How Hard Is An MBA Online? Here Are 3 Things You Need To Know

An online MBA student works on a laptop.


A Master of Business Administration degree can represent a few different things for a working professional. It is a widely recognized sign that you have deepened your knowledge of key leadership concepts and the best practices of corporate operations.

The time you spend in an MBA program also goes beyond the degree. Completing the coursework and attending lectures by expert faculty add to your knowledge and experience and make you a more confident, well-informed businessperson. The skills you pick up in an MBA program may apply directly to the decision-making scenarios you face in your day-to-day work

Studying for an MBA also provides a chance to meet and network with your fellow professionals, whether they’re faculty members or classmates. This applies to 100% online degree programs just as much as those with a physical component, as today’s distance learning options allow for group work and communication in and out of classes.

Of course, despite all of these potential advantages to earning an MBA, it’s still important to do your research before committing to a program. You need to ensure that not only is the MBA the right degree for you, but the college or university you’re applying to also matches your needs and suits your interests.

This process of self-guided research starts with a few general queries about the MBA’s place in your life and career and then expands to encompass three vital questions about the way your goals match up with the program offerings you’re considering. Taking this kind of analytical approach to starting your MBA journey is worthwhile and can help you get what you are hoping for out of the experience.

How Hard Is an MBA to Complete, and Is It Worth It?

While every MBA program is a little different and there are things you should verify when comparing them, some general MBA knowledge is important at the start. Namely, if you start an MBA program, how likely are you to complete it? And furthermore, will the degree benefit your career? After all, you are investing your time and money, and you want to get a good return.

How Hard Is an MBA Online Program?

The question of difficulty may come down to your ability to find time in your schedule for the lectures and classwork that make up an MBA curriculum. While today’s online MBA programs are designed to be taken alongside a full-time job, it will be up to you to ensure you balance the lessons and projects with your other commitments. The work you’ll be expected to complete includes individual assignments, group projects, and likely an involved capstone that simulates real business conditions.

As to whether students tend to finish MBA online programs once they have begun, data from U.S. News & World Report’s school rankings resource guide indicates that more than half of enrollees at ranked business schools do complete their studies. Across the whole spectrum of institutions polled by the publication, from private colleges to state universities, 63% of online MBA students graduated.

What Impact Does an MBA Have?

While there are many hard-to-quantify impacts of an MBA, including the knowledge, confidence, and networking contacts you’ll pick up along the way, there are also a few outcomes that are more straightforward. These are salary potential and job opportunities.

PayScale reported that the average salary for a U.S. MBA holder is $89,597. Depending on the type of role an individual holds, that number can also go significantly higher. There are many different jobs and industries that may involve an MBA, which accounts for the wide range of salaries. For instance, the same PayScale data stated that chief financial officers with MBAs earned $152,000 annually. Other jobs where the average pay with an MBA is in the six figures include director of operations and marketing director.

As for opening avenues for career advancement, Investopedia noted that an MBA can help in several ways. For instance, it can be easier to secure an interview for a leadership position if you have an MBA on your resume. Investopedia also noted that a degree from a high-quality school with a top reputation is the most useful type of MBA from an opportunity perspective, as company leaders know holders of these diplomas have worked through a rigorous, enriching program.

What 3 Things Should You Know Before Applying to an MBA Program?

Once you are confident you have the ability and time to complete an MBA program, it’s time to get into specifics regarding your program of choice. Performing some research on the many schools that offer online MBA programs will yield plenty of options.

First, you should verify that your career objectives and interests match up with what the program offers. Not every MBA program has the same areas of focus in terms of tracks of study or specialties. Then, you should make sure the schools on your shortlist are accredited and well-regarded institutions that offer a high-quality education. Finally, it’s time to check out what the school provides beyond the classroom.

By creating a perfect match between your ideal MBA experience and the offerings of the programs you’re considering, you can create a smoother path and set yourself up for a new stage of your professional life and career. Asking the following questions is a good way to make the right choice.

1) What Is Your Career Goal?

Where do you want to go with your MBA? Do you feel well suited to financial leadership roles? Are you most interested in negotiating international deals? Is there a particular field you’re hoping to become an executive in, which will inevitably bring unique regulations and requirements?

It pays to remember that online MBA programs often contain several tracks. If you have a strong idea of what you want to accomplish after graduation, you can ensure you pick a school with a concentration that suits the type of knowledge and experience you’ll need.

As an example of what educational tracks can entail, the following are the four concentrations available as part of Washington State University’s Carson College of Business Online MBA. These are in addition to the General MBA track, which focuses on concepts of leadership and business decision-making that apply across many industries.

