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Students seeking a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree are typically mature and focused. They’ll need to navigate many business degree options, identify core curriculum and choose specializations that map to their career goals. To streamline the process, the following guide sheds light on the major types of MBA degrees, specializations and career opportunities.

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Studying for an On-campus or Online MBA Degree

The wide variety of fields that hire MBA graduates is matched by the myriad of business administration programs available in full-time, part-time, executive and online formats. The selection of accredited business schools, colleges and universities offering MBA programs allows students to enroll in a program that accommodates work, family and financial obligations. Below are the main options:

  • Full-time MBAs: These typically take two years to complete, or less in accelerated degree programs.
  • Part-time MBAs: These programs allow busy students to complete their online MBA degree in three or more years.
  • Executive MBAs: These fast-paced programs enable senior managers to expand their skills and credentials to rise to executive roles. They typically last for one year or less.
  • Online MBAs: Distance learning MBAs usually take two years to complete, or a year if offered in an accelerated format. Students set the pace for completion.

Studying for an Online MBA Degree

Because of their flexible schedules and 24/7 access, online MBA degree programs have risen in popularity among working professionals and students who cannot travel to a campus program. Distance learning programs typically offer fine-tuned curriculum on business theory and leadership that can be immediately utilized in the workplace. Some of the most popular MBA specializations include health care, marketing, finance, accounting, project management, entrepreneurship and human resources.

Online MBA schools provide students with full-time, part-time and executive study options. Distance learners have round-the-clock access to courses and research libraries. Class lectures may be delivered via streaming multimedia, Skype, conference calls, Adobe Connect or other communication tools. Depending on the program, online students also may use digital chat rooms, threaded emails and instant messaging to work with instructors and peers.

Program Highlight:
Online MBA Degree

An online master’s of business administration consists of 45 to 60 credits, though some programs allow students to waive certain courses based on prior educational background or work experience.

Designed to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to analyze business trends and develop effective business strategies, an online MBA degree covers coursework in accounting, economics, ethics, marketing, strategic management, data analysis, financial reporting and leadership. Students can also specialize in a specific area, such as Internet marketing, health administration, financial management, international business or entrepreneurship. Most programs culminate in a capstone or thesis project.

Much of the coursework can be completed online, but some schools may require a certain number of in-person meetings for collaborative projects. Many online MBA programs are offered as a cohort, so students have the benefit of learning alongside the same group of peers from beginning to end. Online students communicate regularly with peers and instructors via Skype, email and live chat, ensuring that the online MBA degree matches the rigorous standards of the traditional on-campus program.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

Name: BROOKE P.

Degree: MASTER’S OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

Mode: Online

What has been the biggest benefit of distance learning at your college?

The biggest benefit of distance learning would be the ease of communication and scheduling. Last semester I was working full-time and attending school full-time, so finding time to attend class was quite a challenge. Being able to submit assignments within larger time frames and communicating to other students within my class at any time was of great value.

What role has technology played in your online program and courses?

Since most of the programs are online, we use several different technologies to assist in our learning experience. The most prominent of these would be Blackboard. It’s a central location for all schedules, assignments, emails and grades. Another would be ProctorU. This is a test proctoring site that uses live proctors to enforce honest testing and eliminates unfair advantages that may come into play for online settings.

How does your online program help prepare you for a career after graduation?

I truly feel that online programs simulate real-life experiences. Teachers and peers are always available to help just as they would be in the classroom, but the individual must take initiative to seek assistance. Email and conference calls are tools that are used heavily in online learning as well as in the work force. Most of the programs require a lot of motivation on the individual’s part to keep up with the work, without having an instructor or peers to remind them. I think these are values that are important to grasp but are difficult to learn.

Online MBA Degree Curriculum

MBA coursework varies by degree program, school and business specialization. Students should evaluate prospective schools with an eye toward their career objectives. Academic and career planning advisers can aid in the search for the appropriate school and degree. Here is a sampling of the kinds of courses offered in each of the online MBA degree specializations:

COURSE NAME overview
Entrepreneurship Focuses on the factors of launching a successful business, including tax laws, venture capital, business plans, human resources and marketing.
Supply Chain Management Explores the inter-connectedness of strategic project planning, business analysis, change management and logistics.
Accounting for Managers Reviews the principles of auditing and assessment, projections, taxation and reporting.
Technology Management Provides an understanding the information backbone and systems that support enterprise-level transactions, with an emphasis on data security.

Career Certifications after the Online MBA Degree

After completing their MBA, managers seeking career advancement may return to school to prepare for certification exams. Voluntary certifications, particularly in project management, highlight specialized skills in a specific business niche. Requirements vary by each certifying organization, and may include extensive management experience in addition to the completion of a graduate degree. Below are three popular management certifications:

There are other professional certifications for MBA holders to explore, including:

  • Certified Benefits Professional (CBP)
  • Certified Energy Manager (CEM)
  • Certified Compensation Professional (CCP)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP)
  • Certified MBA (CMBA)
  • Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
  • Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
  • Certified Marketing Executive (CME)
  • Global Remuneration Professional (GRP)
  • Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (CRCM)

What Can You Do With an Online MBA Degree?

The Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree has become a preferred college credential among recruiters for management roles. Management and leadership professionals with MBA degrees hold key positions in corporate, non-profit and governmental organizations. Some take mid-management roles within large organizations, directing departments in human resources, finance, information technology, marketing communications, supply chain, change management and planning.

