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Written By Holland Webb
Last Updated: July 2020

Earning a master of business administration (MBA) marks the first step on a journey to business leadership. A traditional MBA program takes about two years to complete, but many universities offer accelerated MBA programs online, allowing students to complete their degrees in just 12-14 months. MBA students can anticipate a bright future in just one year, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting business and financial operations employment to grow 7% from 2018-2028.

This guide ranks the top accelerated MBA programs. It also covers other important information for prospective MBA students, including answers to frequently asked questions and helpful resources for students.

Here Are the 5 Best Accelerated Online MBA Programs for 2020:

  1. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota - Winona, MN
  2. University of North Texas - Denton, TX
  3. Mississippi College - Clinton, MS
  4. Centenary College - Hackettstown, NJ
  5. Bryan College - Dayton, TN
See Program Descriptions

What Are Accelerated MBA Programs?

An accelerated MBA program allows current business professionals to earn their degrees in about one year. Many students who choose these fast-paced programs also work full time, serve their communities, and raise their families while going to school.

While an accelerated program takes less time than a standard degree, both types of programs offer similar curricula. Learners take courses on foundational topics like marketing, economic statistics, and operations. Instead of taking those classes in a traditional 15-week format, however, accelerated students generally enroll in intensive eight-week classes.

Instructors in accelerated programs may skip some basic concepts, test more frequently, and create more intense projects to compensate for the shorter class sessions. Sometimes, students can test out of certain classes or complete coursework before enrolling in shorter programs.

Many accelerated MBA programs deliver courses fully online, helping students balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Comparing Traditional and Accelerated MBA Programs
Accelerated MBA Traditional MBA
Internships An accelerated MBA rarely requires an internship or practicum. A summer internship between year one and two serves as a key component of most traditional MBA programs.
Length An accelerated MBA typically takes 12-14 months to complete. Traditional MBA programs usually take two years to complete.
Course Load Accelerated MBA students usually take a full course load every semester, often completing around 30 credits in total. Traditional MBAs allow students to take fewer and/or less intensive courses, which may appeal to students with personal and professional obligations.
Focus An accelerated degree may or may not offer a specialization option. Two-year programs typically provide more electives and specializations than accelerated programs.
Cost While the tuition rate per credit hour may equal the traditional degree's rate, the overall cost of study will likely run lower. Students may experience an increase in tuition in their second year of study.
Admission Requirements Prospective students may need two years or more of work experience. Some traditional MBA programs don't require professional experience for admission.

Accelerated MBA Programs Online

According to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) Business School Data Guide for 2020, online MBA programs are significantly more affordable than in-person degrees. The mean tuition for in-state, full-time, traditional MBA programs reached nearly $37,000, while online full-time MBA programs cost about $30,500. Distance learners also save on on-campus expenses, such as room and board fees and commuting costs.

Online MBA programs offer flexibility and convenience, as well. Accelerated online MBAs allow students to complete coursework from the convenience of their homes. They also allow students to attend programs around the country without relocating. Many online MBA students continue to work while earning their degree, applying degree knowledge and skills in the workplace.

Top Online Accelerated MBA Programs for 2020

Top Accelerated Online MBA Programs

With the growing popularity of online accelerated MBA programs, prospective students benefit from many choices. The best one-year MBA programs hold accreditation and take no longer than 16 months to complete. The following database of accelerated online MBA options only includes programs that meet these standards.

Rank School Location Cost Toggle Logo Tuition % Receiving Financial Aid Student Population School Type Description
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Location Winona , MN Tuition $$$$$ % Receiving Financial Aid 100 Student Population 5,560 Tuition $19,950 School Type Private

A private Catholic college based in Winona, Saint Mary's hosts one of the top business schools in Minnesota.

Saint Mary's School of Business and Technology

As one of the state's top accelerated MBA programs, Saint Mary's offers strong professional preparation and flexibility for students, with over 25 special topic courses that focus on key areas of business. Candidates can customize their studies through flexible course selections in popular fields such as accounting, finance, healthcare, information technology, and project management. Students also complete a capstone project during which they design a strategic plan for a real business.

Saint Mary's Accelerated Experience

Candidates can complete the accelerated MBA in one year, which requires a course load of at least 12 credits per semester. The program includes 20 lecture series options, and students can customize the curriculum to meet their personal and professional goals.

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

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University of North Texas
Location Denton , TX Tuition $$$$$ % Receiving Financial Aid 79 Student Population 38,241 Tuition $19,440 School Type Public

One of Texas's major public colleges, UNT serves more than 38,000 students from its main campus in Denton, located about 35 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth.

G Brint Ryan College of Business

Ranked among the top accelerated MBA programs in the state, UNT offers a variety of concentration options, including marketing, strategic management, and supply chain analytics. The 36-credit curriculum includes 24 credits of core business courses and 12 credits of concentration courses. The MBA core covers key business topics including financial management, organizational behavior and analysis, business decision processes, and business ethics and social responsibility.

