The 5 Best Online MBA Programs of 2021

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Online MBA programs teach foundational business concepts through core courses like accounting, finance, and leadership. Students pursuing online MBA programs often continue their full-time employment while completing their studies, enjoying the benefits of a prestigious education without the hassle of moving to a new location.

MBA graduates can use their credentials to pursue advancement opportunities in a healthy job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% growth for business and financial jobs between 2020 and 2030, which is the average growth rate for all occupations.

Students pursuing online MBA programs often continue their full-time employment while completing their studies, enjoying the benefits of a prestigious education without the hassle of moving to a new location.

On this page, readers can learn about the top five online MBA programs for 2021. With details about each school, including degree expectations, this list serves as an excellent resource for prospective students. The page also discusses considerations for selecting a business school, plus information about specializations and career possibilities.

Our 2021 rankings of the top online MBA programs in the United States highlights five leading business schools. To learn more about the methodology used to evaluate them, follow the link below.

Our Ranking Methodology

Read the Core Topics: Why Enroll? | Jobs | What to Expect | FAQs | Top Online MBAs


Choosing Between Top Online Business Schools

Choosing the right program depends on each student’s individual goals. Degree-seekers should consider some of the following factors before committing to a program.

  • Student-to-Teacher Ratio: Choosing a school with a lower student-to-teacher ratio ensures that students have ample opportunities to connect directly with faculty members. Individualized attention from professors can help students find internship and job opportunities.
  • Alumni Network: Networking with other professionals is an important component of the MBA. Schools that boast strong alumni networks, where graduates work in a variety of industries, can also help students to secure future employment.
  • University Resources: Online students in particular may wish to investigate what resources a school offers to distance learners. Important resources can include tutoring, career centers, library assistance, and disability services.

Choosing a Quality MBA Program

Why Enroll in an MBA Program?

By completing an online MBA, graduates can stand out as applicants for jobs in competitive industries. Most business careers require only a bachelor’s degree at minimum, but many employers prefer candidates with MBAs because they bring advanced knowledge and skills to the table. Additional benefits of obtaining an MBA include:

Most business careers require only a bachelor’s degree at minimum, but many employers prefer candidates with MBAs because they bring advanced knowledge and skills to the table.
  • Career Flexibility: The MBA can entice employers across the country and internationally in a host of industries. Graduates can pursue options at large or small companies, follow a preferred industry to its hotspots, or secure advancement opportunities close to home.
  • Knowledge Breadth: Because the MBA underpins its curriculum with solid business basics, degree-holders may pursue a variety of jobs that extend beyond their specializations. This can pave the way for promotions and career changes.
  • Hands-On Experience: Many MBA programs feature practical capstone projects or internships. Often, a capstone or final project requires students to partner with a real business, providing networking opportunities and resume-boosting experience.

What Is an MBA Degree?

Why You Should Get Your Master of Business Administration Online

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has been growing more popular each year. Online MBA programs are an excellent option for many students, especially self-motivated students with good time management skills.

Many online MBA degrees make use of asynchronous coursework, where students can engage with lectures and discussion boards in accordance with their own schedules. Some classes may also run synchronously, with live webcam sessions that more closely resemble the in-person experience. Online programs may also require occasional campus visits for residencies or immersion events.

Part of the appeal for online programs includes the cost-saving opportunities: schools may offer reduced or in-state tuition for all learners, regardless of residency status. Online programs also do not require students to relocate and many do not require an in-person presence, which eliminates commuting costs.

Why an Online MBA?

Online MBA Programs for You

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


What Jobs Can Degrees From Top-Ranked MBA Programs Get You?

With an MBA, degree-holders qualify for top careers with high earning potential. The BLS reports that chief executives earned an average annual salary of $197,840 as of May 2020, with higher average salaries in top-paying industries. Chief executives are employed across government, healthcare, manufacturing, and professional, scientific, and technical services.

