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Is Getting an Online MBA Worth It?

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In 2019, The World Economic Forum shared a troubling study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A full year before a full-blown pandemic gripped the global economy, we learned that while average hourly earnings peaked, real hourly earnings (adjusted for inflation) for production and nonsupervisory employees - in a span of almost 50 years - hadn’t moved.

Even the global elite at Davos were starting to raise alarm bells. Now add a job market atrophy following the pandemic response, mix with longer hours for star individual contributors and middle managers at companies, add a dash of burnout and we have the recipe for some serious economic uncertainty. In a down labor economy with a strong stock market, how should we be thinking about spending our time, our money and our resources?

Which leads us to an MBA. The MBA is one of the more popular, high ROI degree programs pursued by high achievers looking for long-term value. And now due to the pandemic, many schools are attempting to follow the example that The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business set for its students: an online MBA program that provides a rigorous academic standard, the needed flexibility to work their current job, ensure the safety of family and friends during the pandemic, and provide a competitive advantage in a struggling labor economy.

Considering the investment and the commitment, applicants will always ask themselves the most important question: Is getting an online MBA worth it?

Evaluating the ROI of an Online MBA

When considering the true cost of an online MBA program, we have to start with the ROI on the time and tuition invested. First, an online MBA grants the same diploma as an on-ground MBA. Tuition costs for on-ground and online MBA programs are comparable nationally - factoring in tuition and scholarships - and the average MBA student is looking to realize the ROI of the degree long term.

Millennials see the ROI of an MBA program as particularly important, and it’s not hard to understand why: They are the first generation to earn less than their parents. Many of the prospective MBA students are exploring business school for a variety of reasons, but here are some of the common reasons people seek out a degree program with a potentially substantial ROI:

They feel they’ve hit a salary or career ceiling. Some prospective MBA students see their career as a working professional in danger of hitting a plateau. They’ve explored a graduate degree to look for career advancement in their own company or unlocking networking opportunities to make the jump to other fields or disciplines. Since the core benefits offered to traditional MBA students and online MBA students are the same, they see the online MBA program as a flexible way to remain in the workforce and maximize their opportunity to advance. They feel they didn’t have to make the tradeoffs of a traditional MBA.

Transitioned out of job. Whether due to burnout or positions eliminated during the pandemic, a prospective MBA student sees the online MBA as a way to maximize the value of their time and money, with a particular emphasis on their time. The networking opportunity of an MBA alone is attractive to these high achievers, who are already naturally inclined to doing a cost-benefit analysis of their time spent on different activities. Online learning opportunities like an MBA are there for these students to take advantage of in a transitional moment.

Macroeconomic effects of median wage earnings. While the WEF reported on the wage stagnation that individual contributors have been facing since 1970, it’s even harder for workers than previously imagined. Quartz reports that only a fraction of millennials are in better financial positions than their parents were at the same age, and it’s affecting homeownership and the future of their families. It’s no wonder students are looking for an edge with an MBA program, and why eventual MBA students are looking for the most optimal ROI on their master’s degree tuition.

Earning an Online MBA

At this point you’ve decided to attend an MBA program, made the calculations on investing in the degree, and are looking at the benefits of an online MBA and a traditional MBA. Perhaps you’ve taken the process a step further and looked into financial aid, researched an mba salary and calculated the time it would take to complete an online mba as a working professional.

Outside of some of the regular questions on cost / tuition, the amount of students in your incoming cohort, and the curriculum, there are three recognizable but sometimes underappreciated things to inquire about when considering an online MBA:

  • How long does it take to get an online MBA?

    It depends on the program, but the most flexible MBA programs offer online learning to complete your core courses while remaining in your job as a working professional. The University of Tulsa’s online MBA, for example, allows you to finish in up to 24 months with a part-time MBA. Other programs have different timelines and credit expectations.

  • Do MBA programs offer specialties?

    Yes. Some schools have options for an MBA specialization that may be attractive in their current role or making a transition to a new one. At Tulsa we have an MBA curriculum that provides the option for a traditional MBA, and also a track to receive an MBA in energy, a field that couldn’t be more in-demand following the climate challenges facing the region in 2021. The need for well-trained leaders in the energy vertical has never been higher, and TU is 1 of 3 institutions to offer an MBA with an energy focus in the country.

  • How do you evaluate the potential benefits of an online MBA?

    Everyone’s situations and paths are different, however, Tulsa’s online MBA program is an attractive landing place for the prospective MBA student considering The University of Tulsa as a destination for their business degree. The earning potential of the degree certainly is a motivator. For example, the average salary increase after a student completes their online MBA is 39% one year after graduating.

    In a year of uncertain stock market futures and companies whose valuations rose and fell just as quickly, a prospective online student may also be asking him or herself about the market for students graduating with an online MBA. TU reported a 100% job placement rate for students completing the MBA program and continues to source industries with students that are well-prepared to lead domestic and global companies. Business school remains a good investment for the student and the hiring managers alike.

An Online MBA that delivers on its promise

An MBA is transformational beyond the career and salary benefits we discussed, and many students - particularly millennials and Gen Z - understand the uphill climb they’re facing in the workforce. If you’re imagining yourself as an MBA graduate, looking for personal and professional growth opportunity, hungry to learn business frameworks taught in core courses that help future C-Suite executives quickly identify and solve complex challenges and the tools to compete in a hyper-competitive world, the potential of the degree is understandably attractive.

So is an online MBA worth it? It is at The University of Tulsa. We feature a strong alumni network, the highest job placement rate in the state for our MBA students, And an unparalleled experience for an online student looking to take the next step in their career.

Click to learn more about the online MBA at TU.

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