UNT's Accelerated Experience

MBA candidates can complete the program in as few as 14 months. UNT offers eight-week courses in the fall and spring, along with five-week courses available in the summer. To increase flexibility for students, the MBA program offers annual start dates in January, March, June, July, August, and October.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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Mississippi College
Location Clinton , MS Tuition $$$$$ % Receiving Financial Aid 99 Student Population 5,103 Tuition $25,155 School Type Private

One of the country's oldest Baptist colleges, MC is also home to one of the oldest business colleges in the Jackson area.

Mississippi College School of Business

MC's accelerated MBA comprises 30 credits, including nine credits of foundation courses and 21 credits of specialized business courses. The foundation core covers major topics in finance, accounting, and statistics, while the MBA section explores topics in organizational behavior, managerial economics, financial management, quantitative analysis, and leadership.

MC covers business ethics within a Christian moral framework, preparing graduates to make faith-informed management decisions.

MC's Accelerated Experience

MC's accelerated MBA includes 10 courses arranged in concentrated eight-week blocks. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA and 3-5 years of professional experience. Applicants must also submit GMAT scores, though this requirement is waived for those with a GPA of 3.0 or above.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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Centenary College
Location Hackettstown , NJ Tuition $$$$$ % Receiving Financial Aid 100 Student Population 1,802 Tuition $36,504 School Type Private

A small private college based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, Centenary enrolls around 1,100 students annually. Centenary's School of Professional studies offers one of the region's top accelerated MBA programs.

Centenary University's School of Professional Studies

The 39-credit MBA includes a 30-credit core and a nine-credit concentration section. The MBA core introduces foundational topics such as business communications, marketing management, leadership, and financial accounting.

The program offers two concentrations: management and finance. The management track explores topics in global business, HR management, and organizational theory, while the finance track covers topics in international, entrepreneurial, and executive finance.

The program uses a hybrid format that combines online courses with one weekly campus session.

Centenary's Accelerated Experience

Centenary's accelerated MBA takes approximately 14 months to complete. Candidates typically enroll in two eight-week courses at a time, working through the curriculum in concentrated blocks. Accelerated MBA candidates benefit from a reduced tuition rate.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

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Bryan College
Location Dayton , TN Tuition $$$$$ % Receiving Financial Aid 92 Student Population 1,363 Tuition $21,420 School Type Private

A Christian liberal arts college based in Dayton, Tennessee, Bryan was established in 1930 and currently serves a small student body of just over 1,400.

Bryan College Onilne and Professional Studies

Ranked among the top accelerated MBA programs at Christian colleges, Bryan's 36-credit MBA blends business principles with a Christian worldview. The program offers a general track, as well as concentrations in areas such as ministry, marketing, and sports management. The program features a fully online format, allowing students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Bryan's Accelerated Experience

Candidates can complete Bryan's accelerated MBA in as little as 14 months. New courses begin every nine weeks, and the program features start dates in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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How We Rank Online MBA Programs

Want to know how we create our rankings? We assess schools based on academic quality, affordability, online flexibility, and student success.

Quality (30% of total score)

A low student-to-faculty ratio, a wide breadth of specialized MBA programs, and a high retention rate of students returning after their first year are all indicators of a quality university.

Affordability (10% of total score)

The amount of financial aid offered factors into a school's net price; this, paired with a low loan default rate, indicates that students may find a school's tuition within their budget.

Online Flexibility (20% of total score)

Scores for online flexibility focus on schools that have a high percentage of fully online students, but consideration is also given to schools that enroll partially online students using hybrid programs.

Student Success (40% of total score)

Both strong hallmarks of student success, we look for programs with high graduation rates whose students go on to have higher-than-average median earnings.

Evaluating One-Year MBA Programs

Each accelerated MBA program offers a unique experience, and prospective students can find significant variation among degrees. Nevertheless, many of the best schools share several similar characteristics. Prospective learners should consider the following factors when researching accelerated MBA programs.


Accredited schools complete a rigorous, voluntary assessment of their organizational strength, financial standing, and academic rigor. In the U.S., legitimate accrediting bodies receive oversight from the Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.

Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. Business programs may hold programmatic accreditation from the AACSB or other business-related accrediting agencies.

A traditional MBA requires two years to complete, while most accelerated MBA programs take 12-14 months from start to finish. Most traditional programs operate on a 16-week semester system, with students beginning in the fall or spring semester. Accelerated programs, however, typically follow a faster-paced academic calendar. For example, Centenary University students can choose from six different start dates each year, with classes running for eight weeks at a time.
Any master's degree requires a significant investment of time and money. In many cases, though, online programs cost less than on-campus degrees. Students who complete bachelor's degrees at Bryan College can pursue a tuition-free accelerated MBA at the same school. While this offer maintains strict admission guidelines, it provides one example of the creative financing options students can access when pursuing accelerated degrees.
Student Outcomes
Prospective students should investigate the success of their potential program's alumni before applying. Business graduates from the University of North Texas, for example, can join an alumni group of over 40,000 members. More than 700 of these alumni serve as top executives at organizations, including Oshkosh Corporation.
Student Resources
Online students should research the student resources and services at prospective schools, such as tech support, career services, and academic advising. Online students at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, for instance, can take advantage of networking and collaborative experiences.
Courses and concentrations vary by school and program, so students should be sure to choose a program that offers a curriculum aligned with their personal interests and career goals.

