Many IT pros who want to earn a master’s of business administration (MBA) degree simply don’t have the time needed to complete courses and requirements demanded by a typical graduate school.

If you fall into that category, there is an alternative. Earning an MBA online might be the answer.

Whether through a public, private, or a strictly online institution, an online MBA program is a viable way to earn the degree. And many online programs offer elective classes with an IT focus, allowing you to couple an MBA with your IT experience.

Benefits of online learning
Online programs accommodate working adults by offering flexible schedules, online study groups, and one-on-one chat sessions with professors.

“You can attend at two in the morning or you can attend at noon…. Whatever you need to do,” said Heather C. Miller, Director of the Office of Graduate Programs for the  Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The programs at the University of Massachusetts and some other schools don’t require students to ever be on an actual campus. Others, such as the Georgia WebMBA online program, require students to travel to the campus to attend an orientation seminar.

Online MBA programs also allow you to take classes at your own pace. “If you take two classes, spring, summer and fall, you can get through it in 20 months. You can slow it down by just taking one class each semester, which would take you four years. You can speed it up if you want,” said Miller.

Joe Bocchi, the director of Georgia WebMBA, said the online MBA program is popular among working professionals because it mimics a medium they know. “Most of these people spend hours and hours online,” said Bocchi. “They want facility, convenience, everything they are used to in the online environment. They want a program that emulates how they live and work,” he added.

The Georgia WebMBA program is a collaboration of five Georgia institutions. “It’s just very unique and very ‘with it’ when you look at the collaborative nature and how five universities can come together and pool their resources and reach every corner of Georgia,” said Bocchi, who added that the program is “better suited for in-state students” but is open to and utilized by students living outside the state.

Some pitfalls to consider
Online classes are not for everyone. Some students will prefer more traditional settings, while others will excel using online learning programs. Depending on your financial and personal situation, however, online classes may be your best option.

“The majority of our population in our MBA professional program [is] working adults. They are holding down full-time jobs, working with families, having their own families. That is why the program is self-paced, so that people can gear it to what fits into their schedule,” said Miller.

If you did not complete an undergraduate degree in business or a related field, you may have to take some prerequisite courses. To be admitted into the Georgia WebMBA program, applicants must complete courses that cover the foundations of business.

The University of Massachusetts offers a “Foundations of Business” course, a concentrated summer seminar for students without an undergraduate degree in business or with little business experience. This course is also offered online.

Online students are responsible for their own computer equipment. Technical requirements for online courses are fairly standard. A typical requirement list might be:

  • Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP or MacOS 8.1-9.1 or OSX/10.1
  • 64 or 128 MB RAM
  • 3-GB hard drive or better
  • 56.6-Kbps modem
  • A sound card, video card, and speakers
  • 1024 x 768 or greater monitor and video card
  • Internet Explorer 5.0 and later or Netscape Communicator 4.77 and later
  • RealPlayer 8 Basic Player or Macromedia Flash Player

You’ll also need a Java-capable browser, an e-mail account, and a printer. Many programs also require students to use their own technology to connect to the school’s network, their school account, professors, and other students.

A look at three typical online MBA programs
There are numerous online MBA programs. Here are details on three of them.

The University of Massachusetts online program
Isenberg School of Management  (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
Graduate Programs
209 Isenberg School of Management
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

The MBA program requires 37 credit hours that represent a combination of core and elective courses. Up to six credits may be taken as a nondegree student and transferred in later. This option allows you to sample the program without being officially accepted. “You can take two classes as a nondegree student prior to being matriculated into the MBA program, or up to six credits, typically. You have to have a (grade) B or better,” said Miller.

Potential students must have an undergraduate degree, take the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT), and have a minimum of three years of significant work experience.

All courses are taught by Isenberg School of Management graduate faculty, all of whom have achieved the highest degree in their field.

The current cost per credit hour is $600. With 37 credits required, the total is $22,200. (The price does not include admission or graduation fees or the cost of books and other research materials.)

The Georgia WebMBA program
Georgia WebMBA
Fax: 404-685-2736
Online inquiry form

This program is a consortium of five state institutions: Georgia College & State University,  Georgia Southern University,  Kennesaw State University,  State University of West Georgia, and Valdosta State University.

The 10-course program includes a one-credit orientation course that is held during a two-day period at the campus of one of the participating institutions. Attendance at the orientation is mandatory.

This program does not follow a “go at your own pace” style. Students are encouraged to take two courses a term. This allows cohorts of students to move through the program together.

Students can apply to the school of their choice, and their hours and their completed degree will be registered with the school they apply to.

Potential students must complete the GMAT and an undergraduate degree and must have two years of professional work experience.

The program charges by the course, not the credit hour. Current prices are $750 per course for Georgia residents and $3,000 per course for students living outside Georgia. This total cost is $7,500 and $30,000 for residents and nonresidents, respectively.

The University of Phoenix Online
University of Phoenix Online
3157 E. Elwood Street
Phoenix AZ 85034

Completion of the MBA program requires 51 credit hours. Courses average three credits, run for six weeks, and are taken online one at a time. Courses cover many areas of emphasis, including e-business, information systems, technology management, and accounting.

Potential graduate students must be employed and have a minimum of three years of relative work experience. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. They must also have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average of no less than 2.5.

The University of Phoenix maintains 35 campuses and 72 learning centers in the United Sates, Puerto Rico, and British Columbia, Canada.

The cost per credit hour is $505. With 51 credits required, the total is $25,755.

Share your experience

Have you taken online graduate-level classes? If so, tell us about it. Were they effective? A good value to you in your IT career? Drop us a line and let us know.