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Why Now Is The Perfect Time For An Online MBA

Online MBA programs are growing in popularity. Here’s why 2021 is the perfect time for an Online MBA

Tue May 25 2021

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, Online MBA programs were growing in popularity. Since the pandemic, the attractiveness of the Online MBA has only increased.

First, consider the key reasons why one might seek an MBA. You might want or need to learn new hard skills, like digital marketing, or softer skills, like leadership or management. 

You may want to build your network, signal your qualifications for the rest of your career, learn about and potentially switch careers, or progress in your current job. Maybe you want to experiment with or build a business. All of that can be done via an online MBA program.

In our BusinessBecause Online MBA Guide 2023, we tell you everything you need to know about applying for an online MBA and list our best online MBA programs for 2021. We guide you through what you need to consider when choosing a program, and what materials you’ll need to pull together to apply.

So why is now the perfect time to pursue an online MBA?

Considering an Online MBA?

Download our Online MBA Guide 2023


Online MBA vs Full-Time MBA

If your goal is to learn new hard skills, like accounting, finance, or marketing, there is not a large difference between an online MBA and a traditional MBA. What you learn in the University of Illinois’s iMBA and in its traditional MBA, for example, will be similar. The instructors will often be the same people. If your goal is to advance within your current organization, an online MBA will serve you just as well as a full-time MBA.

Now, some activities, like learning about new careers or building a business or networking (perhaps the best example), can be done virtually, although one could argue that the in-person experience associated with meeting new people is superior. But even then, you can find MBA programs explicitly billed as ‘Hybrid’, such as the one offered by UCLA, to get a mixture of in-person and online instruction and engagement. 

The only major gap between an online MBA relative to a traditional MBA relates to the internship between the first and second year that is offered by traditional full-time MBA programs in the United States. This is a powerful feature, particularly for those targeting specific competitive industries to swich into, such as investment banking or consulting. 

No more Online MBA stigma

You might think that an evening or weekend or online MBA program ‘isn’t as good’ as a full-time traditional MBA program. But at the end of the day, the brand associated with the program is what is going to matter from a signalling perspective. 

With so much of life having shifted to the internet for a full year, people are increasingly comfortable with the quality of online experiences. Consider what it was like to try to learn virtually 5-to-10 years ago versus now with the advent of Zoom. And consider the average person’s openness to communicating virtually 12 months ago versus now. 

We are at a point in our society where online and in-person is blending and mixing. In that sense, now is the right time to jump into an online MBA—your study experience mimics the reality of the modern day workplace.

Impact of COVID-19

In May of 2021, things are looking up in the US. People are vaccinated in increasingly large numbers, and the economy is reopening. That said, this isn’t the case across the globe. India and parts of Europe have seen a resurgence of the coronavirus. And it will probably take some time before things truly go back to normal. 

If you attend a full-time program, move to a new city, and settle down for an in-person experience, and someone tests positive, what then? Even if 75% of your class is vaccinated, classes will likely be affected. You may go virtual. This will be disruptive. 

We may be at a point where for another year at least, an online MBA is more attractive because people still can’t fully realize the benefits of traditional full-time MBA program due to COVID-19.

Cost & Opportunity Cost

Another obvious benefit of an online MBA is that you can keep working while you study. If you make $100K a year and choose an online MBA over a traditional one, you are $200K richer two years later because you’ve been making money for two years. 

Direct costs also tend to be very different. USC Marshall’s Online MBA costs $112K in total. The school’s full-time MBA costs around $187K in total once you consider living expenses. That’s another $75K in savings from an online MBA. 

If you are dead set on USC-Marshall and considering an online versus a traditional MBA and you make $100K today, the total cost of choosing the traditional MBA format is $200K + $75K = $275K higher.


All things considered, now is the perfect time to consider an online MBA:

- On many dimensions related to what you learn in the classroom, there is no significant difference between traditional and online.

- The value of the brand your MBA represents is not affected by an online versus in-person choice.

- People are increasingly comfortable working and learning online.

- COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty that makes an online approach relatively more attractive.

- The online MBA continues to be less expensive than the traditional MBA.

If you’re considering an online MBA, download our free BusinessBecause Online MBA Guide 2021.


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Download the BusinessBecause Online MBA Guide 2023