The wide variety of fields that hire MBA graduates is matched by the multiplicity of business administration programs available in full-time, part-time, executive and online formats. The selection of accredited business schools, colleges and universities offering MBA programs allows students to enroll in a program that seamlessly plugs into the hectic realities of working lives, family commitments and checkbooks. Below are some solid career options for those who have earned a degree from an online MBA school:

Featured Careers

  • Compensation/Benefits Managers

    Compensation and benefits managers oversee a company’s benefits policies and advise on compensation rates. They are charged with either designing new policies or modifying existing ones so that the company remains up-to-date and compliant with legal requirements, and also competitive with the rest of the business world. These managers also fulfill written requirements requested by the government, for example, reports on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

    Median Salary: $95,250

    Median Hourly: $45.79

    Est. Growth: 3.1%

    No. Employed: 19,960

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Financial Managers

    A financial manager supervises the financial matters of an organization, and is in charge of maintaining a company’s financial well-being, or at least sustainability. Their duties include producing financial reports, choosing investment plans, and developing strategies and plans for the long-term success of an organization or company. Though they are found in many industries, financial managers play very significant roles in banking and insurance.

    Median Salary: $109,740

    Median Hourly: $52.76

    Est. Growth: 8.9%

    No. Employed: 484,910

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • General/Operations Managers

    General and operations managers are responsible for activities related to making products, providing services, and the marketing of either (or both). They work directly with pricing, distribution, production, and sales. These managers use financial and sales statistics to maximize productivity and implement cost reductions. Their daily tasks involve managing a team or staff, overseeing work schedules, delegating tasks, and sometimes hiring new employees.

    Median Salary: $95,440

    Median Hourly: $45.88

    Est. Growth: 12.4%

    No. Employed: 1,899,460

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Human Resources Managers

    Human resources managers are in charge of an organization’s administrative functions. In general, HR managers act as the intermediary between management and staff and ensure that an organization utilizes and retains employee talent. Most people know them for their role in recruiting, interviewing, and advising new and existing employees; but they also have other important responsibilities. For instance, they advise executives and policy-makers, handle the filing of employee complaints and other staffing issues, and take care of certain tasks related to benefits and compensation.

    Median Salary: $99,720

    Median Hourly: $47.94

    Est. Growth: 13.2%

    No. Employed: 98,020

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Industrial Production Managers

    Similar to general managers, industrial production managers oversee the operations of industrial and manufacturing plants. Large-scale factories have different needs and processes than smaller plants and, therefore, need a specialized manager. Industrial production managers plan, coordinate, and direct the activities involved in mass-producing goods, from automobiles to paper products.

    Median Salary: $89,190

    Median Hourly: $42.88

    Est. Growth: -2.4%

    No. Employed: 160,550

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Management Analysts

    Also known as management consultants, management analysts review an organization’s structure, policies, and operations, then develop methods for improving efficiency. Management analysts can be called upon to increase a company’s profits by pinpointing areas to reduce costs or optimize time usage. These consultants often handle more than one client, and many work independently. Earning the designation of Certified Management Consultant (CMC) is recommended.

    Median Salary: $78,600

    Median Hourly: $37.79

    Est. Growth: 18.6%

    No. Employed: 540,440

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Marketing Managers

    Marketing managers are responsible for all of an organization’s marketing and promotion strategies with the goal of maximizing profits, market share, and customer satisfaction. They develop and oversee company marketing policies and programs, analyzing market trends, determining demand for the product or service, monitoring competitor activity, identifying potential customers, and creating and implementing pricing strategies. Marketing managers also work closely with advertising and promotion managers.

    Median Salary: $119,480

    Median Hourly: $57.44

    Est. Growth: 12.7%

    No. Employed: 171,430

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Public Relations/Fundraising Managers

    Public relations and fundraising managers both work with a client’s or an organization’s public image; however, unless the position is combined, their individual duties are quite different. The sole responsibility of a public relations manager is to optimize a client’s public image, using various strategies, depending on specific needs and situations. A fundraising manager, on the other hand, is responsible for developing and overseeing campaigns to bring in donations and other funding sources.

    Median Salary: $95,450

    Median Hourly: $45.89

    Est. Growth: 12.9%

    No. Employed 53,520

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Purchasing Managers

    The role of the purchasing manager is to coordinate the purchasing of all materials, products, and services needed by the organization. Their main duties include managing personnel involved in the buying, selling, and distribution of all materials, as well as representing the organization when negotiating with suppliers. Purchasing managers also develop purchasing strategies, which requires a knowledge of the market and delivery systems, not to mention a thorough understanding of the manufacturing process.

    Median Salary: $100,170

    Median Hourly: $48.16

    Est. Growth: 2.1%

    No. Employed: 69,400

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Sales Managers

    The main role of the sales manager is to direct and oversee the sales staff. This involves setting quotas and territories for team members, and regulating the price schedules and discount rates. Additional duties include training new employees, conducting performance evaluations, reviewing sales statistics and targets, approving budget expenditures, and occasionally handling customer complaints. A sales manager may also advise decision-makers on sales strategies and customer relations.

    Median Salary: $105,260

    Median Hourly: $50.6

    Est. Growth: 8.3%

    No. Employed 344,730

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s