Earning a Master's in Business Administration Online

Professionals with MBAs pursue lucrative career opportunities with growth potential. In addition to traditional management careers, employment trends for MBA students show increased opportunities in tech, government, and transportation and logistics services. An online MBA helps professionals stand out in the job market and pursue management-level positions in any industry. This article outlines the salary and job growth potential for professionals with a master's degree. It also explains the MBA admissions process, how to fund an MBA through scholarships, and how to successfully transition from an MBA program into the workforce.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Business Administration?

Many students pursue a master's in business administration online, including recent college graduates looking to expand career prospects and professionals seeking specialized training to advance their career. The flexibility of an online degree appeals to working professionals balancing graduate school with work obligations. Prospective students may also choose a master's program after ruling out a professional certification.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Business Administration?

Pursuing Specialization

Many MBA programs offer multiple specializations, including finance, marketing, operations management, and human resources. Graduate students may also specialize in executive leadership, small business administration, or entrepreneurship. By completing a specialized MBA, professionals qualify for advanced positions in their concentration area.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Many professionals pursue an MBA to increase career advancement opportunities. Certain positions and professions require an MBA to move into supervisory or management roles. Some jobs, such as marketing director or HR manager, may only consider candidates with an MBA. By earning a master's in business administration online, professionals increase their competitiveness in the job market.

Online Learning Technology

Graduate students earning an online MBA benefit from advances in online learning technology, including gaining experience with the latest communication technology. In many business fields, knowledge of communication technology helps professionals advance. By building communication technology skills, MBA students further their professional development.

Prerequisites for Online MBA Programs

Many online MBA programs set prerequisites for incoming students. Prospective students can ease their transition into graduate school by choosing a program where they meet the prerequisites.

  • Work Experience: Some programs require or prefer work experience, with many recommending between two and five years of professional experience before applying to the program. Other programs may admit applicants without work experience. Entering a program with professional experience helps students shape their coursework around their career goals.
  • Exams and Test Scores: MBA programs often require GMAT scores as part of the application. GMAT scores remain valid for five years. Business schools may also accept the GRE, and many publish the average test score for admitted students and minimum required test scores online.
  • Coursework: Incoming students may need to complete prerequisite courses before beginning MBA classes. Programs may require undergraduate coursework in statistics, math, economics, finance, or other business fields. In addition to completing specific classes, many programs set a minimum undergraduate GPA for admission, often between 2.5 and 3.0.
  • Recommendations: MBA programs use letters of recommendation to evaluate an applicant's readiness for graduate education and professional qualifications. Applicants may need to supply two to three letters of recommendation from undergraduate professors or professional supervisors. Candidates should give letter writers at least three weeks' notice.
  • Essays: Applicants may need to provide essays or writing samples with the application. Some MBA programs provide an essay prompt, asking applicants to explain how they plan to meet their professional goals by earning a master's in business administration online. Other programs require writing samples to determine a candidate's abilities.
  • Interviews: MBA programs may hold interviews with prospective students to discuss the applicant's background, professional goals, and qualifications. Online programs may schedule online interviews.
  • International Students: International students may need to provide evidence of English language proficiency. Applicants can submit TOEFL scores to demonstrate proficiency. Some programs require translated undergraduate transcripts for students who earned their degree from a university that does not speak English as a first language.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Business Administration?

Earning a graduate degree in business provides opportunities for career advancement and increased salary potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that business and financial operations salaries average between $37,690-$123,000, with many MBA careers offering even higher salaries. MBAs may also pursue nontraditional career opportunities after earning a degree.

Traditional Careers for MBAs

Career Stats Description

Financial Manager

Median Pay: $125,080

Job Growth: 19%

Financial managers, sometimes known as controllers, are the strategy and reporting managers of a company's financial department. These professionals generally work in a full-time, office-based executive position.

Ideal for: Strong number and people managers; those who excel at developing sound financial strategies

Marketing Director

Median Pay: $129,380

Job Growth: 10%

Marketing directors oversee promotional and advertising campaigns, creating marketing strategies, building interest in products or services, and analyzing market research. They often work full time for an advertising or public-relations company.

Ideal for: Strategic thinkers with research and communication skills

Operations Manager

Median Pay: $104,700

Job Growth: 8%

Operations managers create strategies and policies to help a company reach its goals. They oversee the operational activities of an organization and work in nearly every industry. Many work over 40 hours per week.

