Man typing on a laptop

Are online MBAs worth the cost? Do they offer the same bang for the buck as a full-time MBA? It may depend on what you expect in return.



Are online MBAs worth it?

If by “worth it” you mean an MBA helps you find a job, get a promotion, or receive a raise, then yes, an online MBA may be worth the time and money you put into it. As you consider “Why should I get an MBA?” you’ll also want to think about how an online degree compares to a degree earned on-campus, in-person.

Is an online MBA the same as an MBA? On paper, yes.

So, you’ve decided to get your MBA. Congratulations. Now you need to decide between a traditional MBA or an online degree. While both may say M-B-A, and while each degree may look the same on paper, framed on the mantel, the decision about which route to choose might just come down to the life stage you’re in.

Choosing your path isn’t just a matter of sifting through Google results for the best online MBA programs. It’s better to first decide if “online” is the best choice (or not) for you.

While an online MBA may offer more flexibility with your work vs school vs life schedules, a full-time MBA typically rewards its students with personalized coursework and the opportunity to take full advantage of internships, networking, and other career resources.1

How disciplined are you? Are you a self-starter who can stay the course with an online program, or do you need the face-to-face interaction with students and instructors that an in-person MBA program offers?

Think back to your high school years. It’s like the difference between sitting in a classroom with your fellow students versus independent study. Both have merits.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Are online MBAs respected?

Yes, an online MBA vs in-person is taken seriously by employers. But there is a caveat. Your online degree is only respected as much as the institution from where it’s received. An MBA from a high-ranking school is going to grab more attention from employers than a degree from an institution farther down the list.

Each time you ask, “Is an online MBA respectable?” also ask, “Is the corresponding school respected?” Analyze your first impressions of the school and the program you’re considering. Chances are, if you’re thinking “ best online mba in the world,” your future employers share the same impression.

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter.

Featuring the latest business news, upcoming webinars, helpful tips, and more.

But seriously…is an online MBA taken seriously?

As noted above, an online MBA is taken seriously. But whether you’re receiving your degree in the classroom or online, an MBA is also a serious financial commitment.

While online MBAs are typically more affordable than in-person degrees, are online MBAs worth it? According to projections by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), those with an undergraduate business degree can expect to earn an average starting salary of $62,069 in 2023.2

In contrast, MBA holders can take home nearly double that amount, with an average starting salary of $125,000.3 Contrast that with the average cost of an online MBA from the University of Iowa ($33,750 for the whole program) and you can quickly see for yourself the degree’s worth.


Average starting salary

with a bachelor's degree


average starting salary

with an MBA degree

Can you get a good job with an online MBA?

There are no guarantees, but accredited online mba programs, as noted above, do offer lucrative employment opportunities to their graduates. The key word is “accredited.” When Affordable Colleges Online asked respondents, “Is your online MBA degree as valuable as an on-campus degree?” 92% agreed or strongly agreed that their online MBA degree was as valuable.4

Without a doubt, degrees from accredited online and on-campus MBA programs like the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business offer higher earning potential over their bachelor’s degree counterparts

It’s not all good news. What are the disadvantages of an online MBA?

As you contemplate an online MBA, you’ll want to consider any potential downsides. Can the best online MBA programs compete with the best on-campus programs? Again, it comes down to what works best for your situation.

Do you work better in a more structured environment? Would you benefit from in-person discussions with your professors and classmates? Do you hope to take advantage of human connections to network? If you answered yes, yes, and yes, you may be better served by an on-campus program regardless of an online program’s reported excellence.

On the flipside, if you don’t feel in-person structure, advising, and connections are crucial to your success, one of the more affordable online MBA programs and the flexibility it offers may be your best next step.

Interested in learning more about an Iowa MBA?

Start here

Related articles

  1. Hitson, Hadley. “Online MBA versus traditional MBA: Here are the major differences.” Fortune. April 2021
  2. Starting Salaries For College Graduates Leveling Off.” National Association of Colleges and Employers. February 2023
  3. Corporate Recruiters Survey.” Graduate Management Admission Council. 2023
  4. Carlton, Genevieve. "Does Earning An MBA Online Offer The Same Return On Investment As On-campus Programs?” May 2023