The 5 Best Accelerated Online MBA Programs 2021

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

One of the most versatile and in-demand degrees, an MBA prepares students for employment as sales managers, administrative services managers, top executives, and financial managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% growth rate for business and financial occupations from 2020-30, faster than the average rate for all occupations.

Accelerated MBA programs allow students to earn business school degrees while investing less time and money than traditional MBA programs require. An accelerated MBA typically takes 12 months to complete, and a standard business program takes 24 months.

Those considering accelerated degrees should weigh factors like work-life-school balance, program quality, online vs. in-person delivery, and cost. COVID-19 prompted many universities to expand and improve their distance education programs, making now an excellent time to consider earning a one-year, online MBA.

Read the Core Topics: Is a One-Year Online MBA Worth It? | What to Expect | Selecting the Right Program | Top Accelerated MBA Programs | FAQs

Why Pursue an Accelerated MBA Program?

The fastest MBA programs save students time and money on their degrees while providing the same education as traditional MBAs. Accelerated options require the same types of courses and number of credits, condensing the material into a shorter time frame. A regular business master’s degree usually takes 24 months for a full-time learner to complete, while most accelerated options take 12 months.

Students attracted to accelerated MBA programs include working professionals with extensive experience in business. They usually hold an undergraduate degree in business and familiarity with the fundamentals of business. An accelerated MBA program may not offer the best fit for those with undergraduate degrees in non-business fields and without relevant professional experience. One-year MBAs fit a lot of material into a short period, and students need to hit the ground running.

Is a One-Year Online MBA Worth It?

Accelerated MBAs require less time and money than traditional MBAs, but they still require a large investment of time and money. Candidates must give serious consideration to the cost of earning accelerated degrees before enrolling. The amount of time it takes to repay student loans or recover the cost of earning an MBA varies.

New MBA hires receive a median annual base starting salary of $115,000 from U.S. companies, according to a June 2021 report.

Students can calculate their return on investment by comparing the cost of their program, the salary they earn upon entering the workforce, and the speed with which they gain employment. Even when business school tuition is high, so are starting salaries for MBA degree-holders.

New MBA hires receive a median annual base starting salary of $115,000 from U.S. companies, according to a June 2021 report. Many employers also provide significant signing bonuses to business school graduates.

An accelerated MBA offers the opportunity to start earning an impressive salary in less time. However, it also usually makes retaining employment while pursuing your degree exceedingly difficult or even impossible. Consider the cost of going without your normal salary for a year when figuring out if an accelerated program makes sense for you.

Discover MBA careers

Pros and Cons of Accelerated MBA Programs

Choosing an accelerated MBA program offers potential benefits and drawbacks. Only you can decide if a one-year MBA suits your learning style and needs. Below, we outline the benefits and trade-offs of accelerated online MBA programs.

Benefits of One-Year MBAs

Save Time
You can enter the workforce, begin earning money, and start making progress toward your career goals more quickly.
Save Money
You can sometimes save money on your degree by spending less time in a program. You may pay less tuition and start earning a professional MBA salary sooner.
Easier Transition
Shortening the time spent in education and entering the professional business world helps to reduce the stresses related to searching for employment.
Same Outcomes
Accelerated MBA students typically receive the same career opportunities and earn similar salaries as those who complete traditional MBA programs.
Professional Classmates
Students enrolling in accelerated MBA programs tend to be older and further along in their professional careers than those in traditional MBA programs.

Trade-Offs With One-Year MBAs

Less Time to Build Relationships
MBA programs foster deep friendships and help to promote extensive networking opportunities. A one-year MBA reduces the time available to develop these beneficial connections.
Can’t Work Simultaneously
A one-year MBA requires a major time commitment and intensity, so you probably won’t be able to work while in school.
Too Intense
An accelerated MBA program may offer too much information in a short period for those who need additional time to process new information.
No Internship
You likely won’t complete a summer internship. Experiential learning opportunities, like traditional MBA summer internships, often lead to professional connections and jobs after graduation.

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

What to Expect From the Fastest Online MBAs

The fastest online MBA programs take 12-20 months to complete. Traditional full-time MBA students usually graduate in 24 months, but part-time learners may take longer. Schools offer different accelerated MBAs, including one-year programs that condense material into just 12 months. Some schools offer five-year bachelor’s-to-master’s bridge programs, which allow students to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business in just five combined years.

Traditional and accelerated MBAs usually require the same number of credits, but faster programs condense the curriculum of a traditional two-year degree into one year. MBAs typically require 30-45 credits. Accelerated and traditional MBA programs offer many specializations.

Traditional and accelerated programs both offer several formats, including online, in person, and hybrid delivery. Some online MBAs offer real-time synchronous courses, while others feature asynchronous classes, allowing students to log on to virtual classrooms whenever it fits their schedules.

