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On-Campus or Online MBA Program — Which Is Right for You?

Online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees are the most popular graduate degree programs that students pursue, according to a 2016 survey cited by U.S. News. While the traditional on-campus MBA program still appeals to many aspiring business leaders, online programs are here to stay.

Weighing the pros and cons between an on-campus versus a 100-percent online graduate program is an important exercise that every prospective MBA student should perform. Each format has its own unique benefits. However, as the sophistication of online programs increases with each passing year, the similarities they share with those delivered in brick-and-mortar institutions also increase.

Notable differences between online and on-campus MBA programs

1) Online MBA programs tend to attract an older student population. U.S. News reports the average age of online MBA students who started a distance-learning program in 2016 was 33 years old. Those enrolling in on-campus, full-time MBA programs had an average age of 27 in fall 2016.

2) Online students typically have more years of work experience than those studying on campus. Among the 124 ranked online programs that provided employment data to U.S. News, an average of 91 percent of MBA students were working full-time when they enrolled. The flexibility of an online program allows working professionals to advance their careers while still honoring commitments to family, community, and employers.

3) Experts note that online students are usually hoping to advance within their current industry or qualify for greater responsibility with their current employer. For them, the ability to earn an MBA by taking one class at a time or going at a personalized pace lets them balance a career with earning a graduate degree. By contrast, students who attend in-residence programs tend to be switching careers and not as likely to hold full-time jobs.

4) Online classes typically require more self-discipline and time-management strategies to earn a graduate degree. The double-edged-sword aspect of the online flexibility factor is that students who aren’t organized and self-directed by nature are often better served by the structure provided by a face-to-face, traditional program.

5) Although an online graduate degree program provides the ultimate convenience, it sometimes offers fewer opportunities for in-person networking, which can be of great value for MBA candidates. An on-campus program affords more face-to-face interaction with classmates and instructors and easier access to student services. However, the best online programs will also provide an immersive experience by taking advantage of interactive online discussions, videoconferences, and numerous other ways to virtually connect with peers and professors.

This reliance on technology while learning has great spillover benefits in today’s global business environment. Business Insider notes that because so much of the day-to-day interaction and conducting of business takes place remotely, via email, text, or videoconference, an online MBA format helps students become proficient in these rapidly advancing technologies and communication methods.

6) Another advantage of an online MBA program is the international connections you make can significantly broaden your network of peers. While you might not enjoy the full-immersion experience of a classic brick-and-mortar MBA program, you’re more likely to form invaluable alliances with classmates around the globe.

Important similarities between online and on-campus MBA programs

1) You’ll find a comparable degree of quality between an online and campus-based MBA programs at reputable schools. The curriculum, types of assignments, and group projects are typically the same – they’re just delivered in a different way. Very often the online MBA faculty is comprised of the same industry experts who also teach on-campus classes.

2) Employers view an MBA earned in an online program to be equally as credible as a traditional degree. They recognize that the online curriculum is just as rigorous as a campus-based program would be. Employers realize that online MBA programs make it possible for professional adults to remain employed full-time while simultaneously advancing their careers. They respect the discipline, motivation, and effort required to accomplish this challenging goal.

3) MBA students can be confident when choosing an online or campus-based program that’s accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

AACSB Accreditation is known, worldwide, as the longest-standing, most recognized form of specialized/professional accreditation an institution and its business programs can earn,” explains the prestigious organization. Less than five percent of the more than 16,000 schools worldwide granting business degrees have earned AACSB Accreditation, which speaks to the rigorous standards administered by the association.

4) Research published in the “Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration” stated that identified accreditation and school recognition were the two most important factors that influenced a hiring manager’s perception of value for an online MBA. U.S. News adds that a university’s reputation and accreditation, along with an applicant’s work experience, “holds more weight than whether the candidate earned the degree online or in person.”

Ready to learn more? ACU Online offers a Master of Business Administration degree that prepares professionals for Christian service and leadership in the global marketplace. Our AACSB accredited, fully online MBA program combines courses in leadership, organizational behavior, innovation, data-informed decision-making, and ethics to equip you to think critically, globally, and missionally. Please contact us at 855-219-7300 or visit us at

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