.
  • Graduate Placement: If it is not available on the school’s website, ask the admissions office for information about graduate job placement. Inquire about the percentage of students who were able to find work in their chosen field within three to six months after they graduated.
  • Institutional and Programmatic Accreditation: It is important to choose an accredited MBA. To get accredited, a school or program is evaluated by an impartial accrediting organization. Schools that achieve accreditation have met important quality standards. Institutional accreditation applies to an entire college, while programmatic accreditation applies to individual programs. Anyone considering an MBA degree should focus on schools programatically accredited by the AACSB, which is the premier accrediting agency for business degrees.


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