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Why Do An Online MBA? The Numbers Behind The Degree

BusinessBecause dives deep into GMAC data to find out whether an online MBA is worth it

By  Robert Klecha

Tue Mar 20 2018

Today, there are a multitude of ways to pursue post-graduate business education including one or two-year full-time MBAs, part-time MBAs, Executive MBAs, and online MBAs, not to mention the Master’s in Management and a range of specialized master’s degrees.

With the ever-increasing diversity of programs, applications to traditional, two-year, full-time, campus-based MBAs in the US have been in decline since 2014 and, according to the 2017 GMAC Application Trends Report, 64% of those programs saw further declines last year.

In contrast, online MBAs have performed strongly. After two years of growth, the demand for the online programs remained steady in 2017

At BusinessBecause, we know that for anyone considering business school, deciding what type of program to pursue can be a challenge. So, we’ve delved into the numbers to explore why you should consider an online MBA.

You’re an experienced candidate

According to GMAC’s The Value Of A Graduate Management Education 2018 report, the average age of online MBA students—32 years old—is than that of students on on-campus programs. In total, this group is second only to Executive MBA candidates in terms of their work experience.

This suggests that applicants to online programs are pursuing the qualification for different reasons compared to their on-campus counterparts. This is supported by GMAC’s report, in which alumni of online programs cited ‘preparation for leadership positions’ as their main study motivation, compared to ‘increased earnings power’ cited by full-time MBAs.

In fact, the Princeton Review reports that 34% of surveyed students at more than 75 business schools received a promotion while earning their online MBA. Online MBA programs are a clear pathway to senior positions.

Employers value online degrees

In GMAC’s 2017 Prospective Students Survey, 61% of potential online MBA candidates stated that they wanted work and study at the same time, in contrast to 46% of full-time MBA candidates—an obvious advantage for employers who want to retain and develop their staff.

While online degrees once struggled for recognition, it’s clear now that employers value, and are putting their weight behind, them. The 2017 GMAC Application Trends Survey shows that 20% of online programs expected an increase in the number of students receiving employer sponsorship—the greatest percentage by graduate program type. 38% of online MBA students, the report says, will receive employer sponsorship; second only to Executive MBAs at 40%.

Degrees such as Nottingham Trent University’s (NTU) Online MBA with Data Analytics are attractive for employers as staff can hone skills that are in high demand, but not disrupt their work. Further evidence that employers value these degrees highly, is the employment rate of NTU’s Online MBA where, according to the school’s statistics, 100% graduates find employment within six months.

The 2018 Financial Times Online MBA rankings also reported an average 32% salary rise for Online MBA graduates post degree.

And fully-online MBA programs are now receiving accreditation from official bodies, such as Birmingham Business School’s Online MBA—the first 100%-online program to receive AMBA accreditation—cementing their reputation among employers.


Online MBAs open up business education to those who may otherwise not have the option.

GMAC’s Application Trends Survey reveals that in the US underrepresented populations make up 15-to-17% of the applicant pool for part-time, self-paced, flexible, and online MBA programs. Online degrees are making ground where other incarnations of MBA programs have struggled.

Online programs have comparatively lower costs both in terms of fees and living costs. With institutions such as Edinburgh Business School allowing students to study their MBA course-by-course, fees are more flexible and online MBAs more accessible than ever.

Student satisfaction

The ultimate seal of approval for online MBAs is found in graduate satisfaction.

According to GMAC’s Value Of A Graduate Management Education report, 94% of surveyed students said they would definitely or probably still pursue their degree knowing what they know now. 96% also said they would definitely or probably recruit a student from their alma mater.

Student satisfaction is a reflection of the experience and the quality of education received. With new tech developments, online MBAs are now more able to provide students with the chance to interact directly with classmates and faculty and participate in active discussions online.

On MIP Politecnico di Milano’s International Flex EMBA—an online Executive MBA program—a partnership with the World Of Business Ideas (WOBI) means students have access to major industry players sharing their knowledge online. 

As technology improves, the use of virtual reality and streaming platforms means that business leaders will be more accessible than ever before.