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What Makes Your Online MBA Most Valuable? The Answer May Surprise You

Nov 14, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

How do hiring managers perceive different online MBA’s—and how do they see them as compared to an MBA earned the traditional way? A recent study by researchers from Walden University and the American Public University System* delves into this topic, identifying what qualities can make a difference in the perception of hiring managers—and how colleges can use this information to tailor their online MBA programs to become more valuable in the marketplace. Here are a few of their conclusions.

Not all MBA’s are created equally

The researchers interviewed 20 hiring managers, and a larger percentage indicated that they believed not all MBA’s were of equal value. The numbers, however, were less in favor of this answer than you’d think. The respondents were split almost fifty-fifty, with 9 answering that they believed all MBA’s do have approximately equivalent value, and 11 answering in the negative.

See Also: Online Business Degrees

Work experience matters, too

Out of the 11 respondents who felt that all MBA’s were not equal, five indicated that they felt work experience occurring between the Bachelor’s and MBA contributed significantly to an MBA’s value. This indicates that it’s not always the best choice to earn your MBA directly after your Bachelor’s—and a little time in the workforce can pay off. 

Your school’s name matters

It’s a cruel fact of the marketplace—an MBA from Wharton or Harvard will always carry more weight than one from a little-known school.

The most valuable MBA’s teach certain skills

The skills most highly regarded by hiring managers included the ability to hear and understand different points of view, work in a team, and interact positively with others. Hands-on, real-world scenarios and projects were also indicated as being important. This could be a factor of worry for those with distance learning MBA’s, as the perception is often that students in online programs have less opportunity for peer interaction, group work, and real-world projects.

Specialties make a difference

Other participants mentioned the importance of the student’s final thesis and the specificity of the major as being important. These days, MBA programs can be quite focused—and a traditional, nonfocused MBA may be seen as too general in many industries.

The verdict was split on online MBA programs

Of the 20 people interviewed, ten said that they believed traditional and online MBA’s to be of equal value. The other half favored traditional MBA’s. The reasons that they gave included a belief that students in online MBA programs did not get the same opportunities to participate in class discussions and work in teams; others believed that those with traditional MBA’s showed more commitment to their studies.

Not much difference between nonprofit and for-profit school

None of the hiring managers indicated that they cared whether an MBA was earned at a nonprofit or for-profit school. The near-unanimous verdict was that as long as the school was properly accredited, it did not matter to them whether or not it was for-profit or nonprofit.

This study can do a lot to influence the way MBA programs are administered online—specifically to ensure plenty of opportunity for interaction, group work, and hands-on application of content to real life business scenarios. If you’re looking for an online MBA program, you may face some bias from hiring managers who believe your training does not prepare you with the interactive and interpersonal skills needed in business environments. However, if you choose an online MBA program that specifically emphasizes these skills and provides plenty of opportunity for interaction and group work, it may help you in your job search and in your career.


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