Raise Your Career Ante with an Online MBA Degree

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Never mind the federal omnibus spending bill—tough economic times call for personal stimulus plans. The recent downturn has caused many to seek online business degrees in order to achieve their education goals, fulfill new career objectives and increase earning potential.

Nothing raises that earnings potential bar more than an MBA degree (even when earned through a part-time program). According to Salary.com’s Salary Wizard, the median salary for a portfolio manager is $107,614, while a marketing director’s is $140,768. While the cost of an MBA can range from $80,000 to $130,000 for a two-year program, keep in mind that online offerings allow students the flexibility to maintain a full-time job, which offsets some of the cost.

Students Demand Online Undergrad & Graduate Programs

The student demand, while lower than that for online undergraduate programs, is certainly there. In their study, "Staying the Course Online Education in the United States, 2008," the Sloan Consortium calculated that 14% of all students taking online courses are pursuing graduate degrees.

Because of the value of and demand for online degree programs, schools are taking notice and increasing online MBA offerings. BusinessWeek tracks the top schools offering online programs through their traditional Business School Rankings & Profiles. Also, eLearners.com lists many programs, broken down by industry type. Finally, Official MBA Guide offers a search form to research online MBA programs by selected criteria.

If the idea of an online business degree seems daunting, there are a number of blogs and distance learning discussion forums that provide the necessary inspiration and encouragement. Here are some places to find other online MBA students that can shed some light on how they feel about the distance learning experience.

Tips & Tools for Online Degrees

Clear Admit Blog is a resource for those concerned with the MBA admissions process.
LinkedIn and other professional networking sites feature excellent contacts that can provide advice on what an online business school has to offer.

The admission program for an online MBA can be difficult, but may not involve all the same requirements as a traditional MBA. While most schools require GMAT or TOEFEL scores, other accredited online programs may accept work experience instead. The requirements of Drexel University’s MBA Anywhere program are typical. Admission involves a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university (GPA of at least 3.0/4.0), official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions attended, a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score of at least 550, a resume, a 500-word essay and two letters of recommendation.

The best source for GMAT information is the test’s official website, MBA.com. This resource allows users to schedule a test appointment and includes free preparation software.

Financing the education can be one of the most difficult hurdles for an online MBA student; however, the Internet has made finding scholarship resources as easy as a few mouse clicks.

Stafford and Perkins Loans

The FAFSA website provides access to Federal Stafford and Perkins loans for graduate-level students. There are two types of Stafford loans:

  • Subsidized Stafford loans – The government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school, during grace periods and during any deferment periods.
  • Unsubsidized Stafford loans – The student is responsible for paying all of the interest that accrues.

Seeking Scholarships

There are a number of websites to look to for scholarships, including:

Colleges, universities and academic departments offer their own in-house scholarships, so it's also wise to check with each school about what programs are available.

Also, Check with your employer. Many organizations offer scholarships or educational assistance because they believe in investing in their workforce.

Lastly, various associations and organizations offer scholarships, including Hispanic Scholarship Fund Finder, the American Association of University Women and the United Negro College Fund.

Having an online business degree is a strategic tool that helps address the challenges of today’s global business environment while boosting an individual’s competitive advantage amongst a shrinking job pool.

An online graduate degree offers the same relevant topics as a regular MBA, including global leadership, decision-making, employment and management relations, marketing, organizational effectiveness, diversity and strategic planning. Even specialized online MBA choices are available, such as accounting, finance, global leadership and e-commerce.

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