The rankings above can help prospective students choose the right accelerated MBA program for their needs, but no one should choose a school based on a ranked list alone. Prospective students should also consider factors like location, concentrations, and scholarship opportunities.

Is an Accelerated MBA Worth It?

An MBA typically pays for itself in about four years, according to a 2016 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey. The typical MBA graduate in the U.S. earns a $115,000 starting salary, according to this GMAC report -- more than double the average starting salary of a graduate with a bachelor's degree.

Prospective business students can calculate their return on investment (ROI) when comparing affordable MBA costs in different ways, including salary-to-debt ratios. When determining ROI, however, prospective students should keep in mind that MBAs often become hired at a faster rate than non-MBA applicants. Thus, the benefits of the degree extend beyond a salary boost.

Accelerated MBA programs also launch students into the workforce quicker than traditional programs. Earning an MBA in one year can help students start drawing a higher salary quicker than their peers taking a two-year program. An MBA can open up lucrative jobs in many industries and roles, such as marketing, information research, sales, finance, healthcare, and executive leadership.

Benefits and Trade-Offs of Getting an MBA Faster

Many business professionals prefer to earn an accelerated MBA online, as it provides flexibility and convenience. However, the rigorous format demands certain concessions. By weighing the benefits against the trade-offs, students can determine whether an accelerated MBA fits their interests and career goals.

  • Accelerated programs allow you to finish your MBA faster than traditional programs. Many students prefer online accelerated MBA programs for their brevity. One-year online MBA programs are rigorous and time consuming, but focused students can advance their careers more quickly with these degrees.
  • Enrollees experience less career interruption. Stepping away from a job to focus on an MBA program means passing up immediate opportunities for advancement in favor of long-term benefits. Accelerated MBA programs ensure that students don't need to spend longer than a year away from work.
  • Accelerated MBA graduates can quickly pursue other credentials. In some fields, business professionals find themselves torn between graduate programs. For example, many prospective students weigh the benefits of an MBA against a master's in finance. By quickly completing an accelerated MBA online, graduates can earn a second graduate degree or enroll in a specialized certification program to advance their careers in the same amount of time as it takes to earn a traditional MBA.
  • Accelerated MBA programs often cost less than traditional programs. In many cases, a one-year MBA costs less than a two-year MBA. Students in online accelerated MBA programs receive the same instruction as their on-campus counterparts, but they often spend less on tuition. By completing their degrees more quickly, graduates mitigate the cost of leaving the workforce to pursue graduate degrees.
  • Enrollees have less time for internships and networking. Due to their accelerated nature, one-year MBA degrees offer less time for internships and networking. These programs particularly benefit established business professionals who do not plan on major career changes, especially incoming students with existing professional networks.
  • Non-business majors may struggle in accelerated MBA programs. Enrollees in accelerated programs typically need foundational knowledge and experience in the field. Non-business majors make up the majority of MBA applicants, but they may struggle with the demands of a one-year online MBA. Applicants with backgrounds in business or closely related fields can hit the ground running in accelerated MBA programs.
  • Accelerated MBA programs offer less flexibility. Due to the rigorous nature of earning an accelerated MBA online, programs often deliver courses on a strict schedule. A student who fails a single class may not be able to catch up. Accelerated programs also tend to focus on generalized business education, potentially limiting specialization options.

Accelerated Online MBA FAQs

Can you earn an MBA in one year?
Yes. Many online accelerated MBA programs take just one year to complete. Online accelerated MBAs often require enrollees to take two or more classes at a time. Learners may also complete practical and research requirements in their current workplace to shorten degree length.
Are online accelerated MBA programs credible?
Online accelerated MBAs cover the same content as traditional programs. Program credibility depends on the curriculum, faculty, and accreditation status. Online MBAs that hold accreditation through a specialized body like the AACSB adhere to standards established by professionals in the field.
How do I know which one (accelerated or regular MBA) is right for me?
Accelerated MBAs often require prior field experience, while traditional MBA programs may accept students from all backgrounds. Additionally, accelerated MBA programs may make it more difficult to continue working while earning the degree due to the intensive courses, so students should weigh their outside obligations against the demands of their prospective program.
Is an accelerated program cheaper than a regular MBA?
Accelerated MBAs often cost less than regular programs. By completing their coursework in less time, students often pay less in tuition and fees. Many schools offer accelerated MBAs online, further lowering costs.
What do employers think of accelerated MBAs?
Earning an accelerated MBA increases employment opportunities and helps graduates advance into administrative roles. Employers prefer candidates with accredited, top-tier MBAs, regardless of whether or not the degree is accelerated.

Additional Online MBA Resources

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