A master’s in business administration, or MBA degree, allows engineers to move into management or consulting. It also qualifies you to move into the business world and up the corporate ladder. And you can earn an MBA online instead of quitting your job to attend a brick and mortar school. However, not all online MBA programs are equal. While online MBAs have gone a long way since they were introduced, the program you pick will have a direct influence on how respected your credentials will be, as well as the actual competencies you’ll develop. Here are 5 things to look for when choosing an online MBA.
Online programs must use reliable, robust technology. After all, if you can’t connect to your classes or chat with your peers in real time, you’re left to review online summaries. You want to work with an MBA program that has an easy to use online learning environment, since this allows you to focus on the content instead of how it is shared.
Find out if the program has interactive learning and peer-to-peer learning rather than having you watch a live stream or recorded videos. For example, can you get virtual help or tutoring from a classmate or the professor? The best programs let you attend classes via an app as well as on your desktop computer. Verify that the school has good tech support that’s available whenever you need it.
The Right Curriculum
All MBA programs will cover the basics of team management and business fundamentals like accounting and project planning. However, the classes that they offer can vary widely and some might be better for engineers than others. Look for MBA programs that allow you to concentrate on a core area that is of value to you.
The MBA concentration can be a good differentiator when you’re applying for engineering management jobs or changing industries. If you want to concentrate in an area, determine how much experience and expertise the professors have in that area. You don’t want to have to take additional classes and pay even more to specialize in a given area.
The Program’s Accreditation
There are real online MBA programs. However, some of the fastest and cheapest are not accredited.
These programs are most likely to be poor quality, and listing one on your resume won’t be the enhancement you hoped it would be. This is why you need to research their accreditation status in addition to former students’ reviews. Some of the respected accrediting bodies include:
• Distance Education & Training Council
• Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
• Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools
• Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
• New England Association of Schools and Colleges
• Northwest Accreditation Commission
• North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
• Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
• Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Be careful with online programs that are essentially outsourced by the namesake university. It won’t have the same support for students as those on campus, though it is accredited. Another thing that will affect how your credentials will be the school’s actual regional rankings. Note that there isn’t a way for employers to know if you obtained your degree online, and you’ll get the exact same MBA credentials as a traditional MBA, so much of the recognition will fall on the school that gives the program.
One of the benefits of an online MBA program is the potential flexibility. You can connect to classes whether you’re traveling for work or working from home. However, not all MBA programs let you attend class on your schedule. Some stick to a rigid class schedule and expect you to log in when the class is in session. Find out whether or not the online program will let you watch lectures at your own pace. A good engineering MBA program online will allow you to have a flexible schedule, and either condense your studies or stretch them out if needed.
Another potential issue is their schedule. Online MBA programs often have multiple start times, allowing you to choose what month you start. In contrast, conventional graduate programs only have one or two new enrollment periods. Also, find out how long the MBA program lasts. Online MBA programs typically finish in two years, but you may want a faster one or a program that lets you hit pause and resume later. Could you scale back the classes you’re taking because of time or money constraints?
The Level of Student Support
Student support goes far beyond financial aid like scholarships and tutoring for current students. It includes student advisors who help you map out your class schedule and choose the right classes. It should include career advisors who help you find a new job after graduation and alumni who support each other. Will professors answer questions that may be related to your job? And will they give you professional recommendations when you are job hunting, or even job leads? Some of the things you should look for include:
• Networking opportunities
• Ready access to faculty
• Financial aid and enrollment assistance
• Class size and format
• Career resources
Career services are particularly important. These will help you with things like resume reviews, networking events, and job interview tips among other things. Your professors should also play an active role in access promotion opportunities and navigating through new industries. Access to faculty with real world experience could also open the door to mentorship opportunities.
“The major values of an online MBA are not only in the knowledge and technical content you get from the program.” Said one associate dean. “It’s also the learning opportunities you get from the networks you’ll build and other classmates.”
The best online MBA programs allow you to continue working or taking care of your kids while you earn that coveted degree. The ideal MBA programs help you take your engineering career to the next level in addition to giving you a resume-enhancing certification. This is why it’s important that you take your time and vet any potential program thoroughly before you make your choice, as it will have a direct effect on your engagement, quality, and your chances for success.