The MBA: Online or On-campus?

There's no question that online degree programs, especially for business degrees, are proliferating at a substantial rate. As more and more top business schools develop online programs, the stigma originally associated with an online degree has diminished as well. In fact, most diplomas from competitive business schools do not differentiate between a degree completed on campus or through an online program. How do you decide which is better for you? Here are a few things to think about as you consider your options:

Experience/Professional Needs

In choosing between an online or on-campus full-time MBA program, it's important to consider where you are in your career. Full-time students at top-schools like Duke University's Fuqua School of Business or Chicago's Booth Business School are often younger and tend to have less career and professional experience. Their MBA studies will likely occupy the majority of their time for the next two years and they expect this commitment. On the other hand, if you'd like to be working full-time, don't want to relocate or need a flexible schedule, the online MBA option may be more convenient for you. But don't be fooled: an online MBA program is just as academically rigorous. Time management skills and self-motivation are crucial for success in any MBA program.

Cost

At top business schools, where tuition fees are daunting, a full-time MBA program is often more expensive than the online equivalent. The financial differences can vary depending on the school and where you live. If you're eligible for in-state tuition at the school you're interested in, the on-campus option is sometimes cheaper. Make sure you do your research.

Learning and Social Preferences

Everyone has his or her own style of learning; you should take this into account as you consider different program types. If you learn best face-to-face or really appreciate the social interaction that a campus and classroom setting can provide, you may want to enroll in an on-campus program, whether it's full or part time or an executive MBA program. On the other hand, if face-to-face instruction isn't important to you and you'd like to learn at your own pace, an online option may suit you perfectly.

Reputation

While some online degree granting institutions and programs are considered more "democratic" and open to everyone, programs from more traditional business schools are just as competitive, well-respected and rigorous as their on-campus versions. The university's brand and reputation are more important than the method of delivery and the best online programs often focus on live, real-time interaction between students and professors, faculty quality and identical student standards as those they consider in on-campus applicants. AASCB accreditation is also a good marker of program quality in any format.

As a prospective MBA student, you are looking at a degree that tends to offer the largest variety of enrollment options regardless of institution. Whether you choose to study part-time, on the weekends, on the computer or full-time on-campus, an MBA degree can allow you to move ahead in your career or get a new one started.

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