Online MBA vs Traditional; Pros, Cons, Employer Outlook

An MBA will change your career—and your life—for the better. 

You can leverage it to achieve promotions, a wealth of new job opportunities, a paradigm-shifting career change, or an increase in salary. For others, an MBA is a springboard for their entrepreneurial efforts.

But choosing the right one is key.

There are a lot of options. Sifting through them is overwhelming. Especially as exciting new options emerge.

The most exciting new option is a fully Online MBA. 

While an online MBA often sounds attractive to students in our increasingly flexible, digital-first, and remote-friendly workplace, many business professionals wonder if it’s a smart choice. 

Will potential employers take my online degree seriously?

Do traditional MBA’s actually offer more networking opportunities?

We’ll clear up some common myths and misconceptions in this article. 

To help you decide between a brick-and-mortar business school and an online MBA, we’ll go through some of the main differences between the two. From cost comparisons and admissions requirements to employers’ opinions of each one. 

We will also introduce you to Quantic’s innovative free online MBA program and online Executive MBA program. More specifically, how they overcome any concerns you may currently have.

Online MBA vs Traditional (On Campus) MBA – What’s the difference?

When it comes to an MBA program, many potential graduate business students think of a traditional, on-campus MBA at a brick-and-mortar school. There are over 1,000 MBA programs in the United States. Some are full-time, while others are part-time, often offering classes on nights and weekends.

But, just like the world of business itself, MBA programs are changing rapidly. There are now over 330 online MBAs offered in the U.S. Many of these programs are affiliated with long-standing, top-tier business schools, while others are completely digital degrees that approach online learning in a variety of ways — some more effective than others. 

There is a clear trend towards online learning. Applications for campus based MBA’s over the last two years fell. While demand is growing for online programs. 

No one knows if this trend will continue. But we do know that we live in an unstable world. One that has already become more digitized after CoVid-19. There are now more remote workers than ever before. MBA’s may continue to follow suit.

Despite their differences there is one big similarity.

All accredited programs are rigorous and intellectually demanding. Period.

Both tend to have similar educational requirements and similar coursework. 

Quantic’s free online MBA program, for example, includes courses in accounting, finance, leadership, marketing, supply chain and operations, data analysis and decision-making, strategy and innovation, economics, and entrepreneurship. 

Meanwhile, Quantic’s online executive MBA (EMBA) program adds additional coursework in operations management, corporate strategy and other areas of study that help working, mid-career professionals level up their leadership skills. These curriculum paths are comparable to those you’ll see at any top-tier business program, whether online or on-campus. 

Ok – now that’s out of the way, let’s dive into some pros and cons…

Online MBA Pros and Cons

As a business professional, you already know the best way to make a tough decision is through a cost-benefit analysis. So let’s examine the pros and cons of getting an online MBA vs. those of an on-campus master’s in business administration degree. 

Online MBA Pros

The biggest reason that many students choose an online MBA is flexibility. Unlike traditional MBA programs, whether full- or part-time, most online graduate business degrees allow you to work on your own time, from anywhere. While some classes may be synchronous, most online MBAs are incredibly flexible. 

This learning environment is ideal for working professionals who don’t want to quit their already lucrative jobs or satisfying careers to bolster their education. It’s also perfect for students with other family responsibilities and obligations, such as spouses and kids.

If you’re an especially ambitious, self-motivated person, you’ll also appreciate the efficiency of an online MBA program. 

Most traditional full-time MBA programs take around two years to complete, while part-time MBA programs take around four years. By contrast, online MBA programs tend to be shorter, ranging from a year to 18 months in many cases. Quantic’s MBA is just 10 months and the EMBA takes 12 months to complete. 

Online MBA programs also tend to be more technology-driven, which in turn can help you develop your own technical acumen and understanding of the digital marketplace. 

For example, Quantic’s interactive software offers interactive feedback every eight seconds and allows you to work at your own pace in a mobile-first online environment. This fluid-yet-structured approach to learning customizes your educational experience as you go along. 

Online MBA Disadvantages

One disadvantage of an online MBA program is a lack of in-person community and connection. Students often benefit from in-person conversations with peers and instructors, whether in terms of academic collaboration or socializing. 

Another common objection to an online MBA is a smaller pool of networking contacts. Most brick-and-mortar graduate business programs offer happy hour networking events, Q&As, and career fairs throughout the year. Many potential online business students worry they might miss out on these crucial opportunities to launch their careers and expand their professional circles.