MBA-holders may also pursue careers in areas like accounting, healthcare management, information systems, real estate, and consulting. Each industry encompasses a variety of specific job titles, giving MBA graduates a wealth of choices and entry points to each industry.

The tables below provide short descriptions and salary data for several of these career paths, plus links to further research.

  • MBA in Accounting Careers and Average Salaries

    Accounting, a crucial aspect of every business, deals with record-keeping, tax preparation, and adherence to financial regulations. Accounting knowledge benefits managers at all levels.

    Accountant Financial Examiner Budget Analyst Cost Estimator Financial Manager
    $51,872 $65,400 $62,632 $57,458 $74,174

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Accounting MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Consulting Careers and Average Salaries

    Whether working for an organization or self-employed, consultants help client companies to streamline their processes and increase efficiency. With an MBA, graduates understand the business essentials they need to improve their clients’ business practices.

    Management Consultant Marketing Manager Project Manager Business Consultant Strategy Consultant
    $88,707 $66,802 $75,109 $75,463 $93,081

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Consulting MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Entrepreneurship Careers and Average Salaries

    Entrepreneurship prepares students for leading roles in their organizations. With a firm understanding of business strategy, planning, and marketing, entrepreneurs can solidify their own businesses or lead the way for an employer.

    Chief Executive Officer Venture Firm Partner Partner, Management Consulting Firm Administrative Services Manager Sales Manager
    $ 155,701 $95,751 $224,762 $62,711 $62,004

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Entrepreneurship MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Finance Careers and Average Salaries

    Financial specialists understand the inner workings of their organization’s cash flow, investments, and budgetary practices. Finance is an attractive path for those hoping to rise to top-paying positions in executive management.

    Financial Manager Chief Financial Officer Financial Controller Budget Analyst Financial Analyst
    $74,174 $137,109 $85,714 $62,632 $62,108

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Finance MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Healthcare Management Careers and Average Salaries

    Healthcare management focuses on the necessary administrative aspects of running hospitals and other care facilities. An MBA prepares students to work with industry-specific strategies, laws, and tools.

    Medical Health Services Manager Nursing Home Administrator Healthcare Consultant Administrative Services Manager Healthcare Administrator
    $69,204 $92,653 $79,162 $62,711 $71,464

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Healthcare Management MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Information Systems Careers and Average Salaries

    Information systems specialists help their organizations implement technology into their business. An MBA teaches students to deal with issues like cybersecurity and data management.

    Database Administrator Information Systems Analyst Human Resources Information Systems Analyst Computer Scientist Information Systems Manager
    $73,163 $65,785 $68,406 $82,176 $83,734

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Information Systems MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Information Technology Careers and Average Salaries

    With a specialization in information technology, MBA graduates can rise to leadership roles within their companies. IT managers implement and maintain systems, handle departmental budgets, and supervise employees.

    Information Technology Manager Chief Technology Officer Project Manager, IT Computer Scientist Computer Network Architect
    $88,763 $163,274 $88,631 $82,176 $121,090

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Information Technology MBA Graduates

  • MBA in International Business Careers and Average Salaries

    Business professionals with an eye on executive management positions may choose to pursue an MBA in international business. The degree prepares students for advanced leadership positions, improving their knowledge of global economics, marketing, and cross-cultural communication.

    Global Marketing Manager International Sales Manager International Trade Compliance Manager International Logistics Coordinator Business Development Manager
    $97,956 $81,315 $88,233 $50,951 $74,587

    Salary and Career Outlooks for International Business MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Marketing Careers and Average Salaries

    Marketing specialists study trends, competitor activities, and product development to help match their companies with ideal customers. An MBA in marketing can build skills in social media, public relations, and research.

    Marketing Manager Marketing Communications Director Chief Marketing Officer Market Research Analyst Advertising Manager
    $66,802 $83,660 $176,176 $54,849 $68,691

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Marketing MBA Graduates

  • MBA in Real Estate Careers and Average Salaries

    Careers in real estate include investment and risk management. MBA-holders might advance to positions where they manage properties, advise developers, or acquire real estate for their companies.

