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What are the Best Online MBA Schools and Degrees?

Those interested in business administration and management degrees have a number of options: part-time programs for working executives, full-time sessions for busy students, coursework with residency sessions, and so on. One particular method of delivery is fast gaining popularity: online MBA. For those who want those three letters on their resume but don’t want to quit their job or incur a huge debt, affordable online programs present a viable option. Long gone are the days when the very best online MBAs were only offered by virtual campuses alone. Web-based schools are becoming so popular that even brick and mortar schools are starting to hop on the trend. It’s not uncommon to come across online incarnations of on-campus programs at elite schools. The admissions standards for these schools are on par with the traditional admission standards. Courses are even taught by the same professors to maintain uniformed academic standards. Students hoping to enhance their business skills are always asking one crucial question: What is the best online MBA program out there? To answer this question, it’s important to consider what the best online MBA programs have in common. What these schools share is an unwavering commitment to first-rate business training that puts students in real-world scenarios. Their priority, regardless of name or region, is the same: to sufficiently prepare tomorrow’s leaders for a global business world. Here are some of the best online MBA schools.

IE Business School: Widely considered the best online MBA program around, Spain’s IE Business School is the paragon of first-class global business training. The Madrid-based institution was ranked No.3 on Forbes’ list of Best Business Schools in 2010. The business school finished first on the Wall Street Journal’s list, while the web-based International Executive MBA program was voted No.1 by The Economist. IE offers a 15-month program in English and Spanish formats. The program makes it convenient for students connect with fellow learners from every corner of the world. The school’s diverse student community fosters networking opportunities and prepares students for a global business world. This school is a perfect match for those interested in international business. The program has four 32-student cohorts a year. Aside from two one-week residencies at its main campus in Madrid, the entire program can be completed online. At an estimated $50,000 for an MBA, it’s a competitively priced program. Since IE first opened its virtual doors in 2001, the program has produced about 1,000 MBAs, including graduates who specialize in sports, biotechnology, and digital marketing. A combination of asynchronous lectures, video sessions, teleconferences, and short residencies makes IE one of the highest ranked online MBA schools.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business: One quality the best online MBA institutions share in common is a system that holds distance education students to the same rigor and standards as classroom students. You’re guaranteed to find these and other admirable qualities at Duke University’s revered Fuqua School of Business. Despite its hefty $146,600 tag, hundreds of students from over all over the world enroll in Duke’s Global Executive MBA program each year. Fuqua offers a prestigious hybrid program that combines online coursework with five short, in-person residency sessions that take place in North Carolina, Dubai, London, New Delhi, Shanghai, Singapore, and St. Petersburg. In between the residencies, students continue to learn and complete online sessions, team projects, and exams. The cross-continental program lasts 16 months and costs an estimated $120,100. At the end of the MBA program, graduates gain the confidence and knowledge necessary to excel in the global business arena. Little wonder Fuqua was ranked No.8 by BusinessWeek and No.12 by U.S. News & World Report in 2010.

Pennsylvania State University’s School of Business: One of the leaders in distance education, Pennsylvania State University started its iMBA program in 2002 and admits about 120 students each year. While Penn State’s top-ranked program is perfect for both students and professionals, the online MBA is ideal for those who are already employed and are looking to move up the company ladder. The program prides itself in preparing these professionals with the skills needed to become more effective in their current capacity or open new employment opportunities. The lectures are well-researched. The classes are open and interactive. Assignments are done in teams, enabling students to build business relationships with others on the same path. And while it’s impossible to fully replicate face-to-face camaraderie of brick-and-mortar schools, Penn State’s priority is to simulate those real world business scenarios that await MBA graduates. This school is ideal for students who want a program that goes beyond simply spelling out textbook information. According to Penn State’s website, the two-year program couples 19 online courses with two one-week residency sessions.

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business: Ranked among the Top 10 Best Business Schools by BusinessWeek, Indiana’s Kelley Direct is one of the pioneers of online MBA in the U.S. Now in its tenth year, Kelley boasts 1,500 students, many of them in MBA partnerships with top companies like United Technologies and John Deere. The school has a flexible program that is typically completed between 27 months and five years. Aside from two residency sessions at its main campus in Bloomington, the program is offered exclusively online. The MBA students at Kelley School of Business students enjoy experiential learning, with a focus on general administration. The MBA covers topics such as business law and ethics, economics, marketing, finance, operations, information technology, and project management. The modern MBA program caters to the needs of a different brand of professional — one that does not necessarily fit the traditional mold. These professionals are sometimes capable of building their own networks, but are in need of that three-letter word to enhance their career. What’s lost through lack of on-campus interaction is made up through residencies, events, seminars, and conferences. The program is modestly priced at $57,000.

University of Phoenix: Can you imagine obtaining an education from a prestigious institution without ever setting foot on the campus? Well, it is now possible for virtual learners at University of Phoenix, which boasts one of the pioneering online MBA programs in the U.S. The school has been offering an online business program since 1989. Its online MBA alumni include celebrities like WNBA legend Lisa Leslie and NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. The largest for-profit player in the U.S., University of Phoenix now buys more case studies from the Harvard Business School than any other school. Students at this institution are typically managers, government officials, military veterans looking to reenter the work force, and teachers too busy to make time for on-campus education. Given such a diverse student body, the conversations at University of Phoenix’s MBA program are rich and varied. UOPX encourages student interaction, weekly essays, and critical analysis, among other rigorous assignments that help hone the business acumen of MBA students.