Is an online MBA worth it?

This all depends on who is making the assessment and what is being used as the measure of value.


Reasons for studying an online MBA

The reasons behind the decision to study for an online MBA program are key to deciding which factors matter most. Everyone is different.


Those motivated by the desire to develop their personal study horizons may be less concerned by the prestige of the provider. Those looking to climb the career ladder may be very interested in the significant earnings premium afforded by the best online MBA programs.


Deciding what matters most to you is a good place to start when addressing the key question of: is an online MBA worth it?


Personal learning style

Online MBA programs usually involves the student learning at their own pace. This requires discipline and motivation and isn't something that should be overlooked when selecting the mode of study. Those preferring closer interaction and tighter structure should consider the more traditional campus-based method of study.



Money no object or budget critical? Personal finances are likely to play a big part in the decision process. If you're only prepared for the best, check out our best online MBA programs section. For those on a tight budget, visit the cheapest online MBA section.


As a guide, prices range from $2,500 (India) to over $100,000 (USA).


Employer perspective

Employers are more concerned about the MBA provider than the mode of study. In other words, where your MBA comes from is more important than how you studied for it. Online MBA rankings are one method of discerning the best from the rest.


Online MBA accreditation and provider credentials underpin qualification quality. Like most things in life, beware of low-cost, you usually get what you pay for and the best returns are usually associated with the more prestigious programs. In short, the best online MBA programs cost more, but deliver more.


Earnings enhancement

There's good news and not-so-good news depending on your personal outlook.


Firstly, numerous studies have confirmed the long-held belief that the MBA salary premium is real and sizeable - the top online MBA programs deliver a stunning return on investment if you use career earnings as the yardstick. The QS 2014 MBA survey comparing pre-MBA salaries with average MBA salaries shows a compelling case - the salary differential globally was found to be consistently higher for MBA holders, typically in the region of 100% higher.


The not-so-good news is that MBA online programs deliver less salary enhancement than their bricks-and-mortar campus based alternatives. In short, campus courses cost more but deliver more in terms of salary returns. Some studies have suggested that online courses deliver half the premium (Bloomberg Business Week 2011).


As always, be aware of sweeping generalisations. The biggest differentiator in terms of earnings remains the MBA provider. Online MBA rankings often include earnings data. an online MBA worth it? A US Business School Dean explains the benefits of MBA study in this video...

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