If you’re considering an online MBA, the choices may seem overwhelming. Here’s how you can easily narrow down your options and pick the right program for you.
Choosing a traditional university seems straightforward; after eliminating major factors like size, location and culture, it doesn’t take long to narrow down your choices.
But how do you choose a school amongst the vast offerings online, especially when you’re seeking something specific like an MBA program? That’s when things can get tricky.
The benefits of an online MBA
If you’re considering an online MBA, you already know the advantages, including the flexibility of an online format so you can continue pursuing your career while working towards your degree. Although online students receive the same education as your on-campus classmates, you can tailor your coursework to your work schedule.
In addition, students aren’t limited by geography as you may be in a traditional classroom; if you want to earn a degree from a school across the country, you don’t have to move there to make it happen. Overall, online degrees are a solid choice for independent, self-reliant students — qualities that describe many MBA candidates.
Wondering how to narrow down your choices from the ever-growing list of online MBA programs? Here are six steps for finding the program for you. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Know what you want
This first tip may seem obvious, but it’s the most important: if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you’re going to have a hard time finding it. Do some soul-searching and decide why you are pursuing an MBA.
What do you want your specialty to be? What are your expectations? What’s your learning style? How flexible do you want it to be? How quickly do you want it to happen? Knowing the basics will help you quickly eliminate unsuitable schools.
2. Grill your network
You may not know the first place to begin searching for an online MBA program, but members of your network likely do.
Ask your undergrad professors, coworkers and professional contacts which programs are on their radar. They don’t necessarily have to be online programs, either — a high-quality school will offer comparable programs to both on-campus and distance-learning students.
3. Consider rankings and reviews
Just like undergraduate colleges and universities, graduate programs are ranked each year. Based on factors such as student satisfaction, faculty, and employment outcomes, these rankings can help you narrow down your search to the most well-respected institutions and programs.
At the same time, do some digging online (such as via forums, social media and message boards) to see how past and current students respond to the program.
4. Research the faculty
A quick web search will usually allow you to find out who’s teaching MBA-level classes at the schools you’re considering. Research a few of the most prominent professors to help you decide if they’re the type of people you would like to work with. Are they respected in their field? Have they been published anywhere? How have past students — traditional and online — reviewed their performance?
A good professor will offer first-rate learning experiences to all of their students, regardless of whether they teach face-to-face or online.
5. Explore the curriculum
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few strong contenders, take a more in-depth look at the program’s curriculum, which is usually available online.
How does the online coursework compare with on-campus materials? They should be similar if not identical. Does the coursework seem interesting and manageable to you? What feels like the best fit?
6. Assess the technology
Technology is key to an online program where all learning is done virtually. Find out what kind of technology the schools you’re considering are using. Are they innovative and progressive, or do they seem old-fashioned? How user-friendly is the interface? What software will you be using?
Here’s a hint: a quick glance at the school’s website can often offer some indication of how technologically savvy the school’s online offerings will be.
Are you considering an online MBA program? Please share your ideas for searching for schools in the comments.
Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements and consulting directly with applicants.