Quantic’s online MBA addresses this common problem proactively in three ways.

  1. Online network and collaboration 

Students connect with peers around the world via our interactive network. Ambitious, driven people from 80 countries and counting…

You and your cohorts will move along your curriculum sequence together, actively collaborating on group projects, case studies, and assignments as you go.

  1. Offline Events

“Extracurriculars” and social events are also available in Quantic’s MBA. Virtual and in-person meetups, both online and around the world, will allow you to rub shoulders with your classmates, instructors, and established alumni students. 

The Executive MBA also offers multiple weekend-long conferences held in cities around the world. These conferences provide opportunities for students to meet face-to-face with peers during workshops, case studies, and meetings with local business leaders. Recent conferences were held in Washington, DC, Dublin, and Singapore. 

Here’s what one looks like…

  1. Career Network

You get access to a built-in Career Network. Top-tier employers use it to recruit our students and alumni. It serves as a career hub for graduates. MBA grads’ profiles stay active, so employers can browse alumni profiles whether they’re already employed or not. 

Here are a few of the companies our grads work at…

Traditional On-Campus MBA Pros

Traditional on-campus MBA programs often appeal to students who need or want a little more structure and hands-on guidance. Students just out of an undergraduate business program, for example, might prefer the additional in-person attention offered by a brick-and-mortar school, as well as the familiar daily routine of face-to-face classes. 

Brick-and-mortar business schools also have the opportunity to offer more bells and whistles when it comes to activities, facilities, and clubs. If you love the idea of getting together with your cohorts every week for dinner, for example, or catching up with your colleagues at the on-campus gym, the community of an on-campus environment might be more your style when selecting an MBA program. 

Traditional On-Campus MBA Disadvantages

Of course, the most significant disadvantage of on-campus MBA programs is the lack of flexibility. 

If you have a family at home, existing business obligations, or a burgeoning career, it can be difficult to justify starting a full-time MBA program. Even part-time MBA programs can be draining, as you’ll have to work your schedule around theirs (not the other way around) and possibly take on a frustrating commute.

On-campus MBA programs often also lack the cultural and demographic diversity of online programs. On-campus MBA students tend to be younger on average, for example, and there aren’t as many international students at any given on-campus program. 

Working alongside and learning from diverse colleagues can help you build your cultural competency, leadership, and collaboration skills. It can also position you to take on an increasingly global marketplace with more confidence and finesse.

Online MBA vs Traditional MBA Comparison (table)

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of how an on-campus MBA program differs from an online MBA with a point-by-point comparison of typical student demographics, average tuition cost, average salary growth after graduation, and more. 

Online
MBA
Other Top Programs

Traditional
MBA
Other Top Programs
Quantic 
Programs
Sources
Avg Age on Entry 33 27 30 US NEWS
Avg Years Work Experience 8 4 4 US NEWS
Avg Cost $23,918 average cost at a regionally accredited university
— $36,166 average cost at AACSB online business schools
— $11,972 average cost at nationally accredited online business schools
vary between programs, but roughly the same as online MBA: Free
EMBA: $9,600
GETEDUCATED.COM
Princeton
Review
Avg Time to Complete 1-2 years 1-3 years 1 year PRINCETON REVIEW
Avg Salary Growth 22% 23% US NEWS
% Requiring GMAT/GRE Score 54.6% 94% US NEWS

Cost

Online and traditional MBA programs vary widely, but usually they are broadly comparable. A nationally accredited online business school usually costs around $11,972 per year, while AACSB online business schools cost around $36,166 in annual tuition. 

Due to Quantic’s “flipped” tuition model, free online MBA students don’t pay to be recruited by potential employers. Instead, employers pay to recruit them. Meanwhile, Quantic’s executive MBA cost comes in at just $9,600, with employee reimbursement and scholarship options available. 

Completion Time

Traditional MBA programs, as we described earlier, take around two years to complete. Accelerated programs may take 18 months or even a year, while some programs take up to three years. Part-time programs may take four or more years to complete.

Many online programs take slightly less time to complete than on-campus programs, making them a more efficient choice in many cases if you want to get the ball rolling on your business career faster. Quantic’s free online MBA and EMBA programs take 10 and 12 months to complete, respectively. 