    Vice President, Real Estate Acquisitions Real Estate Development Manager Real Estate Appraiser Senior Financial Analyst Financial Analyst
    $142,100 $97,318 $60,887 $82,207 $62,108

    Salary and Career Outlooks for Real Estate MBA Graduates

Source: PayScale (September 2021)


What to Expect From MBA Programs Online

A typical online MBA program requires around 50 credits for graduation. Students can complete many programs within two years, though requirements and timelines differ depending on each individual’s academic background. Learners can also take advantage of part-time and accelerated pathways.

Online MBA tuition rates vary widely. Some schools offer reduced rates for distance learners, while others do not differentiate between online and in-person programs. As a rough estimate, students can find top programs that cost between $24,000 and $82,000.

While the particulars differ depending on the school, MBA core courses often include strategic management, financial accounting, managerial economics, and marketing. With many concentration options available, prospective students can seek out the school that best aligns with their goals. Frequent specialization options include entrepreneurship, analytics, finance, project management, and technology.

Admissions

Prospective MBA students should research each program’s admission requirements. A minimum GPA, standardized test scores, or previous work experience may be required.

Cost

The pursuit of higher education is a sizable financial investment. Degree-seekers may wish to compare program costs against the potential return on investment and look for funding opportunities.

Capstone or Thesis

A capstone project can be a meaningful resume-building experience for MBA students. Online students should consider whether they need a capstone, and how the online MBA structures this requirement.

Online Courses

Some students thrive in face-to-face environments, while others enjoy the relative flexibility of online programs. When considering an online degree, students should factor personal preferences into their decision-making process.

Internships

Students hoping to gain professional experience should consider a degree with internship opportunities. Distance learners should find out how online programs structure their internships.

Networking

Networking is an important aspect of the MBA. Prospective students may want to ask how an online program handles alumni connections and networking events.

What To Expect From an Online MBA

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can I do with a master of business administration?

    A versatile degree, the MBA prepares students for various opportunities within the business world. Graduates can secure lucrative jobs in fields like accounting, information technology, real estate management, fundraising, and financial management.

  • Is an online MBA respected?

    Online MBAs carry the same prestige as in-person degrees. Regardless of the format, students should enroll in accredited schools to ensure it meets academic quality standards.

  • Do Ivy League schools offer distance learning MBAs?

    Prospective MBA students can find some distance learning opportunities at Ivy League institutions. Yale and Brown both offer blended executive MBA programs. There are also many prestigious online MBAs from other top schools.

  • How are online MBA programs accredited?

    Like any other higher education degree, online MBA programs gain regional or national accreditation at the institutional level.

    Business program accreditors include the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education. Online programs must meet the same standards as their in-person counterparts.

  • Is getting an online MBA worth it?

    Yes! According to PayScale, MBA-holders earn an average annual salary of $91,000 as of September 2021. An MBA paves the way for advancement and higher earning potential.

  • Are online MBAs cheaper?

    Online MBA programs frequently offer cost-saving opportunities when compared with on-campus alternatives. Some schools allow online students to pay in-state or otherwise reduced tuition, no matter where they live.

    Distance learners can also continue to work while they complete their degree, allowing them to earn a salary and gain professional experience.


Top Online MBA Program Rankings for 2021

  1. Milwaukee School of Engineering
    Location

    Milwaukee, WI

    Founded in 1903, the Milwaukee School of Engineering has a long history of embracing innovation. The small, community-oriented school offers an intimate learning environment that encourages deep and meaningful faculty-student interactions.

    Rader School of Business

    MSOE's MBA programs blend traditional academics with experiential fieldwork. Their educational philosophies emphasize problem-solving, guiding students to apply targeted knowledge in detailed analyses of real-world case studies.

