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Now more than ever, it’s easy to earn a respected MBA 100% online.


Since the launch of the very first fully online program at Aspen University in 1987,1  online MBAs have been available to anyone with a network connection. They’ve evolved from questionable credentials given by pricey, for-profit schools to highly respected, accredited online MBA programs from elite public and private universities around the world. In fact, in 2022 online MBA enrollment surpassed that of full time in-person programs,2 with over 85% of universities offering the degree.

As you ask yourself “Why should I get an MBA?” you’ll no doubt also consider how you want to earn it. According to a recent Graduate Management Council (GMAC) study,3 online MBA programs are preferred by first-generation, women, and millennial candidates. Online programs offer the convenience and flexibility to earn the degree without quitting your job—an option that many busy professionals prefer.

“I knew that with a child, and everything our family has to juggle, an online MBA program was the best route. I appreciate that if we decide to grow our family, Iowa’s program allows me to cut back during that phase if I need to.”

Daniel Uting, Iowa MBA Graduate

Style, substance … or both? Which institute is best for online MBA?

From bus stop posters to social media sites to commercial breaks, it seems like there’s an advertisement for online MBA programs around every corner. And while these well-produced, feel-good ads may offer an easy, affordable MBA option, they often come from unaccredited, for-profit universities with a steep price tag. But fear not: Public and private universities have greatly expanded their online MBA offerings, especially in the time of COVID-19.

With so many options available today, how can you identify the best online mba programs?

Let’s start with the rankings.4 According to U.S. News & World Report, Poets & Quants, and Fortune Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is the #1 best online MBA across the board with a cost of $1,521 per credit and a 28% acceptance rate. The program takes 2 years to complete. (Worth noting: The University of Iowa’s Iowa MBA landed at #8 on Fortune’s list with a cost of just $750 per credit.)

For students looking to finish quickly, Fortune has ranked the University of Florida (Hough) the #1 accelerated program, which can be completed in 14-24 months at a price point of $1,246 per credit.

As for those flashy ads? Most of them come from for-profit universities. Many for-profit universities are unranked,  not AACSB accredited, and cost significantly more than public universities. Yet interestingly, only around 40% of students who attended for-profit universities say their degree was worth the cost, according to USA Today.5

Finding the right program is usually a balance or reputation, price point, convenience, and format. And for some, being close to home still matters: GMAC found that 31% of online MBA students still preferred to study in a local program.

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31 %

of online MBA students prefer to study in a local program

Is an online MBA respectable? Let’s examine the R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Much like traditional, in-person mba programs, not all online mba programs are created equal. As more and more accredited online mba programs become available (526 in 2020-21)6 more employers have also begun to accept the credential as readily as they would a traditional MBA. As you shop around for programs, it’s critical to be certain that your school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Only 6% of business schools are AACSB accredited, and they’re considered to be the best business schools in the world by top employers.

In their 2023 recruiters survey,7 the Graduate Management Admissions Council found that 54% of employers value graduates of online programs equally to those of full-time programs. Alternately, a separate survey by Northwestern University indicates that a whopping 71% of C-suite executives hold an online degree in equal esteem.8 

6 %

of business schools are AACSB accredited

and they’re considered to be the best business schools in the world by top employers

54 %

of employers value graduates of online programs equally to those of full-time programs

Is an online MBA the same as an MBA?

The degree given to MBAs on graduation day is exactly the same, whether the program was in person or online. The difference between the two programs is entirely based on format and timing. Online MBAs are generally more flexible and can be completed part-time, while traditional programs are offered in person in a full-time format. Whether or not you have the time to leave your employer for a year or two can be the deciding factor in which program you choose.

Full-time, in-person programs require a commitment to attending every class in person, on campus. Online MBAs offer students the option of both synchronous (everyone online together) and asynchronous (content you can consume anytime) coursework. This adds to their flexibility as you can consume asynchronous coursework whenever it fits your schedule.

There can also be a difference in program cost. Affordable online MBA programs are now becoming the rule, rather than the exception: U.S. News lists Louisiana Tech as the most affordable at $7,740 total. Most top-ranked online MBAs cost between $50 - $90k, while top-ranked traditional MBA programs average $66 - $117k.9

Another key differentiator are networking opportunities. One of the primary benefits of an MBA program is the opportunity to connect with a group of like-minded peers. These connections can lead to future job opportunities, better salaries, and a broader sphere of professional influence. However, these opportunities may be slightly limited in an online format.

Deciding how to earn your MBA may be just as important to you as why. And as hiring managers and recruiters have become more receptive to MBA degrees earned online, you may find that a virtual option is the right fit.

Learn more about Iowa’s Online MBA—ranked #8 in the nation by Fortune.

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Related articles

  1. Staff Writers. “The History of Online MBA Programs.” OnlineMBA.com. November 2023.
  2. Knox, Liam. “Online M.B.A.s Overtake Residential Programs.” Inside Higher Ed. May 2022.
  3. Walker, Andrew et al. “Prospective Student Survey – 2023 Summary Report.” Graduate Management Council. April 2023.
  4. Rankings data:
  5. Quintana, Chris. “Are for-profit colleges worth the cost. Graduates are split on the value of their degrees.” USA Today. January 2023.
  6. Malas, Megan. “What the surge in online MBA programs means for business schools.”Fortune Education. April 2022.
  7. Walker, Andrew et al. "Corporate Recruiters Survey: 2023 Summary Report." Graduate Management Admission Council. July 2023.
  8. Employers Post-COVID Business Strategy and the Race for Talent: A View From the C-Suite.” Northeastern University Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. December 2021.
  9. Picket, Michelle. “How Much Does an Online MBA Cost.” Intelligent.com. March 2023.