Washington has experienced significant growth in recent years. According to The Seattle Times, the state's gross domestic product (GDP) increased 3.7% between 2015 and 2016 — the highest growth rate among all states that year — and Washington's overall GDP of $469 million is ranked 12th in the country. Prominent businesses headquartered in Washington include Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, Expedia, and Nordstrom. Until 2001, Seattle was also home to aviation giant Boeing; though the headquarters have relocated to Chicago, the company maintains a vast manufacturing center in the city of Everett.

The state's metropolitan areas have also seen major growth — particularly Seattle, Washington's largest city, which grew by 21,000 residents between 2015 and 2016.

Most of Washington's roughly 7.3 million residents live in Seattle and other cities along the western coastline like Tacoma, Everett and Bellevue. Other major cities include Spokane in the east and Vancouver in the southwest.

The state's two largest postsecondary institutions are the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington State University in Pullman. Both of these schools — as well as other institutions across the state — offer blended and/or online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs for students who would like to earn an advanced business degree in a flexible, non-traditional format. As a diverse center of culture and business, Washington offers an immersive educational experience for any online MBA student. The state has also become more affordable for students; between 2015 and 2017, the cost of attending a college dropped by 15% to 20% for university students statewide.

Accredited Online MBA Programs in Washington

Rank School Location Cost Toggle Logo Tuition % Receiving Financial Aid Student Population School Type Description

City University of Seattle

Location Seattle, WA Tuition Tuition $33,024 % Receiving Financial Aid 50% Student Population 2,347 School Type Private

Working professionals can earn an online MBA in Washington at CityU in Seattle. The program prepares learners for roles in organizations that require ethical and competent leadership. The program includes core classes in business management, communication and research, and law. Furthermore, students can choose an emphasis in topics including finance, human resource management, global marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Graduation requires completing 48-51 credits. Students learn how to create social connections to products and services and leverage business trends that emerge in evolving industries. Learners also study how best to use data to make informed decisions that reflect ethics and morals. Program graduates often go on to become business analysts, management consultants, and chief operating officers. Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school but do not need to submit GMAT scores for admission.


Northwest University

Location Kirkland, WA Tuition Tuition $29,055 % Receiving Financial Aid 68% Student Population 1,236 School Type Private

A Christian institution located in Kirkland, NU offers one of the leading online MBA programs in Washington state. Earning this degree allows students to develop the skills and practical perspective employers desire. Not only do graduates strengthen their critical thinking skills, but they also understand why effective decision-making and action-oriented leadership drive business success. The program includes an optional international trip once per year.

While coursework examines topics like accounting and marketing, the university also offers concentrations in public safety administration and project management. Collaborative coursework coupled with small class sizes engage online learners. Students may enroll in one class at a time if they choose. Those with two years’ work experience and at least a 3.2 undergraduate GPA do not need to submit GMAT scores. This Washington state online MBA holds accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.


Washington State University

Location Pullman, WA Tuition Tuition $27,891 % Receiving Financial Aid 49% Student Population 29,686 School Type Public

WSU’s online MBA prepares students to successfully transition from the classroom to the boardroom as competent, knowledgeable business leaders. The program offers an international perspective that helps students strengthen their global competence, which today's world demands. The curriculum explores topics like managerial accounting, operations management, business law, and information systems. Those who wish to deepen their understanding of a specific area of study can concentrate in one of four emphasis areas, including hospitality business management and finance.

Offered through the Carson College of Business, this MBA also offers an international field study to help students understand global markets through a 10-day study abroad in Asia. In total, the program consists of 36 credits for those with an undergraduate degree in business. Students without a business background can enroll in up to 16 credits of the university’s foundational coursework. Students typically complete their degree in 22-29 months.


University of Washington

Location Seattle, WA Tuition Tuition $65,000 % Receiving Financial Aid 28% Student Population 45,408 School Type Public

The UW online MBA program program builds skills in business foundations while allowing learners to enhance their studies by enrolling in electives of their choice. Offered through the Foster School of Business, classes emphasize data-driven decision-making and evidence-based challenges, helping students identify ways to apply their lessons to the real world. Case study analysis builds students' problem-solving capabilities so they can accurately assess complexities and devise solutions to overcome them.

Delivered primarily online, the program requires an on-campus immersion experience over 3-5 days at the start of each quarter. Online coursework weds independent activities with virtual teamwork. It also includes interactive sessions with faculty and classmates. The two-year curriculum covers topics like financial reporting and analysis, leading organizations, and operations management. Elective classes examine concepts such as negotiations, organizational change, and international economic conditions. The university offers three start dates, and admits applicants based on professional experience, leadership potential, previous education, and intellectual ability.

