Prospective online MBA students usually have many questions plaguing them before starting a program. What will the program be like? What will an online classroom be like? Will future employers respect my online degree? Will my job prospects widen? Will the program be worth what I put in?
To help put some students at ease, we are asking online MBA graduates some of those important questions in order to give perspective on the flip side.
Richard McNeal recently graduated in 2015 with an MBA in Management from Marylhurst University. Marylhurst is a four-year, private, nonprofit university that was founded in 1893 and is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Marylhurst has been offering online degree programs since the mid-1990s. Today, Marylhurst offers an accelerated, 100% online MBA with concentrations in General Management, Finance, Marketing, and Nonprofit Management, as well as an MBA in Health Care Management, an MBA in Real Estate, and an MBA in Sustainable Business.
OnlineMBAToday: Overall, how satisfied are you with your online MBA education?
Richard: I am satisfied with my online education.
OnlineMBAToday: What do you wish you had known before you started your program that you know now?
Richard: The online experience is distinctly different from the classroom setting in many ways. For example, the online classroom tends to favor those students who possess above average writing skills because essentially all communication is written, not to mention assignments. Also, online programs require more developed time management and organization skills — you have to be disciplined to be successful.
OnlineMBAToday: What was your experience in the job market after graduating? Did employers show any reservations about the fact that you earned your MBA online rather than on-campus?
Richard: In my experience, employers didn't even inquire about whether my degree was earned online or on campus. They only seemed interested in the school's reputation and the fact that I had a degree.
OnlineMBAToday: What advice would you give to a prospective student trying to decide on a program?
Richard: There's nothing wrong with getting an online education — it just comes down to your preference of experience. In online environments you tend to be isolated from your peers and professors, and no amount of email or forum discussions can replace in-person interactions despite what a school representative might tell you. If you work well independently, you'll do just fine. If you tend to function better in team environments or thrive on personal interaction, consider a program with an in-class component.
OnlineMBAToday: How positive of an impact do you believe obtaining your degree from this program will have on your career in the immediate future? Long term?
Richard: Well, obtaining my degree certainly didn't hurt, but it probably won't have a measurable impact on my immediate future because I'm content with my career at the moment; however, I do believe it will open doors should I choose to pursue other opportunities in the future.
It is important to understand the construct of an online classroom. While virtual communication is not new to our daily lives, it might be new to you in an educational environment. Take an evaluation on how you best work. Are you able to stay motivated and disciplined by your self? Do you need personal face-to-face interaction? It is important to consider all the factors and decide if an online education is a good fit for you.
Writing. Writing is going to permeate your education whether you are in an on-campus program or online. But in an online forum, even your "classroom" is done in writing and you cannot lean on your presence in the classroom to get you by. If writing is a strength of yours, lean into that. If writing is not a strength, work on it. It will be a skill that you will always use, so it will be worth the effort you put into it.
Possibilities and open doors. This degree can provide possible options in the future. No one wants to be in a situation with no options. If you are happy where your career is, this degree can still provide knowledge and skills to be used in your current job like communications skills and learning how to read financial documents. But the fact that this degree can give you options to pursue other things in the future, is worth the time and commitment now.