The 2019 Times Higher Education/Wall Street Journal study of international business schools found that a Master of Business Administration degree remains a vital credential for professionals who are striving to advance in their careers and earn higher salaries. A graduate education from a top business school is an opportunity to build your strategic insights and soft skills while connecting you with extensive resources and peers who share your drive for success. Carefully choosing an MBA program could be a major step toward becoming a proactive leader in the workplace and achieving your long-term goals.

An online master’s program offers a convenient way to gain a widely respected credential as well as a top-tier education in leadership, management, analysis, decision-making and communication. With a growing number of programs available in 100 percent online or hybrid formats, you’ll first need to narrow down where to apply. Here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing an MBA program.

Questions to Ask when Choosing an Online MBA Program

  • How will the curriculum help me to achieve my long-term goals?
  • Are courses taught by full-time faculty of the university’s business school or adjunct faculty?
  • Is material delivered live, asynchronously or through a combination of approaches?
  • Does the program include an in-person component?
  • Is the program accredited by the AACSB?
  • How much does the online MBA cost, including tuition, fees and other expenses?
  • Is any financial aid available for online students?
  • What GRE/GMAT requirements do applicants need to meet?
  • What services and networking opportunities are available to online students?
  • Who will be my classmates?
  • How active is the alumni community?

Traditional MBA vs. Online MBA

A high-quality graduate program equips professionals with the knowledge and skills to stay ahead of the curve in a fast-paced, complex and frequently volatile business landscape. Whether you earn an MBA online or attend classes on campus, you will likely study many of the same concepts and complete similar assignments. In either format, you can learn data-driven strategies and effective problem-solving from renowned experts in the field.

Taking top online mba programs can provide greater flexibility to fit your graduate education into a busy schedule. Poets & Quants noted that online programs are particularly well-suited to the needs of professionals who are already working full time and provide the opportunity to accelerate their business careers.

What Accreditation to Look for in Colleges Offering an Online MBA

As part of your research into online business schools, it’s important to check what accreditations they hold. Educational accreditation is a quality assurance process for institutions and programs that can have a big impact on how your degree is perceived by employers and whether credits earned in one program are transferrable to another. A regional or national accreditation may be required to meet your organization’s standards for tuition reimbursement.

Certain accreditation agencies are respected around the world, and their seals of approval may mean that your graduate education is more likely to help you achieve your goals. When it comes to U.S. schools of business and accounting, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is widely regarded as setting the gold standard. With a history stretching back to 1916, the organization accredits more than 800 institutions around the world, including the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

The AACSB reviews business schools based on standards in four categories:

  • Strategic management and innovation
  • Participants, including students, faculty and professional staff
  • Learning and teaching
  • Academic and professional engagement

Getting the Most Out of an Online Business Education

To maximize the value of your online MBA, it’s vital to matriculate at a reputable institution where expert faculty teach the most advanced thinking in the field. But there are other distinctions among business schools that can affect students’ readiness to face challenges in the workplace. These are a few key differentiators that may impact what you take away from a graduate education and into the office:

Integrated Curriculum

Increasingly, the problems that today’s companies address are not broken down into silos. Instead, every aspect of a business shares information and strives to come together and achieve larger objectives. An integrated MBA curriculum meets the demands of today’s interdependent and constantly connected organizations by demonstrating how communication and cooperation across all functions lead to more efficient and productive operations.

Opportunities for Live Interaction

An MBA isn’t just about learning updated business skills and tools. Growing your network by meeting peers, instructors and interacting with other leaders is an essential part of the experience that can produce long-term benefits. Graduate programs facilitate these interactions by offering plenty of chances to meet with classmates and faculty in real time. Through online and in-person projects, discussions and networking events, students deepen their understanding of business processes while forming lasting connections.

A Cohort of Experienced Professionals

Working with your peers can be especially rewarding when they are knowledgeable individuals with backgrounds from many different industries. In an online MBA that attracts individuals with extensive professional experience in fields like financial services, consulting, healthcare and government, you can learn from a variety of perspectives. And those relationships don’t have to end when you complete your degree. A vibrant alumni community is a powerful resource that can enable you to identify opportunities and develop your ideas.

Flipped Classrooms

In a flipped classroom, students watch recorded lectures and read materials on their own before spending classes engaged in discussions and activities. This model has become increasingly popular over recent years because it makes synchronous hours of instruction more active and personalized. In an online MBA program, a flipped classroom allows professionals to focus on building their skills as strategic thinkers by working with peers and designing solutions to complex problems.

Applications for Analytics and Communication

To excel in today’s data-driven marketplace, professionals must be capable of leveraging information into meaningful intelligence and conveying their insights to a wide range of stakeholders. That makes an MBA education that emphasizes analytics and soft skills in every area from finance to marketing invaluable to tomorrow’s leaders. When robust analytics and powerful communication are built into all aspects of a program, leaders graduate prepared to drive sustainable growth with sophisticated methods and tools.

Merging Practical Skills with Long-Term Strategy

Organizations never sit still in our world of big data and instant global transactions. The exponential growth of technology and push for digital innovation means that changes in markets and businesses happen at a faster pace than ever before.

Therefore, professionals get the greatest benefit out of their advanced education by completing a curriculum that draws on cutting-edge technology to integrate strategic business functions and enable forward-thinking decisions. It is not just about learning the latest processes and tools but learning to apply them to complex problems and developing a mindset for continually evaluating and improving processes, approaches and operations.

About the USC Marshall School of Business

USC Marshall is one of the premier business schools in the U.S. and internationally recognized as a home for path-breaking research that emphasizes entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership and social responsibility. The USC Online MBA from the Marshall School of Business is built to help students succeed in the digitally driven business landscape, providing a curriculum focused on the practical skills expected of today’s global leaders. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Marshall brings undergraduate and graduate students a unique perspective on the world, including global opportunities for experiential learning. The vibrant and active Trojan alumni community includes more than 89,000 people in 92 countries.

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