    Learners can pursue a standard MBA or choose a specialization, such as educational leadership. The educational leadership track tailors MSOE's MBA curriculum to degree-seekers who aim to become principals or school administrators.

    The Rader School of Business also features the Ramirez Fellows Program, which delivers financing to eligible students planning careers in the healthcare sector. Open to learners with engineering and technical backgrounds, the fellowship includes a residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

    MSOE's MBA Specializations

    Business Analytics | Construction Management | Education Leadership | Leadership

    Applying to MSOE

    Applicants to MSOE's MBA programs must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and supply two letters of recommendation. The school prefers candidates with at least three years of professional career experience. Applicants with undergraduate GPAs below 2.8 must also submit GRE or GMAT scores. Additional requirements apply to those seeking admission to the educational leadership track.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $891/credit
    • Required Credits: 45 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time); 3-5 years (part time)
    • Delivery Format: Mostly online (asynchronous) with some in-person experiential learning requirements
  2. John Brown University
    Location

    Siloam Springs, AR

    A private, nondenominational Christian institution, John Brown University maintains a small student body and applies an intensive, research-driven focus to its acclaimed academic programs. The school's learning community consists of approximately 2,500 students from 50 countries.

    Soderquist College of Business

    JBU's lineup of specialized MBA programs aims to produce business professionals with sharp leadership skills and strong ethics. Its core requirements cover eight courses on essential topics including marketing, leadership, economics, finance, business strategy, and quantitative analysis. After their core courses, learners apply the remainder of their studies to a specialization in one of six innovative fields.

    The program welcomes degree-seekers from all academic backgrounds. Those with undergraduate coursework in business and related fields qualify for an accelerated 36-credit structure. Students new to business studies complete 45 credit hours of coursework.

    JBU's MBA Specializations

    Cybersecurity | Design Thinking and Innovation | Healthcare Administration | International Business | Leadership | Marketing Research and Consumer Insights

    Applying to JBU

    Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Applicants are not required to submit examination scores. Certain specializations carry additional required or recommended criteria.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC, ACBSP
    • Tuition: $600/credit
    • Required Credits: 36-45 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time); 3-5 years (part time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online or hybrid
  3. Florida Institute of Technology
    Location

    Melbourne, FL

    Florida Tech was established in 1958 by NASA physicist Jerome P. Keuper. According to university lore, Keuper's journey to launch the school began with a 37-cent donation. Florida Tech now ranks among the leading scientific and technical institutions in the United States.

    Nathan M. Bisk College of Business

    Florida Tech's 100% online MBA programs emphasize versatile and transferable business skills, along with advanced, industry-specific insights and proficiencies. The Nathan M. Bisk College of Business offers 10 concentrations, with courses launching on six start dates per year. Compact eight-week terms support efficient graduation timelines.

    In addition to prestigious IACBE accreditation, the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business holds membership in the AACSB Business Education Alliance. This pre-accreditation status recognizes Florida Tech as a leading globally minded innovator.

    Notably, Florida Tech is one of only a handful of IACBE-accredited schools that do not require GRE or GMAT scores for MBA admission.

    Florida Tech's MBA Specializations

    Accounting | Accounting and Finance | Cybersecurity | Finance | Healthcare Management | Information Technology Management | Management | Marketing | Project Management | Project Management in Information Technology

    Applying to Florida Tech

    Core admission materials include a free online application and academic transcripts. Applicants do not require any test scores. Florida Tech considers all applications on an individual basis and does not apply hard GPA cutoffs.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: SACSCOC, AACSB
    • Tuition: $896/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time); 3-5 years (part time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online
  4. Cedarville University
    Location

    Cedarville, OH

    Founded in 1887, Cedarville University is a Baptist-affiliated school offering more than 150 study programs. The college boasts an institution-wide post-graduation placement rate of 98.5%, reflecting exceptional levels of student achievement.

