More people than ever are enrolling in online MBA degree programs.
In fact, in the past year alone, the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business boosted enrollment in its online MBA program by 151% to 369 students from only 147 a year ago. The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School saw a 78% jump in enrollment to 1,862 students from 1,047 a year earlier.
When U.S. News published its ranking of online MBA programs last month, it ranked nearly 270 different online MBA programs, up from 180 in 2017. And that doesn’t include all the online MBA programs available in the world. The result: Though a rapidly growing segment of the management education market, the online MBA category has already become crowded and commoditized.
And yet, more options are appearing monthly. In July of this year, Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business will welcome the first cohort in an online MBA program it is launching with 2U, a publicly traded online education provider. UC-Davis’ Graduate School of Management will be next. The school signed a contract with 2U in November and hopes to get its online option off the ground next year. Davis’ new program will be the first online MBA degree offered in the 10-campus University of California system.
What’s behind their popularity? For one thing, you don’t have to quit a job you already have to get your MBA. An online option provides maximum flexibility for a student. If you are a road warrior, who is often traveling for work, you can do your classwork and assignments from anywhere, including an airplane equipped with Wifi or a hotel room.
For another, most online MBA programs can be completed in an accelerated fashion in as little as 18 months or you can spread out the work over a number of years. That flexibility allows a student to work around both personal and professional commitments. If you are on a challenging assignment at work or about to have a newborn baby, you can ease up on your studies for a certain period of time.
Unlike part-time MBA programs that often require you to sit in a class for a couple of nights a week, you don’t have to commute to an actual location and be physically present anywhere. For years, part-timers have had to grind through classes after work loaded up on caffeine to stay alert. They are also more likely to waive a standardized test requirement such as the GMAT or GRE. And finally, because you are already employed, you may be able to take advantage of a company plan to pay at least part of your education.
“More people are doing online programs because they don’t want to stop their careers and quit their jobs,” says Ramesh Venkataraman, chair of Indiana University’s Kelley Direct MBA & MS programs. “They are doing perfectly fine and like their companies. So the quality of students in these programs is quite high. These programs are here to stay and they are actually going to be a very viable alternative to the full-time programs.”
What’s more, the satisfaction levels of online MBA programs are quite high. Poetsand Quants recently surveyed graduates of these programs and asked them whether they would recommend the program they completed to friends or relatives. On a scale of one to ten, with ten reflecting the most enthusiastic recommendation possible, graduates gave their programs an average score of 9.22. Carnegie Mellon’s blended online MBA program had a perfect score of 10.0, while the programs at Ohio University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Indiana Kelley and Lehigh University all scored between 9.8 and 9.7.