Why Consider an Online MBA in Washington?

Washington ranks fifth among the ‘Best States for Higher Education', according to a recent ranking published by U.S. News & World Report. The state also placed in the top 20 for two- and four-year graduation rates, educational attainment level among state residents, and low educational debt among successful graduates.

Washington State University is the largest postsecondary institution in the state that offers a fully online MBA program. Available through the Carson College of Business, this pathway includes four possible concentrations; full-time students typically graduate within 22 to 29 months. A GRE or GMAT score is not required for admission into this program; the cost is $5,280 per semester (10 to 18 credits).

The state's largest higher education institution, the University of Washington, does not offer a fully online MBA. However, a hybrid MBA is available through UW's Foster School of Business; roughly 95% of this program can be completed online, while the remaining 5% must be completed on-campus. This program costs roughly $65,000 in total tuition and fees; most students complete their required courses within two years. Scores from the GRE or GMAT are required for admission.

Several smaller institutions in Washington offer some online graduate degree programs, but not specific MBA pathways. These include Western Washington University in Bellingham, Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Central Washington University in Ellensburg, and Gonzaga University in Spokane.

It's important to note that the cost of living is much higher in Seattle than other cities elsewhere in the state. According to PayScale, the cost of living in Seattle is 45% higher than the national average. In Spokane, the state's second largest city, the cost of living is 3% lower than the national average. Students who plan to live and attend classes in Seattle should consider the high cost of living in that city before they begin their MBA studies.

Percentage of Students Enrolled by Distance Education

Percentage of students enrolled at Title IV institutions in Washington, by distance education enrollment status, Fall 2012

MBA Concentrations for Washington Students

MBA students can typically choose from a handful of specialization areas for their degree. Those earning an MBA online through Washington State University, for instance, can earn specializations in marketing, finance, hospitality business management, or international business; a general MBA track is also available.

With companies like Amazon and Microsoft headquartered in Washington, the state has become a popular destination for MBA recipients with a background in information technology. The state — and the city of Seattle in particular — is also a strategic hub for international business with Japan, China, Australia, and other countries in Asia and the South Pacific. For this reason, MBA students who earn specializations in information technology management or international business are particularly well-suited for finding jobs in Washington state.


Concentrations for Washington MBA Students

  • IT Management: The information technology (IT) management concentration prepares students to oversee the various computing systems, software programs, and networks that drive profits and productivity at their company or organization.
  • International Business: International business concentrations focus on global money markets, commerce, and trade in different parts of the world, as well as strategies for cross-cultural management. Study-abroad components are often included, as well.

Accreditation in Washington

Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive one of two types of institutional accreditation. Regional accreditation is awarded to public institutions that offer two- and four-year degree programs; 12 different organizations offer regional accreditation to colleges and universities within their respective region. National organization is conferred to technical schools, vocational training centers, and for-profit universities.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities provides regional accreditation to schools in Washington. The NWCCU awards or denies accreditation based on 24 eligibility criteria, including operational status, institutional integrity, faculty, education programs, and financial accountability. Alternatively, schools offering online MBA programs in Washington may receive national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. In order to receive recognition from the DEAC, each program at the candidate school must consist of at least 51% online coursework.

Earning an MBA from an accredited institution is critical for career success. Next, let's look at salary and employment expectations for online MBA recipients.

Washington Economy, Career, and Job Outlook for MBA Graduates

In 2017, CNBC named Washington as the top state for business nationwide; the survey cited the state's above-average economic growth in 2016 (3.7%), as well as Washington's high concentration of employees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The state also took the top spot in a 2017 ranking of the ‘Best State Economies‘ published by WalletHub. That poll cited Washington's strength in three key areas: economic activity, economic health, and innovation potential.

Since 2009, ‘health care and social assistance' has been the state's top industry, which mirrors a national trend; 28 other states share this distinction.

The industrial landscape in Washington has changed over the last 25 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘manufacturing' was the top industry in Washington from 1990 to 2001 — largely due to the presence of Boeing, which moved its headquarters out of Washington in 2001. From 2002 to 2008, ‘retail trade' took over as the state's top industry; the rise of tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon helped fuel this trend. Since 2009, ‘health care and social assistance' has been the state's top industry, which mirrors a national trend; 28 other states share this distinction. The rise of health care and social assistance is due in large part to two factors: the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which provided health coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans; and the aging baby boomer population, which accounts for roughly 23.2% of the total U.S. population.

Roughly 5.2 million Washington residents live in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue and other cities in Western Washington. This makes up roughly 70.8% of the state's population. Western Washington is also home to most of the state's largest companies. For this reason, Western Washington is considered the most promising region of the state for new MBA graduates to find work.

The table below lists data for the five largest companies in Washington by number of employees.

Top Employers in Washington

Company Industry Headquarters City Number of Employees
Amazon Sales/Retail Seattle 341,000
Starbucks Food/Beverage Service Seattle 238,000
Costco Sales/Retail Issaquah 126,000
Microsoft Technology Redmond 114,000
Nordstrom Sales/Retail Seattle 72,500

Income is a major consideration for MBA graduates, particularly in high-cost areas like Western Washington. The next section looks at salary projections for MBA recipients in the state.

Earning Potential with an MBA in the State of Washington

Those who hold an MBA typically earn much higher salaries than their counterparts with an associate or bachelor's degree. MBA-holders often qualify for managerial roles at companies and organizations, and the credential can also lead to more lucrative advancement opportunities, as well. According to PayScale, MBA recipients earn 32.6% more than those with a bachelor's in business and 51.1% more than those with an associate degree in business. An annual salary breakdown for all three educational levels is found in the table below.

Average Salary by Degree

Careers for MBAs in Washington

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Also known as IT managers, these employees coordinate and oversee their organization's tech-based operations. According to the BLS, Washington has the fourth-highest concentration of IT managers in the country; out of every 1,000 employees, 3.84 are employed in this field.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

These managers plan and coordinate various architectural and engineering projects on behalf of their company or organization; many have a background in both business and engineering. Jobs in this field are particularly common in two of Washington's major metropolitan areas: Vancouver (near the Oregon border) and the Kennewick-Richland area of Southeast Washington.

Compensation and Benefits Managers

These human resources employees oversee the processes of providing wages, health insurance, retirement funds and other forms of compensation to paid employees. The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area of Washington has the eighth highest concentration of compensation and benefits managers in the country.

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

PR and fundraising managers are marketing-oriented employees who strive to craft a positive public image of their company/organization and its products and services. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett is one of the top cities in the country for employees in this field; a total of 1,490 work in that metro area, and their local median salary is $117,090.

Management Analysts

Also known as management consultants, analysts work with top executives to set organizational goals related to profit, productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction. Nearly 13,000 management analysts are employed in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, where the local median salary is $110,500 per year.

How to Choose an Online MBA in Washington

There are many important considerations to make before settling on an online MBA program in Washington. These include factors discussed above like cost, accreditation, and available specializations. The following list includes some key steps to follow during the program research process for MBA options in any state.

  • Compare student outcomes data

    Student outcomes include graduation rate, year-to-year retention rate, the average debt for a graduate from that school, and overall student satisfaction with their degree program. Student outcomes do not guarantee you will be satisfied with a particular program, but can be useful for pinpointing a school's strengths and weaknesses.

  • Estimate the expected costs of your programs

    Virtually every accredited college or university posts tuition rates online. Additionally, you should research other college-related costs like living accommodations and meal plans (if you plan to live on-campus), administrative fees, and technology fees (for online students). You should also look into scholarships, grants, and other forms of institutional financial aid that can offset some of the costs.

  • Check that classes will fit in with your schedule

    Scheduling is critical for students with other important commitments, such as childcare or full-time employment. Many online programs are asynchronous, or self-paced; students in these tracks are free to complete course requirements on their own schedule. Synchronous programs, on the other hand, require weekly online meetings with teachers and fellow students.

  • Look for partnerships with local businesses

    A large number of online MBA programs include internship and/or capstone practicum requirements — and in many cases, students are able to gain on-the-job training and real-world office experience. You should look into the school's business partnerships, particularly in regard to the industry you plan to enter after earning your MBA.

  • Make sure the program is accredited

    Accreditation status should always be available and easily accessible on a school's website. In addition to regional or national accreditation, some MBA pathways receive programmatic accreditation. Recognized programmatic accreditors for MBA programs include the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the International Accreditation Counsel for Business Education (IACBE).

  • Talk to current students and/or recent alumni

    You should contact the alumni office at each school you are considering and ask to be connected with former students. These individuals can be good sources of information about education costs, life on- and off-campus, local business tips, and other important details for aspiring MBA students.

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