    School of Business Administration

    Featuring a 100% online format along with one- and two-year degree completion plans, Cedarville's MBA programs offer a generalist option and five specialized concentrations. The School of Business Administration also features a dual-degree program leading to doctor of pharmacy and MBA credentials.

    Designed for optimal flexibility, the Cedarville MBA experience also maintains a strong focus on ethics and Christian values. Every course includes modules examining the subject matter from Christian perspectives. The program best suits candidates who consider their professional pursuits an expression of their faith.

    As an alternative to an MBA, post-baccalaureate learners can also pursue 12-credit business education certificates. Concentration options include cybersecurity management, healthcare administration, and operations management.

    Cedarville's MBA Specializations

    Business Analytics | Cybersecurity | Healthcare Administration | Innovation and Entrepreneurship | Operations Management

    Applying to Cedarville

    Core requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75. Candidates also require one professional recommendation and one faith-based recommendation.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $623/credit
    • Required Credits: 36-39 credits
    • Program Length: 1-2 years
    • Delivery Format: 100% online
  5. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Established as a women's college in 1915 and renamed in 1983, Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri, now welcomes learners of all genders and cultural backgrounds in a dynamic learning environment that includes more than 12,000 students.

    George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology

    Webster University's MBA program supports 10 distinct areas of emphasis and focuses on a unique set of learning outcomes. Students emerge with well-developed leadership competencies, the ability to identify value creation opportunities, and the capability to apply their learning to drive value creation. Webster structures its MBA programs in three parts, with each part systematically advancing student progress toward these outcomes.

    Webster's concentrated MBA programs cover 39-45 credit hours of focused learning. Webster also supports 13 dual-degree programs that combine MBA credentials with master of health administration, master of science, or master of arts designations. Students pursuing these options must complete the core requirements of both programs.

    Webster's MBA Specializations

    Corporate Communications | Corporate Finance | Cybersecurity | Digital Marketing Management | Enterprise Resource Planning | Health Administration | Information Technology Management | International Business | Marketing | Project Management

    Applying to Webster

    General admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5. Candidates considering dual degree tracks must meet admission standards for both programs.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC, ACBSP
    • Tuition: $780/credit (online); $645-$780/credit (on campus)
    • Required Credits: 39-45 credits
    • Program Length: 18-24 months (full time); 3-5 years (part time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus

What the Best Online MBA Schools Have in Common

Programs vary, but many top MBA schools share common characteristics. In the list below, prospective MBA students can look into the benefits these shared qualities provide students.

  • Accreditation: In the U.S., schools obtain accreditation by submitting to a thorough qualitative review of their programs, faculty, and resources. All accrediting agencies in the U.S. should hold membership with the Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. For school accreditation, the more prestigious designation is regional accreditation, though some schools (especially for-profit institutions) are nationally accredited. Business students may also seek out programmatic accreditation, granted by organizations like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
  • Affordability: Higher education carries a cost, but the best online MBA programs strive to make their offerings worth the price. Many students can access scholarships, grants, federal aid programs, and support from their employers to help cover costs.
  • Concentration Options: The best MBA programs in the U.S. serve more than one kind of student. These schools offer many specializations in diverse subfields, including healthcare administration, accounting, and supply chain management. Choosing a program with a concentration provides valuable specialized training.
  • Robust Curriculum: Top online MBA programs mix practical courses in accounting and managerial finance with classes in leadership and ethics to facilitate professional and personal growth. These schools also equip students for the data-driven business world through courses in analytics, quantitative methods, and decision-making.
  • Successful Graduates: Prospective students can identify the most successful online MBA programs using two main metrics: graduation rate and job placement rate. High graduation rates indicate that schools provide their students with the resources to complete their degrees. Job placement demonstrates the rate at which recent graduates land full-time jobs.

Recommended Reading

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Financing Your MBA Degree

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Returning to School for an MBA

Returning to School for an MBA

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It's possible to earn your MBA as a returning adult student, and this guide is a roadmap that helps you with program selection, credit transfer, and more.

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