Online MBA programs have always existed, but they were never as valuable as going to an actual international B-school. Even though some may argue that going to a B-school allows you to learn much more than you would online, the truth is that some of the top MBA programs in the world are now available online. And we have (sadly) COVID to thank for that!

Ever since the pandemic situation, education has largely moved online. This means two things for the MBA world:

  1. A lot of students will now be attending their full-time MBA classes from their homes, even at the top B-schools.
  2. Regular online MBA programs are being taken much more seriously than before, and are also a lot more accessible than before.

If you are looking to advance your career, but don’t have the time for classroom study, then an online MBA might be the right choice. Or, if your travel plans are simply not possible in the current pandemic situation then an online MBA will ensure you still get that important degree and not waste a year.

Contrary to popular belief, online MBA programs aren’t just a scam created by unaccredited diploma mills! Several online MBA programs are in the list of programs approved by the three major accrediting bodies — AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS. Since the number of online MBA programs is on the rise, it is likely that more top business schools will add online programs.

So, we come to the obvious question –

What are the top online MBA programs in 2021?

Just like regular MBA programs, there are multiple lists you can refer to. Here is a good sum-up of the most trusted lists of online MBA programs in 2021:

Poets&Quants  U.S. News Financial Times QS Princeton Review
1. Indiana (Kelley) 1. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 1. Warwick 1. IE Business School 1. Indiana (Kelley)
10. Santa Clara (Leavey) 10. Lehigh University 10. Australian Graduate School of Management 10. Florida International 10. IE Business School
2. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 1. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 2. IE Business School 2. Imperial College 2. UNC (Kenan-Flagler)
3. Southern California (Marshall) 3. Indiana (Kelley) 3. Imperial College 3. Warwick 3. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
4. George Washington 4. Southern California (Marshall) 4. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 4. Australian Graduate School of Management 4. Florida (Warrington)
5. UNC (Kenan-Flager) 5. Florida (Warrington) 5. Indiana (Kelley) 5. Alliance Manchester 5. Southern California (Marshall)
6. Lehigh University 6. Arizona State (Carey) 6. Florida (Warrington) 6. Politecnico di Milano 6. Rice (Jones)
7. Villanova University 7. Penn State (World Campus_ 7. Durham 7. Indiana (Kelley) 7. Utah (Eccles)
8. Auburn (Harbert) 7. Texas-Dallas (Jindal) 8. Politecnico di Milano 8. Southern California (Marshall) 8. Arizona State (Carey)
9. Washington (Foster) 9. Rice (Jones) 9. Maryland (Smith) 9. Vlerick 9. Babson (Olin)

Most of the schools listed in these ranking offer online students the same MBA curriculum that is taught on campus, and usually from the same faculty. Many of them also offer part-time MBA programs, if you don’t want to quit your job.

How much do online MBA programs cost?

Online MBA come in various shapes and sizes, and thus their costs also vary. But, they are usually much cheaper than the regular top MBA programs.

Here are the average costs of some of the top online MBA programs:

School Total Cost Time To Complete
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) $128,000 32 months
UNC (Kenan-Flagler) $114,048 24-36 months
Maryland (Smith) $83,970 24 months
Syracuse (Whitman) $82,500 24-27 months
Hofstra (Zarb) $76,600 20 months
NC State (Jenkins) $74,465 21-72 months
Rochester Tech $70,000 17 months
Indiana (Kelley) $67,830 24-60 months
Drexel $64,000 24-42 months
Arizona State (Carey) $60,000 21 months
Florida (Hough) $59,807 12-24 months
Louisiana State (Ourso) $46,620 18-27 months
Arizona $45,000 14-48 months

Compare that to the cost of some of the regular MBA programs in the USA:

University Tuition Fees USD INR
Princeton University $53,890 39,22,583
Columbia University $77,376 56,32,098
UCLA  $65,125 47,40,364
Stanford $57,300 41,70,792
Harvard $73,440 53,42,690

So, some of the top online MBA programs are clearly more cost friendly, and are shorter in length as well. Often the classes will be held at such a time that you don’t even have to quit your job to complete the program. Although, the coursework can be hefty, so be prepared to dedicate a lot of time towards it.

Why get an online MBA in 2021?

Clearly, 2021 is the best time to sign-up for an online MBA program. Whatever your reason may be stopping you from applying to regular MBA programs, getting the same degree online will still stand out in your CV!

Here are a few additional benefits for you to consider:

  • A large number of companies worldwide view an MBA from a top business school as an essential qualification for entry-level management positions, and now they are accepting online MBAs as well.
  • You don’t have to relocate in order to participate in the online MBA program of your choice. This means that you don’t have to pay the travel and boarding costs, and this is a huge benefit to Indian applicants.
  • Many of the services you’d get on-campus (library, career counseling, student clubs etc.) are available online. For example, many of the programs listed here deliver materials before the start of the program and make it so you can access all the materials you need online.
  • An online MBA is one of the most flexible MBA options out there. Since many programs use asynchronous technology, such as message boards and email, you can respond at your own pace. The real-time (aka synchronous) aspects of an online MBA program, such as videoconferencing, can be completed from your home, making it easier to fit an MBA into your schedule since you don’t have to commute.

Is there a downside to online MBA programs?

Many are of the thought that attending an online MBA means you are going to miss out on networking and the added value that a diverse international B-school provides you with. While this may have been true a decade back, with the huge development in technology, students and faculty both are ensuring that no aspect of the MBA experience is held back if you attend the program online.

While the COVID situation is getting better, and you may be able to apply in the next quarter considering international travel is not restricted, an online MBA is still something you should definitely consider in 2021!