Using Rankings To Start Your Online MBA Degree Search

Young professional, searching university websites for online program details

Research your options before you enroll in an online MBA

Rankings Help You Get Started

When you decide to get a master’s degree, determine which degree is best given your career goals.  Like many people, you might consider getting an MBA. This is one of the most popular master’s degrees — in 2015, universities report awarding more than 108,000 MBAs. And if you intend to keep working while you earn this degree, an online MBA is your best choice. But then the hard part begins, because over 470 online MBA programs are in the market today. With so much choice, how will you be sure you find the best program?

This is where ‘rankings’ come in. Several organizations evaluate online master’s degrees and provide rankings, based on various criteria. These organizations include U.S. News & World Reports, Poets & Quants, Online MBA, and many others. Each organization uses a slightly different method to determine their ranking priority for programs. All provide a detailed write-up of the approach they use to calculate their final rankings. So, as a consumer, it’s a good idea to look at how these rankings are determined if you want to use them to help you find the right program.

But They Are Sometimes Frustrating

I work with many universities that find published rankings like these frustrating.  How is the full value of a graduate program summed up into one relative number? It’s just not possible.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the real difference between the number 1 ranked program and the number 5 ranked program?
  • Are rankings organizations using criteria that are most relevant to me?
  • Are rankings organizations focused on what’s most important for my career advancement?
  • Is the ranking organization simply using easy to find data to create a ranking to grab a headline?
  • Or is the ranking more like a university beauty pageant — using superficial criteria rather than those of substance?
  • And most importantly, who can possibly find time to scrutinize all of this information?

What’s Most Important To You?

The Financial Times is a UK-based, English language, newspaper that focuses on economic and business issues.  It recently released its 2017 Online MBA rankings. These include both international and U.S.-based online MBA programs. Interestingly, their ranking is compiled from survey results with institutions and alumni that graduated in 2013. And the data that they publish with their rankings include two key metrics that no other rankings that I know of include.  These are: 1) the average salary of alumni, and 2) the percent increase this salary represents over the salary they made at the time they finished their degree.

So this ranking includes two clear measures of an online MBA program’s return value to students. Let’s take the U.S. programs from the Top 20 and look at their current, specific program characteristics. What does this additional information tell us?

Let’s Take A Closer Look

The table below shows the U.S. online MBA programs’ results from the Financial Times’ ranking.  Thirteen U.S. online MBA programs are ranked among the Top 20. The average salary of alumni and salary increase percentages since graduation for these programs are very attractive! But, what else does this tell you about the programs? Not much. From here, you’ll spend hours researching these programs individually to gather the details you need as you shop for the right program.

Financial Times, 2017 Online MBA Rankings Data
Business school Program Name Rank in 2017 Rank in 2016 Salary today (US$) Salary increase (%)
University of Massachusetts Amherst: Isenberg Isenberg Online MBA 3 9 $159,345 43%
University of Florida: Hough Online MBA 5 3 $124,449 31%
George Washington University Online MBA 6 $156,750 19%
Indiana University: Kelley Kelley Online MBA 7 5 $133,273 32%
Babson College: Olin Babson MBA Blended Learning Programme 8 6 $161,504 23%
Syracuse University: Whitman MBA@Syracuse 10 $138,000 37%
Arizona State University: Carey Carey Online MBA 11 10 $118,043 34%
Northeastern University: D’Amore-McKim Online MBA 13 7 $134,467 21%
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Online MBA 15 12 $110,154 37%
Florida International University: Chapman Corporate MBA 16 13 $95,890 34%
North Carolina State University: Jenkins Jenkins Professional Online MBA 18 $107,730 21%
Colorado State University College of Business Online Professional MBA 19 $127,395 23%
Drexel University: LeBow LeBow Online MBA 20 14 $118,750 21%

How Different Are They?

The next table provides additional details about these programs that are most relevant to online students. These details come from the Online Degree Database. For the sake of brevity, we show only the data for the top ranked program (U Mass Amherst’s Isenberg Online MBA), and the most and least expensive programs (George Washington U & University of Nebraska Lincoln, respectively).  Given how closely each of these are ranked to each other, the differences in the program details are quite surprising:

  • Total tuition across these programs ranges from a low of $28,800 to a high of $89.355. The highest ranked U.S. online MBA at U Mass Amherst is priced very reasonably at $32,175. The remaining nine programs are priced between the high and low programs here.
  • Concentration options in these programs vary widely
  • These selected programs offer waivers for the GMAT test admissions requirement, based on different criteria
Online Degree Database Details
Business school Program Name Concentrations Total Tuition Delivery Modality Admissions Requirements
University of Massachusetts Amherst: Isenberg Isenberg Online MBA Finance, Health Care Administration, Marketing, Sports Management, Entrepreneurship $32,175 Online GMAT, Essays, Letters of Recommendation, Resume, $75 Application fee. GMAT waiver – Master’s Degree from a US accredited institution with an overall GPA of 3.5 or above and 5+ years’ work experience or Doctoral Degree (JD, MD/DO, PharmD, PhD, or for foreign medical graduates with an ECFMG or Fifth Pathway) or minimum of 10+ years post undergraduate professional work experience, overall undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher, leadership and supervisory experience
George Washington University Online MBA Finance, Information Systems and Technology Management, Management Consulting, Project Management $89,355 Online GMAT, Essays, Letters of  Recommendation, Resume. GMAT waiver – May be waived for applicants with seven (7) or more years of professional work experience.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Online MBA Business Analytics, Finance, International Business, Marketing, Supply Chain Management $28,800 Online GMAT, Minimum GMAT of 600 recommended, Minimum GPA of 3.0 recommended, Minimum Work Experience of two years recommended, $50 Application Fee. GMAT Waiver – Ph.D., JD, MD or Pharm D, or are currently enrolled in medical school,  7 or more years of significant managerial, operational or decision making experience and an acceptable undergraduate GPA.

It Pays To Do Your Research

The detail above demonstrates how important it is to do your research BEFORE you enroll in an online MBA. There are significant differences in what you’ll pay, the concentrations you can choose, and the admissions requirements, across even very highly ranked programs.  And these three examples prove that you can find a online program that meets your specific needs without sacrificing quality!

Gathering detailed online degree program information takes hours, if not weeks, of time scanning university websites. This is why the Online Degree Database exists. It is the only comprehensive, unbiased, source of online degree program data available in the market today. We collect details from university websites for the universe of most popular online master’s degrees like the MBA, MPA, MPH, MHA, MSW, MSN and more. Our interactive tool allows you to work with the degree information in the database to find the best online programs using the criteria that are important to you. Plus, we give you helpful tips for how to talk with online program advisers and prepared reports for the most population master’s degrees. Visit our website today to see what we have to offer. Let us do the heavy-lifting on web-surfing university program websites for you!

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