Demand for Online MBAs is On the Rise According to Reports

By  //  March 25, 2020

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Online MBA demand started a strong upward trend in 2015. The Graduate Management Admissions Council reported a seven percent increase in online MBAs in 2016.

Online MBA demand started a strong upward trend in 2015. The Graduate Management Admissions Council reported a seven percent increase in online MBAs in 2016.

Schools rapidly started to add online MBA programs at that time.

Demand for online MBAs is still on the rise according to various reports. Let’s look at the latest data before addressing the factors driving this trend. We’ll also look at the future of online MBA programs.

The Data Coming from Reports

In 2017, roughly half of all online MBA programs saw enrollment increases. Applications for online MBAs hit 50 percent that same year, while some schools saw applications for online programs go up by a third, year over year. 

This is notable because it is happening at the same time that traditional MBA program enrollment is on the decline. Online programs likely have a strong future, because those considering online MBA programs are on the rise.

For example, a third of prospective MBA students said they’d consider an online program in 2015. Several years later, it was nearly fifty percent. This does raise the possibility that online MBA programs are cannibalizing residential programs.

The Reasons Why Demand for Online MBAs Is Soaring

Demand for online MBAs is creating a feedback loop. Students want to take MBA courses online, and that is resulting in more schools adding or expanding their online MBA programs.

With more online MBA slots, more students are able to sign up for it. The main reasons cited by students for taking online MBAs are:

  • The ability to take classes at famous schools without travel
  • Lower overall costs
  • Greater schedule flexibility
  • Ability to access a wide range of programs and specializations
  • Broad recognition of the online MBA as just as good

Online MBAs are not always cheaper than residential programs and some schools intentionally charge the same tuition for online courses as ones taken in the brick and mortar buildings.

However, students don’t have to quit their jobs and move across the country to earn an MBA from a well-known business school. 

And being able to get a master of business administration completely online saves students money in many ways. You’re not driving to and from school. You may not have to hire a babysitter to watch the kids. You don’t have to pay gas, tolls or parking fees.

Demand for online MBAs is also growing because employers are increasingly accepting them. This is why job placement for MBAs jumped from 40 percent to 60 percent in just a few years.

In some cases, completing an online degree creates the tech-savvy employee with business skills that employers want.

Why the Number of Online MBA Programs Is Growing

The number of accredited MBA schools offering online programs grew by 54 percent between 2013 and 2017. The number of accredited MBA programs increased by only 44 percent in that same time period.

The reasons schools are adding online MBAs include:

  • The ability to serve more students without more infrastructure
  • Higher profit margin per student
  • A greater ability to serve international students
  • Demand for on-campus programs is declining
  • An increased ability to meet the demand for part-time, accelerated and specialist programs

All of this explains why just over a third of business schools accredited by the AACSB offered online programs when last surveyed. Five years prior, that number was twenty percent. Furthermore, as the public gets accustomed to online education, fewer students will be willing to drive to campus to listen to a lecture when they can earn an equally valid degree online. 

Additionally, the ability to continue working while earning a part- or full-time degree online makes the business case for the online MBA. And that’s essential for schools trying to reach working professionals who otherwise couldn’t attend their programs.

Online MBAs Boost Employability

When MBA graduate Amy James was asked why she opted for an online MBA after getting an undergraduate degree and working for a startup, she said, “I was feeling that down the road, I’d have to compete in a marketplace full of graduates with a master’s degree.”

She also stated that her MBA was worth every penny. “I was much more confident when I was looking for a job, as I now had all the qualifications employers could ask for. The MBA made me so much more employable. And it’s the reason why I have my current position.”

Supply and demand for online MBAs is in a self-reinforcing cycle. While traditional brick and mortar schools won’t disappear, we’re approaching the point where very few MBA students actually visit the campus.