Ideal for: Professionals with strong decision-making, leadership, and management skills

Human Resources Manager

Median Pay: $110,120

Job Growth: 9%

Working in all industries, human resources managers oversee an organization's administrative functions, including recruitment, hiring, benefits, and employee retention. Most work regular office hours while some travel for work.

Ideal for: Professionals with strong leadership, organizational, and people skills

Non-Traditional Careers for MBAs

Career Stats Description

Architectural Engineering Manager

Median Pay: $137,720

Job Growth: 6%

Architectural and engineering managers design plans, oversee employees, and manage budgets for architectural and engineering projects. Most work full time and many average over 40 hours a week. An undergraduate background in architecture and/or engineering is typically necessary.

Ideal for: Detail-oriented professionals with strong math and analytical abilities

Hospital Administrator

Median Pay: $98,350

Job Growth: 20%

Hospital administrators manage healthcare facilities or practices, designing plans to follow regulations and laws, directing employees, and coordinating health services. They may work in a hospital, nursing home, or group medical practice.

Ideal for: Candidates with a background in healthcare, such as RNs; professionals with leadership and technical skills

Small Business Owner

Median Pay: N/A

Job Growth: 3.6%

Small business owners can run businesses in any industry. These professionals may be incorporated and employ additional workers.

Ideal for: Self-motivated professionals with entrepreneurial and management skills

Fundraising Manager

Median Pay: $111,280

Job Growth: 10%

Fundraising managers oversee campaigns to collect donations, often working for nonprofits or other fundraising organizations. They often work during regular business hours and some work over 40 hours per week.

Ideal for: Professionals with strong speaking and communication skills; organized professionals with leadership abilities

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online MBA

Before applying to online MBA programs, prospective students should research tuition rates, financial aid, and scholarship opportunities. Several factors influence the cost of an MBA, including the length of the program and financial aid packages. An accelerated program may, for example, help students save money by offering a faster graduation timeline. The number of required credits also varies by program and influences cost. Researching grants, scholarships, and other MBA financial aid opportunities can help prospective students limit the cost of a degree.

Tuition Timelines

Online MBA students choose between part-time, full-time, or accelerated schedules. Many programs offer multiple paths to fit each student's needs, including paths for working professionals.

Part-Time Path

Earning an MBA part-time allows students the flexibility to focus their energy on other commitments while also furthering their education. This flexible schedule also means students will be enrolled longer, typically finishing their degree in around three years.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of North Carolina
Total Credits Required: 66
Summary: UNC offers a flexible schedule for MBA students who can complete the degree in 18-36 months.

Full-Time Path

Full-time MBA programs are intensive, and require a student to focus almost completely on their schoolwork. Full-time jobs are not recommended while enrolled in this type of program. Most students can expect to complete their degree in less than two years.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Arizona State University
Total Credits Required: 49
Summary: MBA students finish the degree in 21 months, completing two classes at a time through 5-week classes.

Accelerated Path

Accelerated MBA programs often let students earn their degree in 12-18 months. Programs may require applicants to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of Florida
Total Credits Required: 32
Summary: University of Florida MBA students complete the degree in 16 months and must hold an undergraduate degree in business.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

Students pursuing an online MBA qualify for many scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. These opportunities can provide thousands of dollars toward a graduate degree.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Business Administration Program

Typically, MBA students take one to two years to complete the degree. Graduate students may choose a concentration and complete advanced coursework within their specialization. MBA programs may require a minimum GPA, capstone, or internship to graduate. Every MBA program sets its own curriculum and graduation requirements, so prospective students should research the specific requirements for potential programs.

Major Milestones

  1. Admission Process: Before enrolling

    MBA admission typically requires essays, letters of recommendation, GMAT scores, and transcripts. The process may take several weeks or months.

  2. Coursework: One to two years before graduation

    Beginning MBA students complete coursework, including core classes and electives, according to their program's schedule. Some programs require students to complete the same classes in the same order, while others offer more flexibility.

  3. Internship: Halfway through the program

    Most MBA programs include an internship component, which may occur during the summer term of a two-year MBA or during coursework for accelerated programs. Graduate students work with faculty advisers to choose an internship that provides experience and career advancement opportunities.

