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How to Decide Between an Online and On-Campus MBA

Image: How to Decide Between an Online and On-Campus MBA | AIU

Life is full of choices. No matter what the topic of discussion is, there are always going to be different choices to make along the way with different outcomes as a result. The same is true of educational choices. In the 21st century students attending college, from undergraduates to doctoral candidates, have the option of attending full-time on-campus programs or online programs. Deciding between the two can be difficult. Not everyone is familiar with the facets of each choice and who might benefit more from these programs.

This applies to business professionals looking to enhance their education and improve their career prospects by earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA). One of the most popular degrees among business professionals, MBA programs have adjusted to the 21st century much like any other degree program.

According to, Master’s students now have more choices than ever when it comes to earning an MBA. Among the most popular choices are the online MBA and the on-campus MBA. Each program comes with positives and negatives, and the outcome for each student will vary based upon the individual and the style of program they choose. also highlights the following features of the typical online and on-campus MBA program:

  • Online MBA: Considered the most flexible option of MBA students, an online MBA can be catered to the available free time and timeline available for each individual student. Coursework, reading guides, and assignments are administered over the web and completion can take as little as 18 months or as much as three years.
  • On-campus MBA: Traditional MBA programs are offered on-campus at a post-secondary institution and usually take two years to complete. Students attend class on a daily basis and interact face-to-face with professors and other students/business professionals while pursuing their MBA.
Online MBA Downside

While the features largely highlight the positives of these two differing paths to an MBA, they ignore the downsides of each. Online programs don’t come with much of drawback in terms of educational value. Bloomberg BusinessWeek pointed out in July 2012 that online MBA programs are losing much of the stigma they once held in the minds of employers.

BusinessWeek, citing a study from the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, found that half of the hiring managers surveyed no longer took into account the format a degree was earned in when seeking to hire or promote an employee.

However, there are factors that the online MBA may never overcome. U.S. News notes that while an online MBA may be right for those who choose not to, or cannot afford to, leave their full-time job to return to school, these programs remain best suited for individuals who are highly self-motivated to complete tasks. Additionally, it was noted that online programs are best for those looking to remain in the same field of business, perhaps even with the same company.

On-campus MBA Downside

Just because the online MBA has some drawbacks doesn’t mean the traditional route is automatically the best choice as it too comes with drawbacks for the student. Since traditional programs are two-years of full-time study, individuals may have no choice but to leave their current career field in order to complete their studies.

This makes for a tough choice for many individuals as the traditional program is the most expensive MBA option, yet asks individuals to leave their financial stability and paycheck behind to attend school.

Both programs come with a great deal of merit to their credit. The online MBA offers a flexible, sometimes faster track, for some students with a smaller price tag but sacrifices face-to-face interaction and the potential for networking that exists in traditional programs. A traditional MBA meanwhile, not only offers that networking potential, but according to U.S. News it remains the gold standard in the mind of some employers.

The choice between an online or on-campus MBA inevitably comes down to the individual. Each business professional must choose the program that is best suited for them and their career aspirations in order to get the most out of their MBA in the future.