Rankings are just one way you can judge the quality of an online MBA program. There are several other strategies you can implement to make sure you have chosen a high-caliber online MBA program and not a fly-by-night one from a school that is happy to take your money in exchange for a worthless degree. Here, we will examine a few ways other than rankings to gauge the quality of an online MBA program.
A less formal way of assessing the quality of an online MBA program is to do an Internet search for unbiased online reviews from students. You can find what students liked and/or disliked about certain programs from those who have firsthand experience with them. It’s important to note, however, that people are generally more likely to go online to complain about something than they are to praise it, so keep that in mind when reading reviews. The key is to look for recurring themes in these online reviews. If you read again and again that the faculty members in a certain program were unresponsive, make a note of it, as you should if you read often that the mentoring or cohort system at a school was beneficial and supportive. You may want to take what you learn and formulate some questions to ask when you call to inquire about specific graduate programs.
What’s Important to You?
When selecting an online MBA program, always consider the factors that are of particular importance to you. Although rankings and reviews give you an idea of what others think of a program, what really matters is whether it is able to meet your needs and help you reach your MBA career goals.
For instance, there are pros and cons to enrolling in private nonprofit business schools, private for-profit business schools and public business schools. Cost will be a major consideration for many students, particularly if their employer is not reimbursing their tuition or will reimburse only to a certain cutoff point. The availability of scholarships may be a deciding factor as well.
For those who want to complete their MBA as quickly as possible, the availability of an accelerated program may be a deciding factor. For others, part-time programs geared for busy professionals make much more sense. For some MBA students, campus visits are not feasible; for others, the availability of hybrid distance/on-campus courses or the occasional face-to-face experience would be a welcome addition. Another narrowing factor for you might be whether a program requires or offers an internship or overseas experience. You may prefer the cohort style of learning in which you take courses with the same small group of MBA students the whole time or one in which you have a variety of classmates.
There are different types of MBAs to weigh as well. If you have 10-plus years of experience in management, an executive MBA program may be ideal since it is geared for seasoned professionals. For those just getting started in the business world, a more generalist degree may be preferable. Still others know the specific industry they want to enter and thus may select a school that offers MBA concentrations in areas such as finance, marketing, international business or economics.
The most important step you can take in making sure an MBA program is of high quality is checking that the school that offers it is accredited. You can view the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s database to see whether a school holds national or regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized form of institutional accreditation, although national accreditation indicates a quality institution as well. Aside from institutional accreditation, you should verify that the business program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This gives students pursuing MBAs confidence that their business programs are sound, not just the institutions overall.
Narrow down MBA programs according to your preferences until you’ve found one that’s best matched to your needs. And always keep accreditation in mind. Learn more about accreditation and how it came about in the next chapter.