  • Marketing: By examining both theoretical and real-world concepts behind selling and consumer behavior, the Marketing concentration equips graduates with the ability to understand their audiences and help their businesses increase their appeal. Securing a loyal, reliable customer base is a fundamental practice today, and that all begins with a well-designed marketing strategy.
  • Finance: This concentration is designed to equip students with an in-depth knowledge of financial practices, both globally and domestically. With elective courses tackling investments, futures, interest, and more, you will be able to handle even complex financial transactions and decisions with more confidence on graduation.
  • Hospitality Business Management: Companies in the hospitality space are unique enough in their operations and best practices that they merit their own MBA concentration. The coursework within this track prepares students to operate a hospitality business in general, provide customer service and effectively attract international clientele.
  • International Business: In an era of increasingly global business operations, where companies of all kinds and sizes are operating across borders, it makes sense to take a deeper dive into the world marketplace. This is the purpose of the International Business concentration, which helps students adjust their domestic operational practices to succeed in overseas markets.

The concentrations are not just available as sets of electives within the MBA program, but can also be taken on their own as graduate certificates. These shorter offerings allow you to prove that you have taken a deep dive into a specific area of business operations, even if you are not at a place in your career where you have time to take a full MBA course load.

You should also note that the General MBA track is an option, in addition to the specialized concentrations. This includes a wide-ranging set of classes that can prepare you for roles from management analysis to human resources leadership. Because today’s management positions are often closely intertwined with technology, up-to-date information technology security lessons are also included.

2) What Is the Status of Your Chosen Program?

Once you have verified that your career goals are reflected in a school’s MBA program curriculum, you should check a few other details about your university or college of choice. After all, hiring managers will be able to tell whether your degree came from a high-quality accredited institution, and the insights you gain in classes will be defined by the instructors’ knowledge and experience. You can break this assessment down into three categories: accreditation, ranking, and faculty.

1. Accreditation

Is your institution of choice accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business? This is an important question to ask early in the school selection process because AACSB accreditation can tell you a lot about the standards a college or university holds itself to.

The organization’s requirements for accredited schools of business are not just about those institutions themselves, but rather the whole field of corporate best practices. Ideally, graduates from accredited programs will go on to become the business leaders of the future, driving industries forward.

The latest version of the AACSB standards, the 2020 edition, requires schools to live up to 10 principles. These include ethics, societal impact, continuous improvement, agility, diversity and inclusion, and a global mindset. Schools must also demonstrate they are continually adhering to the AACSB’s standard and not letting their quality of education slip.

The Carson College of Business at WSU is not only AACSB accredited, but it also holds a regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a body responsible for maintaining high educational standards in the Pacific Northwest.

2. Rankings

There are many different lists of online MBA programs. By comparing these lists, you can find a school that stands out among the hundreds of business institutions operating today. Here, too, the Carson College of Business’s Online MBA program is a strong presence. On the U.S. News & World Report Best Online MBA ranking, WSU is No. 20, in the top 10% nationwide. That ranking is even higher — No. 13 — on the list of top online MBAs for veterans.

CEO Magazine also thinks highly of the WSU Online MBA program, placing the school at No. 28 on its 2020 Global Online MBA Rankings. This level of recognition both domestically and globally demonstrates that the program is up to high standards of academic rigor and student experience. Prospective employers may be especially happy to work with graduates from such high-achieving universities.

3. Faculty

While a school of business’s name and reputation can draw students in the door, it’s the faculty members who truly make the difference in the quality of education. Because MBA programs and all school offerings related to them are so closely tied to professional competencies and job opportunities, it can pay to find professors who maintain deep ties to the world of business and can deliver both theoretical and practical knowledge.

A well-balanced and capable faculty will consist of instructors who have had lengthy careers performing cutting-edge research and leading companies of their own to success. They can use their experience to help students through realistic problem-solving scenarios and keep them up to date on the latest practices in both domestic and global business.

The Online MBA faculty at the Carson College of Business consists of Ph.D. holders in every facet of modern corporate practices, with acclaimed research to their names and distinguished careers in both academia and administration.

3) What Additional Resources Does a Business School Offer?

The final determinant of your choice of business school can come down to the offerings outside of the classroom. Does the online MBA program have a strong network of faculty available for networking? Does its program maintain relationships with other institutions around the world, or organizations in the regional business community? The role of the online MBA as a degree program taken alongside a professional career rather than interrupting it means that business connections are especially important.

During normal travel conditions, the Carson College of Business offers international experience opportunities, allowing Online MBA students a chance to discover business competencies outside their regions and experience. Combine such experiences with the ability to interact and network with the Cougar MBA community, and WSU’s dedication to its students’ experience is clear.

If you’re ready to do your own research into the WSU Online MBA program, visit the program home page and get ready to transform your career.


Recommended Readings:

Benefits of Executive Coaching: What It Means for Leadership Improvement

5 Hidden Benefits of Getting an MBA



Investopedia — When is an MBA Worth It?

AACSB — Business Standards

AACSB — 2020 Guiding Standards and Principles for Business Accreditation

PayScale — Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree

U.S. News & World Report — U.S. News Data: Graduation From Online MBA Programs