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A Master of Business Administration degree, referred to commonly as an MBA, is a versatile degree that can lead to careers in a wide range of industries. Earning an MBA can significantly increase a professional’s salary potential and promotion prospects. In fact, many business jobs have salaries that exceed six figures.
But, while there is a higher potential for earnings with this type of degree, the reality is that many MBA programs can be expensive — tuition and fees can easily exceed $100,000 in these programs. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable online master’s degree in business programs through both large and small colleges, which allow you to receive a quality education without the extremely high costs associated with other programs.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
The 25 Most Affordable Online MBA Programs of 2021
The following ranking includes the most affordable MBA online programs. Prospective students can use the list to quickly survey and compare program options. The descriptions summarize pertinent information about each program's concentrations, structure, and requirements. Updated yearly to reflect status changes, this list of accredited schools includes only programs that meet rigorous academic standards.
Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools
|Academic Quality||Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates||25%|
|Affordability||Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid||35%|
|Reputation||Admission and enrollment rates||15%|
|Program Offerings||Number of program options||10%|
|Online Enrollment Score||Portion of learners taking at least one online course||15%|
What is an MBA?
An MBA is a professional degree for current and aspiring business leaders. Degree-seekers gain new skills and often qualify for salary and career advancement. MBA curricula include coursework in management and several business-related disciplines.
Can I earn an MBA online?
Yes, students can complete their master’s degree in business online, on campus, or through a hybrid model. Online programs can be ideal for working professionals who need flexible scheduling options.
How long does it take to earn an MBA?
Online MBA programs typically take about two years to complete. However, accelerated programs may offer condensed timelines. Part-time programs may take more than two years.
What is the difference between an MBA and a master’s degree in business?
MBA degrees are generally more versatile, practice-oriented, and expensive than other business master’s degrees, which often involve specialized research. Most MBA programs also include more interdisciplinary coursework.
What is an executive MBA?
Professionals with at least five years of business leadership experience can pursue an executive MBA (EMBA). Often funded by the student’s employer, EMBA programs usually offer Friday, weekend, or online courses to accommodate professional schedules. Learners typically graduate in two years.
The requirements for each online master’s in business program will vary, but in general, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in business or a similar field to apply to an MBA program. When you apply, you’ll also likely have to provide letters of recommendation and scores from either the GRE or GMAT. Each school will have its own undergraduate GPA and exam scores. Some schools may also require work experience.
To graduate with your MBA, most online programs require anywhere from 52-62 credits of coursework. You’ll likely need to complete a set of core courses, as well as specialized courses more closely related to your concentration.
Online MBA Courses
Most affordable MBA online programs require 52-62 credits of coursework, during which learners hone advanced management and leadership skills. MBA curricula typically include advanced courses in key business disciplines such as accounting, finance, marketing, and economics. Other core course topics may include business communications, business law, and business ethics.
Depending on their concentration, MBA students may take specialized courses in international business, sports management, and real estate management. Online MBA programs usually incorporate a capstone project or internship experience that allows enrollees to practice analysis, leadership, and communication skills. Although courses vary by program, many online MBA programs feature the courses below.
- Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership
- Learners often take this core course early in their MBA program. Students learn how to understand organizational culture, design work teams, and ensure effective team performance. This crucial course often emphasizes experiential learning, and students typically complete team projects to develop collaboration and leadership skills.
- Managing Emerging Enterprises
- Sometimes part of a concentration, this course prepares learners to manage a new organization seeking to enter the market and scale quickly. Enrollees acquire skills and strategies for developing organizational processes and acquiring human and social capital.
- Financial Accounting for Decision-Makers
- This core MBA course teaches degree-seekers to prepare and analyze financial statements. Enrollees learn how to use financial data to create business decisions, strategies, and plans. Students practice with case studies, and they learn how to present financial reports and make recommendations to executives.
- Marketing Management
- A core course in most MBA programs, marketing management surveys crucial marketing skills and strategies for developing, pricing, and promoting products and services. Students learn about market targeting, segmenting, and positioning. Enrollees also become familiar with marketing principles, strategic planning, buyer behaviors, and marketing information systems.
- Managing Organizational Change
- This class explores strategies, processes, and skills for adapting and thriving in a changing environment. Students may learn about mergers and acquisitions, managing growth and change, corporate transformation, and business process outsourcing. This course often proves particularly valuable for aspiring consultants and general managers.
There are many career paths available to those who have graduated with their MBA. The job you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including your professional interests and goals, prior education and experience, and the specialization you pursued in business school.
In general, an MBA can prepare you for a leadership role, whether you want to work for a large enterprise or start your own business. The core business curriculum is broad and helps you understand many facets of business, while the more specialized courses give you expertise in a specialty.