Comparing Traditional and Accelerated MBA Programs

Accelerated MBA Traditional MBA
Length of Program 12 months 24 months
Specializations General management, strategic leadership, marketing, financial management, human resources management, etc. General management, strategic leadership, marketing, financial management, human resources management, etc.
Types of Courses Leadership, marketing, financial management, information systems, accounting, data analysis, operations, strategic management Leadership, marketing, financial management, information systems, accounting, data analysis, operations, strategic management
Average Credit Load 30-45 credits 30-45 credits
Program Format Online, in-person, hybrid Online, in-person, hybrid
Admission Requirements Bachelor’s degree in business, minimum 2.7-3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, 3-5 years of relevant professional experience Bachelor’s degree, minimum 2.7-3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, GRE or GMAT
Internships Optional Often required
Goal Prepare graduates for well-paying careers in business Prepare graduates for well-paying careers in business
Student Demographics Older students, working professionals Often younger students transitioning from bachelor’s degrees

Learn more about MBA programs

Are Fast MBA Programs Available Online?

Many universities offer accelerated one-year MBA programs online. These increasingly common distance education programs provide learning experiences and opportunities of the same high quality as their on-campus counterparts. Many online accelerated MBA programs feature the same instructors, curricula, cohort structure, and student resources as the schools’ in-person MBAs.

People from all backgrounds can appreciate the convenience and flexibility of distance education. Fast MBA programs prosper in an online format, emphasizing the importance of technology skills in contemporary business. An online, one-year MBA program may seem especially appealing now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the status of many on-campus programs in limbo.

Many online accelerated MBA programs feature the same instructors, curricula, cohort structure, and student resources as the schools’ in-person MBAs.

Only you can decide if a distance education MBA suits your learning style and personality. Factors to weigh include cost, program structure, and comfort level with independent learning and self-motivation.

The online MBA experience

The Admissions Process

Admission requirements for accelerated MBA programs vary by college but do not differ significantly from traditional business schools. Each applicant must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school and a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA. Those without undergraduate degrees in business-related fields may need to complete foundational prerequisite business courses before enrolling.

Students applying to business school typically take an MBA entrance exam and must submit GRE scores or GMAT results. Some programs do not require standardized test scores. Other common requirements include 3-5 years of professional experience, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Accelerated MBA programs may require applicants to demonstrate professional experience more often than traditional business school programs.

Some admission committees also require in-person or phone interviews. Required application materials may include college transcripts, a completed application, and an application fee.

Specialization Options for Accelerated MBAs

Accelerated MBA programs, like their longer, more traditional counterparts, offer specializations that let students zoom in on a particular area of interest. Adding a concentration like finance, management, or marketing allows learners to prepare for more specialized career paths and helps them stand out from other candidates after graduation. An individual looking to keep their options open and develop a breadth of skills may want to earn a general MBA instead.

Learn more about MBA specializations

Popular Accelerated MBA Courses

Accelerated MBA programs explore foundational business issues like organizational leadership, legal and ethical issues in business, marketing, and strategic management. Students take electives like conflict management, corporate finance, and digital marketing. The types and number of classes in accelerated MBA programs vary by school. Most programs include core, elective/concentration, and capstone/internship courses. Below, we describe some typical accelerated MBA classes.

Leading People
This core class provides an introduction to managing people in organizations. Learners explore issues like conflict management, change management, diagnosing organizational culture, and leadership strategies. They develop leadership, management, and interpersonal skills.
Financial Accounting for Decision-Makers
This core course fosters foundational knowledge of financial accounting. Students learn to record economic events and analyze financial statements and disclosures. The class also explores accounting standards, the financial reporting process, and managerial incentives.
Critical Thinking for Managers
Learners gain experience with critically evaluating claims to make the best decisions. Managers use this crucial skill on a daily basis.
Research Methods in Marketing
Students learn to use marketing research to make management decisions. This elective class examines customer needs to create new products and services.
Human Capital Management
This elective focuses on finding, using, and motivating human talent to improve organizations’ competitiveness. Other topics include recruiting and selection, equal opportunity employment, and fair discipline processes. Students gain skills in strategic thinking, goal setting, and communication.

How Much Will an Accelerated MBA Cost?

Students in accelerated MBA programs spend less on their degrees than those in traditional programs. With less time spent in school, they can graduate with lower student loan debt and enter the workforce to begin earning an MBA salary more quickly.

The price tag of an accelerated MBA varies by school. Factors affecting the cost of an MBA include school prestige, learning format (online versus in-person), and school type (public or private).

