Online MBA vs. Part-Time MBA: What’s Best for You?

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Plans are changing. Where we thought we were going at the beginning of March has been flipped on its head and now we can hardly leave our homes. The way we work has changed dramatically. Schools had to adapt on the fly to full-time online learning. And 2020 graduates have been fast-tracked into leaving school and finding a career during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Sound terrible? Well, here’s the thing about changing your plans — it doesn’t have to impact your ultimate goal.

We are taught over and over to keep working to improve ourselves for successful futures. Beginning a journey toward earning an MBA right now could be the option you’re looking for to challenge and improve yourself. Whether you plan on storming up the ladder at your company, need to justify a raise, qualify for a new career or increase your knowledge and contacts in your current industry, an online degree will help you get there.

The good news is that it’s never been more attainable. Establishing your credibility during this time of uncertainty is an investment worth making. And now, it’s an investment you can make entirely online.

Is an Online MBA the Same as a Regular MBA?

Yes, the education and diploma you will receive are the same as someone who has finished their MBA with in-person courses.

What you should look for in an online MBA is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation. There are nearly 300 AACSB accredited MBA programs in the world. It’s important for universities to carry this accreditation because this organization is a voluntary, non-governmental agency that establishes the standardization of business and accounting schools.

The AACSB is the gold standard. Employers and decision-makers recognize the accreditation and rarely give serious consideration to MBAs without this merit.

How Difficult Is an Online MBA?

A common misconception is that online MBA classes are easier than in-person MBA courses. This is not true as the curriculum is almost always the same. What makes getting an online MBA “easier” is the flexibility it provides.

For example, the Clemson online MBA program gives you the option to stream lectures live or watch the recorded version later in the day. Getting an MBA doesn’t have to be a full-time job. With an online MBA, you can tailor your life around working on your future.

In exchange for this flexibility is the increased pressure of self-discipline. Self-motivating yourself to stay up to date with coursework without feeling the wrath of professors face to face is the biggest challenge confronting online students. Time management is developed through this process which is a highly valuable skill for any position.

Is an Online MBA Respected?

Business owners are well aware of the shift to online learning, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. What most employers care about is where the MBA came from — is the school reputable, is the program accredited and what circumstances led you to pursue online learning?

In most cases, these employers will understand the extra work put in by the part-time, online student. These students are usually balancing full-time jobs and families while continuing their education. That’s good evidence for how a candidate manages their time and workload.

It’s important to remember there is no shot clock on your online MBA. While most students complete the program in 2 years, taking 3 years to complete your MBA doesn’t give your degree an asterisk.

This is also where terminology gets convoluted. Online MBA vs. part-time MBA are two different ways to approach furthering your education. One isn’t better than the other. The only tangible difference is whether you have time for in-person night classes to chip away at your degree. A part-time MBA can still be accomplished online — whether it’s through a handful of credits per semester or varying classloads depending on your current circumstances.

Is a Part-Time MBA Worth It?

According to the 2018–19 Business School Questionnaire, one-third of MBA students are completing their degrees online. 47% of these enrolled students are completing their degree on a part-time basis. This proves a growing trend of students continuing to pursue their education on a part-time, online basis. Della Bradshaw argued 5 years ago that part-time MBAs were undervalued:

“The one thing that has convinced me the part-time MBA should be revisited is a comment I heard some years ago from Kim Clark, the former dean of Harvard Business School, whose MBA is ranked number one in the world by the FT this year. He said that students do not turn down a seat at HBS to go to another business school; they do so because they have great opportunities at work.”

This sentiment still rings true today. The reason a part-time, online MBA is worth it is because students can stay at their company while working toward their degree.

While you consider going back to school, remember the line between an online MBA vs. a part-time MBA is getting smaller. You can do both at several accredited universities across the country and receive the same value from your degree as someone who goes full time. So, while your plans may have changed due to recent events, your ultimate goal is still attainable.

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