  4. Capstone: Semester before graduation

    Some MBA programs require a capstone course, where graduate students apply the knowledge gained during the degree to a final project or real-world business problem.

  5. Apply to Graduate: Semester before graduation

    Many programs require MBA students to file an application indicating they meet the requirements to graduate. Students may need to file an intent-to-graduate form one semester before their anticipated graduation date.


Each MBA program creates its own curriculum, which may vary depending on the student's specialization. However, many offer a version of the following courses.

Problem Solving

MBA students study problem-solving skills in a business management context, with an emphasis on business communications, problem-solving methodologies, and client interactions. The course may include a project focused on a real-world problem.


Many MBA programs include a marketing class for specialists and nonspecialists that covers consumer behavior, marketing research, pricing, and managerial skills for making marketing decisions. The course may also include advanced training in new product strategy and marketing analytics.

Financial Accounting

This course typically covers how to analyze financial data; report cash flow, assets, and liabilities; and manage corporate finance. Students also study financial metrics for analyzing operations and project evaluation.


Courses on entrepreneurship examine the creation and growth of new companies, including developing and managing new ventures. Graduate students explore strategic management, finance, and how to raise capital for entrepreneurial enterprises.

Data Analytics

MBA students learn how to use data and data analytics to make decisions. Students study analytical methods for understanding data and how to extract information from data.

Requirements to Practice

After earning an MBA, professionals may pursue certifications to increase their competitiveness in the job market. While MBAs do not need a state or professional license to practice, a credential such as the certified financial analyst (CFA) or project management professional (PMP), discussed below, may lead to higher salaries. Additionally, many MBA positions require professional experience, which candidates may complete before, during, or after their graduate program.

  • Chartered Financial Analyst - A credential for finance professionals, the CFA offers three levels, which candidates pursue by taking exams offered once or twice a year. Candidates for the exams need a bachelor's degree.
  • Project Management Professional - Offered by the Project Management Institute, this credential recognizes project managers with 4,500 hours of professional experience. Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree and 35 hours of project management education, which an MBA fulfills. The credential requires a four-hour exam covering 200 questions.
  • Certified Public Accountants - An MBA with a specialization in accounting meets the educational requirements to become a CPA. Applicants take a four-part examination, known as the Uniform CPA Exam, in an 18-month period. Each part of the exam takes four hours.
  • Risk Management Professional - The Project Management Institute offers the RMP credential for candidates with a bachelor's degree and 30 hours of risk management education; an online MBA fulfills the education requirement. Applicants complete a 170-question exam and earn continuing-education credits to maintain the credential.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Professional organizations offer networking opportunities, professional development resources, and continuing-education resources. Many organizations host annual conferences, publish research, and offer training material. By joining a professional organization, MBA students benefit from job boards, resume tips, and career counseling. These organizations, along with professional resources, keep MBA students and professionals up to date in their fields.

  • American Management Association: With resources for managers, including seminars, webcasts, and conferences, AMA provides opportunities for professional development and networking. The association also offers a skill assessment tool.
  • Project Management Institute: The largest global organization dedicated to project management, PMI offers several credentials in project management, risk management, and financial management. The institute also offers individual and student memberships.
  • American Finance Association: An organization for finance professionals, AFA publishes a journal, hosts an annual meeting, and offers a career board for job seekers. The association also plans events around the country.
  • Entrepreneurs' Organization: EO connects entrepreneurs worldwide, offering professional development resources and networking opportunities. The organization also provides guidance on planning a new venture and successful entrepreneurship.
  • American Marketing Association: AMA offers publications, resources, and training for marketing professionals. The organization also runs a career page for AMA members.
  • LinkedIn: A professional networking site for all fields, business professionals benefit from the resources offered on LinkedIn, including networking opportunities and job openings.
  • MBA Exchange: A job site for MBA professionals, MBA Exchange offers job openings, information about leadership development programs, and online events to connect job seekers with employers.
  • Harvard Business Review: With articles on business practices, current events, and research, Harvard Business Review offers valuable resources for managers and MBA professionals. The site also includes webinars and videos.
  • Small Business Administration: An agency within the federal government, SBA grants loans and financial support to small businesses. Entrepreneurs may also benefit from SBA resources, which include counseling.
  • MBA Depot: This site offers articles, research, and case studies taken from top scholarly and professional organizations. Visitors also find industry interviews and learning center resources.