Typically, more prestigious programs charge higher tuition. Public universities tend to charge lower tuition than private institutions, particularly for students who can pay in-state rates. Out-of-state learners can sometimes receive tuition reductions or pay in-state tuition if they attend online programs.

No matter what one-year online MBA program you choose, look into the school’s financial aid opportunities. Students may qualify for loans, grants, work-study programs, and scholarships.

Financing your MBA

Selecting the Right One-Year Online MBA Program

Our rankings list offers a great place to start, but prospective students should consider several other factors to choose the right accelerated MBA program.

  • Accreditation: Always ensure that your prospective schools hold regional accreditation. Attending an unaccredited college makes it much more difficult to qualify for financial aid, transfer credits to another university, or qualify for professional certifications.
  • Cost: The price of earning an accelerated MBA varies considerably by program. Choosing a public university where you can pay in-state tuition typically provides the most affordable option. Most universities also offer financial aid through scholarships, grants, and loans.
  • Location: Even if you choose a one-year online MBA, you may want or need to go to campus at some point in the program.
  • Prestige/Reputation: Attending highly regarded accelerated MBA programs can pay off with better internship and job opportunities from employers who value prestigious degrees. However, MBA graduates from any program can leave their program ready for high-paying careers.
  • Difficulty of Admission: Some MBA programs have lower acceptance rates and a more difficult admissions process than others.
  • Alumni Network: Making professional connections and networking is one of the most important parts of business school. Choosing a program with a robust alumni network can help students get a leg up on internships and jobs.

Choosing an MBA program

The Best Accelerated Online MBA Programs

Prospective MBA students can compare the benefits, costs, and coursework of 2021’s top 15 accelerated MBA programs using the guide below. Readers can also learn more about our unique ranking methodology here.

Our ranking methodology

  1. University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL

    The school that would become UF first began in 1853, and has continuously served students from its current location in Gainesville since 1906. In 2014, the school awarded its 500,000th degree.

    Warrington College of Business

    UF's one-year online MBA program welcomes applications from experienced professionals who have earned an undergraduate degree in business in the last seven years. New students can begin in January, April, or September. Once enrolled, learners proceed through the first five terms of the curriculum in lockstep with a cohort.

    MBA courses include brand management, international logistics, investments, and global strategic management. In addition to the required courses, students can choose from several online electives, including a one-week international experience. The program concludes with an experiential learning component such as a business simulation or a global immersion class.

    UF's Accelerated Experience

    This 16-month online MBA begins with a mandatory on-campus experience followed by a fully online curriculum. Because the school requires students to have completed business prerequisite courses before applying, the school can compress its 48-credit MBA into a 32-credit experience.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: SACSCOC, AACSB
    • Tuition: $49,205/program
    • Required Credits: 32 credits
    • Program Length: 16 months (full time)
    • Delivery Format: Online with some in-person requirements
    • Admissions
      • Process: Complete the program's pre-application form followed by the full UF graduate school application. Submit a resume, official transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores, and letters of recommendation.
      • Standardized Tests: GMAT/GRE
      • Cost: $30
  2. American University

    Washington, DC

    Located in Washington, D.C., AU offers degrees through eight colleges and schools, including the Kogod School of Business. The school is the first university, urban campus, and research university to reach carbon neutrality.

    Kogod School of Business

    AU's one-year MBA requires 48 credits composed of 13 core classes, two electives, and two immersion experiences. Students proceed through four modules, taking classes like strategic decision-making, financial management, and management of organizations and human capital. Learners can pursue one of five focus areas by taking all their electives in the same field.

    The program welcomes applications from experienced business leaders and professionals looking to switch careers. Applicants who did not earn a degree in business, however, should have a strong grasp of foundational business concepts.

    AU's Accelerated Experience

    AU's one-year online MBA program provides an intensive, immersive learning experience, best suited for students who are not working full time as they pursue their degree. Aside from the accelerated 15-month option, students can also finish their MBA at AU in 18 or 24 months.

    AU's MBA Specializations

    Business Analytics | Consulting | Cybersecurity | Finance | Legal Studies | Marketing

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: MSCHE, AACSB
    • Tuition: $1,708/credit
    • Required Credits: 48 credits
    • Program Length: 15 months (full time), 18-24 months (part time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online
    • Admissions
      • Process: Submit the online application, which includes a resume, official transcripts, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and test scores (optional).
      • Cost: $100
  3. Bay Path University

    Longmeadow, MA

    A member of the Women's College Coalition, Bay Path began in 1897 and now serves more than 3,300 students. Though undergraduate courses are restricted to women, Bay Path's graduate programs are open to all learners.

    Bay Path Graduate School

    Bay Path welcomes prospective students from business and non-business backgrounds to apply for its accelerated MBA. In the program's 12 courses, learners explore general concepts of business management and the foundations of entrepreneurship.