Average Salary Growth 

Average salary growth for both traditional and online MBA students varies widely. Still, it’s clear that the available data suggests that online MBA students tend to see a substantial return on their investment. 

Online MBA students report an average of 22% salary increase after graduation (for Quantic it’s 23%).

These salary bumps usually come through a promotion or raise at an existing company, a lateral move to a higher-paying job at the same level, or by taking on a higher position in a new industry. 

Admissions Requirements

One of the main concerns some employers might have about students with an online MBA is that online MBA programs tend to be less selective than traditional ones. 

You might wonder, for example, “Do I need a GMAT for my MBA?” The answer varies by program. Only 54.6% of online graduate business programs require GMAT/GRE scores from applicants. Meanwhile, a whopping 94% of conventional MBA programs require GMAT/GRE scores from their prospective students. 

The requirements for test scores and undergraduate GPAs are also sometimes a little more lax when it comes to online business schools. This contrast can worry some employers, who might think that the lack of selectivity of a school suggests less dedication and rigor in an applicant. 

But Quantic’s free online MBA and its Executive MBA are highly selective, admitting only a small percentage of applicants each year. And around 80% of Quantic’s free online MBA students graduated from top-30 undergraduate institutions (including Harvard, Duke, Stanford, UPenn, to name a few ..).  

In turn, the program’s selectivity translates into higher completion rates, more engaged (and more impressive) colleagues and network contacts, and higher perceived value by employers. 

What do Employers Think of an Online MBA?

Many prospective MBA students think an online MBA sounds like the ideal fit for them in terms of their schedule and learning style. But some worry that employers won’t take an online MBA program seriously. 

Luckily, the available data doesn’t suggest that to be the case. In fact, some employers consider an online MBA to be an asset in that it showcases a student’s independent, autonomous approach to learning and their mastery of technology. 

Kathryn Lee, human resources director for North America at Fiat Chrysler, told Seb Murray at the Financial Times in 2018 that most employers now considered online MBA students to be just as competitive as traditional students. 

“Online MBA students are equally as competitive as those attending classes on campus” 

Lee added that online students’ drive to succeed and excellent time management skills illustrated their ambitious nature and commitment. “They display qualities that are important in people we hire — a strong work ethic, project management and critical thinking skills,” she said of online MBA grads in the same interview. 

According to Jordan Friedman at U.S. News and World Report, many employers think far more about an online business school’s coursework, reputation, and opportunities for student-faculty interaction than about the format in which classes are delivered. That’s why it’s so crucial to ensure the MBA program you choose has ample opportunities for networking, collaboration, and interactive learning.

Many employers who have recruited MBA grads through Quantic’s Career Network see an online MBA from a reputable school as proof an applicant is creative, adaptive, and flexible. 

Greg Buechler, a talent acquisition specialist, shared his thoughts about the value of Quantic’s MBA for employers.

“Quantic has allowed us to hire executive talent from around the world in the shortest time I have ever experienced in my 30 years of recruiting,” he said. “I am almost unwilling to share this gem of a tool!” 

Overall, the higher salaries enjoyed by online MBA grads and the growing demand for online business schools indicates that there’s no shortage of employers who view online business degrees favorably. According to Jonathan Moules at the Financial Times, online business school growth is far outpacing that of traditional MBA programs. As the workplace becomes increasingly digital, higher education in business administration is following suit. 

Summary – Which Degree for Your Career Growth?

Both traditional and online MBA programs can expand your career opportunities substantially. In addition to providing you with the critical thinking skills and key knowledge you’ll need to move up in your existing business career or launch a new one, an MBA program can bolster your confidence as a leader and widen your network of contacts. 

Traditional MBA programs are sometimes preferable for students who require more structure and guidance. Some traditional graduate business programs offer more on-campus facilities and activities. However, they are not as flexible as most online MBA programs, and they tend to attract younger students with less work experience on average.

Meanwhile, online MBA programs like the ones offered at Quantic are best for self-motivated, independent thinkers who work well at their own pace. They can also benefit students who want to complete a graduate business degree faster, who have family or work obligations they can’t interrupt, or who thrive in a flexible, technology-driven learning environment. 
Interested in learning more about how Quantic’s online MBA program can be a game-changer in your business career? Read on to learn how Quantic’s disruptive approach to learning and global scope helped one student become a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient.