Should I Study An Online MBA? Admissions Experts Reveal All

Today’s online MBA programs can provide the same career outcomes as traditional campus-based courses

Work? Family? Hobbies? Sleep? Time is the nemesis of the modern professional. In the 21st century, no one ever seems to have time for anything.

For most of us, taking time away from the workplace to study is too big a risk.

Enter: The Online MBA. Online MBA programs mean everyone has the opportunity to enroll in graduate school.

Indeed, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) cite the delivery method of the online MBA as a key reason companies should encourage their employees to enroll. ‘[They] can do the course while employed; there’s little or no impact to their work schedules; [and] there is more flexibility for busy schedules,’ they say.

Admissions expert, Barbara Coward, views the online MBA as a degree for the 21st century:

“When I worked in executive MBA admissions, I spoke with many highly motivated, accomplished leaders who were interested in the MBA but couldn’t pursue it because of frequent business travel or family commitments,” she says.

“I believe the online MBA will foster greater inclusiveness and greater opportunities for rising talent, regardless of ongoing professional or personal demands, because of the convenience of the delivery format.”


The USC Marshall Online MBA—ranked among the top-10 online MBA programs in the US by US News and World Report—is a program built for the digital age. The curriculum is centered on the skills expected of business leaders today: entrepreneurship; cross-cultural communication; data analytics; social media.

The program begins with a week-long on-campus immersion in Los Angeles, where students connect with their peers, working in teams to analyze a real challenge facing a prominent business—they then collaborate to develop a plan addressing the problem.

This element of the online MBA is developed further during the virtual team component—by working together digitally, students learn how to build relations and lead teams anywhere in the world, across borders.

Weekly live class sessions are conducted via webcam and award-winning video content produced by the school’s in-house studio team. Online MBA students gain hands-on practice working with the latest analytics and metrics technologies throughout the program.

Sure, online MBA programs offer convenience and flexibility. But, in today’s age of digitization and virtual connectivity, Barbara notes, the rules of communication are changing. “We are doing more and more business online,” she says. “We have to become better skilled at communicating with colleagues in a virtual world.”

Is online learning now a necessity? “It’s pretty clear that successful leaders will be those who can communicate effectively and empathize with colleagues and customers in short-form digital communications—text, email, or social media,” Barbara continues. “This is key to career advancement.”

Career advancement comes under a number of banners. For Candy Lee La Balle, founder of LaBalle Admissions consulting firm, it forms the basis for all the questions you should ask yourself before embarking on an online MBA program.

What do I need from this? What do I want to obtain? What is my reason for doing any type of MBA? “Those answers are what will help you decide,” she says.

Today’s online MBA programs can provide the same career outcomes as traditional campus-based courses.

USC Marshall’s Online MBA combines a range of residential program and online career resources—like resume advice from the program director and one-on-one coaching from a careers expert—to support its distance-learners.

USC Marshall’s Trojan Family extends into the virtual world. The university’s 390,000-strong alumni network is ranked the sixth best in the world by the Economist. Students have access to that—as well as the 88,000-strong business and accounting school network—whether they study on-campus or not.

“Online MBA programs are making great efforts to also provide networking and social options to their students,” says Candy.


Who should enroll on the online MBA at the University of Southern California: Marshall?

Candy says that if your key driver is to augment your skills, develop your professional profile, and obtain a recognized degree, an online MBA is right up your street.

She echoes Barbara in her sentiments about flexibility and convenience. “You can study from almost anywhere, in a country different from your own, and at a timetable that you can control,” she says.

It comes with a caveat though. “You have to know yourself,” Candy explains.

Self-motivation. Autonomy. Strict discipline. These are all things that have to be ingrained within you before you enroll on an online MBA program.

“You must make the time and effort to get the best out of the program,” Candy concludes.

“For someone who wants the academic aspects of the program; for someone who is limited by geography or mobility; for someone who is autonomous and self-motivated; then yes, I would recommend an online MBA.”