    Courses include entrepreneurial marketing strategies, investment strategy and risk management, and innovative business growth strategies. The academic program concludes with a capstone in which students apply their knowledge to analyzing a strategic, real-world problem.

    Each course lasts eight weeks, and Bay Path offers six terms per calendar year. New students can begin in February, June, or October, and they can study either full or part time.

    Bay Path's Accelerated Experience

    Bay Path offers its one-year MBA in both on-campus and online formats. The programs are identical in terms of requirements. Online learners can access the same learning and career services resources as on-campus students.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: NECHE
    • Tuition: $855/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 1 year (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online, on campus, or hybrid
    • Admissions
      • Process: Submit an application, resume, official transcripts, an essay, and two recommendations.
  4. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Winona, MN

    Founded in 1912 as a Roman Catholic educational institution, Saint Mary's now serves more than 5,500 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. The school maintains three campuses and offers several online programs.

    Saint Mary's School of Business and Technology

    Students in Saint Mary's one-year online MBA can complete their degree in just 12 months of full-time study, making the program one of the fastest online MBAs available. Degree-seekers complete 30 credits of coursework, which they can customize with 20 different class options.

    Courses in the program include quantitative decision-making, managerial economics, and corporate finance. The curriculum concludes with a capstone in which learners evaluate corporate strategy. Saint Mary's also offers an international option for the capstone. In addition, students may complete a 12- to 15-credit graduate certificate in an area of specialization.

    Saint Mary's Accelerated Experience

    The one-year online MBA offers the same curriculum as the on-campus program. Students can complete the online program more quickly than the traditional MBA by taking 12 credits per semester.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $690/credit
    • Required Credits: 30 credits
    • Program Length: 1 year (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
    • Admissions
      • Process: Applicants should submit their online application with official transcripts, writing and quantitative analysis samples, a resume, and two references.
      • GPA: 2.75 minimum GPA
      • Standardized Tests: GMAT only if applicant does not have two years of professional experience
      • Cost: $25
  5. Spring Arbor University

    Spring Arbor, MI

    Founded in 1873, SAU began as an educational initiative of the Free Methodist Church, an affiliation it maintains today. The school launched its first adult degree completion program in the 1980s and its first graduate program in 1994.

    Gainey School of Business

    SAU's MBA teaches students to make a difference through service and positive impact on people and their communities. The 36-credit accelerated MBA program takes 12 months of full-time study to complete.

    Learners enroll in six core courses plus an online MBA orientation. These courses include leadership in business, statistics for business managers, and international business, which offers an option to participate in a study trip to New York City. Each of the program's five concentrations requires 12 credits, and the MBA concludes with a capstone.

    Degree-seekers do not need to be practicing Christians to participate in the program, but the coursework does provide leadership and faith development activities. Since half of the university's students are working professionals, the institution maintains a strong support system for academic, career, and spiritual growth. SAU also offers a joint MBA/MSN online.

    SAU's Accelerated Experience

    SAU students pursuing the accelerated MBA online take multiple classes simultaneously to graduate in 12 months. The school also offers part-time study for busy learners that can be finished in 18 months.

    SAU's MBA Specializations

    Management | Executive Leadership | Human Resource Development | Healthcare Administration | Organizational Consulting

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $738/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 1 year (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online
    • Admissions
      • Process: Prospective students should submit an application, official transcripts, and two recommendation forms.
      • GPA: 3.0 minimum GPA in the last two years of undergraduate study
      • Cost: $30

Accelerated Online MBA FAQs

  • Can you complete an MBA in one year?

    Yes. Many universities offer one-year MBA programs online and in person. These accelerated options require learners to take more classes in a shorter period than traditional MBA programs, which often take two years to complete. One-year MBA students spend many hours each week on coursework.

  • Which is better: A one-year MBA or a two-year MBA?

    Both types of degrees present benefits. A one-year MBA allows students to graduate and begin working more quickly. However, a two-year MBA may appeal to working professionals who want to keep their jobs while in school.

  • How fast can you get an MBA?

    The fastest online MBA programs typically take one year to finish and require 30-45 credits. Program length varies by school, the number of required credits, and how many credits you take each semester.

  • How long do online MBA programs take?

    The time it takes to complete an online MBA varies by school. Students who complete accelerated MBA programs online can graduate in as little as one year. Those who take fewer credits each semester can take two years or more to finish their degrees.

  • Is an online MBA taken seriously?

    Yes. Although some employers did not value distance education in the past, online MBA programs now hold the same prestige as in-person degrees. Many schools offer online MBAs with instructors, coursework, and student resources identical to their on-campus programs. Business school diplomas do not specify if the degree was earned online or in person.

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