With an online master of business administration, you can seek a management position, work as a consultant, or fill an analytical role in various industries. The roles you may choose to pursue in this field could include:
Financial analysts advise clients regarding investment options and decisions. These professionals analyze financial data, market data, and investment performance. This role requires strong communication skills, as financial analysts must report and explain financial phenomena to clients. Types of financial analysts include portfolio managers, fund managers, ratings analysts, and risk analysts.
Management consultants or analysts work to optimize organizational efficiency. Some analysts specialize in reducing costs, while others focus on increasing revenue. All management analysts need high-level skills in financial data analysis, business strategy, and problem-solving. These professionals synthesize data drawn from onsite observations and personnel interviews along with insight from financial data. After conducting their analysis, they present suggestions to the management team.
Operations Research Analysts
These analysts help organizations identify operations issues and potential improvements. They often conduct observations and analyze business data drawn from customer feedback, sales histories, and computer databases. These professionals rely on strong quantitative and reporting skills. Often working in teams, operations analysts may specialize in an area such as pricing or supply chain management.
These professionals make big picture decisions and develop long-term strategies for their organizations. The daily job duties of top executives will vary by industry, field, organization, and position. Responsibilities often include budgeting, data analysis, and reporting. Executives also attend meetings with other staff. Top executives need sophisticated interpersonal and leadership skills to supervise lower- or mid-tier managers in their companies or departments.
Are Online MBAs as Well-Respected as Regular MBAs?
If you’re considering an online MBA, you may be wondering if online MBA programs are as well-respected as regular MBAs earned in a brick and mortar setting. The good news is that online education is common, and these online degrees are just as valuable as traditional in-person degrees.
Many well-known and highly respected higher education institutions offer online degrees, which has helped to further level the playing field. Just having earned your MBA will set you apart from the competition, and you shouldn’t worry about an online MBA not being taken as seriously.
Job Outlook and Salary
Enrolling in one of the best and most affordable MBA online programs will help you cultivate core management skills you can apply to many organizational and industry contexts. For example, MBA graduates often work as managers at for-profit companies, while others secure positions in nonprofits and government organizations.
The payoff could end up being pretty lucrative, too. The median base starting salary for MBA grads was $115,000 in 2020, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). That’s substantially higher than starting salaries for graduates holding a master’s in management, accounting, finance, or data analytics.
The industries with the highest salaries for new MBA hires are consulting, finance, and technology, according to the 2020 GMAC Annual Corporate Recruiters Survey.
Online MBA programs help learners build advanced skills and grow in knowledge in communication, leadership, and strategy. Graduates can apply these skills to lucrative management and executive positions, such as advertising, promotions, and marketing manager. Graduates can also become financial managers, human resources managers, and medical and health services managers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all of the careers previously mentioned will have above-average job growth over the next decade. For example, employment for medical and health services managers is expected to grow by 32% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than most occupations.
Additionally, all of the high-paying business jobs listed above have salaries that are higher than most. Each of them has a median annual salary of above $100,000 per year.
Online MBA students may qualify for various scholarships based on academic merit, identity, financial need, or field of study. Scholarships do not require repayment and can help students cover various educational expenses. Learners can apply for scholarships from nonprofits, schools, private donors, and governmental organizations. The list below includes a few of the scholarships available to MBA students.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports Hispanic citizens and permanent residents with a minimum 3.3 GPA. Candidates must be enrolled full time in a business-related program at an accredited four-year school.
Who Can Apply: Full-time students in graduate programs related to local government finance can apply. Candidates need U.S. or Canadian citizenship or permanent residency. Applicants submit a statement of purpose, a recommendation letter, a resume, and transcripts.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports Golden Key members attending graduate programs at accredited schools. Applicants submit a resume, a recommendation letter, a personal statement, and transcripts.
Deadline: November 23
Who Can Apply: The Lagrant Foundation offers financial awards to high-performing U.S. students who belong to racial minority groups. Candidates need permanent residency or DACA status and a minimum 3.2 GPA. Applicants must be enrolled full time in an advertising-related graduate program at an accredited school. Applicants submit essays, a resume, a reference letter, and official transcripts.
Deadline: February 26
Who Can Apply: Full-time business students interested in corporate aviation can apply for this award from the National Aircraft Finance Association. Candidates must demonstrate citizenship or permanent residency and need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Learners should visit their school's financial aid office to apply.
Deadline: October 31
An MBA is an excellent career path for anyone hoping to hold a leadership position in the field of position. But it’s not the only degree to consider, and there are several great alternatives.
Some schools now offer what is called a mini-MBA, which is basically a concentrated version of the full MBA program. Rather than completing a full MBA program, you complete a shorter program that requires around 40 credit hours. These programs take less time and are considerably more affordable.
Many MBA recipients go on to work in careers in finance. If you know you’ll be pursuing a finance career, you may be better suited to getting a Master’s in Finance, which will be more specialized on finance-related topics.
Students who plan to pursue a job in management might find that a Master’s in Management is a better fit. These programs are more focused on topics to prepare you for leadership roles in business.
Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.
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