Your Guide to Discovering Online Master’s Degrees in Business

So you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree in business, accumulated a little bit of work experience, and now have a solid plan as to what you want to do in life. Setting attainable goals and pursuing them vigorously is commendable – it’s certainly the best way to achieve success.

Despite the doom and gloom you’ve heard in recent years regarding the inefficacy of master’s degrees, the fact remains that those with advanced degrees earn considerably more than those who ended their higher education journey after four years. Just last year, Georgetown University reinforced the point by publishing a report showing that master’s degree holders make $400,000 more over their lifetimes than those with just bachelor’s degrees.

The only question you need to answer before deciding to pursue that master’s degree in business is whether or not it’s practical for you to invest the time, effort, and money. After all, you’re an intelligent person who knows what he or she wants and what it takes to get there. An accredited online program enables you to save time and take classes from the comfort of your home when you’re not busy with work or the kids. The cost of the endeavor can be offset or completely covered with grants, scholarships, and loans, each of which you can find if you look hard enough.

This guide will explore different types of online master’s degrees offered by accredited universities, how to choose the right program, and rankings of the top programs. It should serve as a springboard for research on everything that goes into selecting a business master’s degree program.

What’s Your Expertise?

An advanced degree will enhance your knowledge, expand your skills, and enable you to climb the career ladder in your field. Below are the different master’s in business concentrations, including both traditional and non-traditional programs that are offered by numerous accredited online colleges.

  • Accounting

    Whether the economy is booming or in the doldrums, there will always be a need for accountants, particularly those who are highly trained. Individuals who pursue an accounting master’s degree often have aspirations to become Certified Management Accountants, Certified Public Accountants, and Certified Internal Auditors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors is $61,690. The top 10 percent – those in the most important positions – earn more than $106,880.

  • Business Administration

    Getting a Master of Business Administration has always been the conventional route for those who wish to become an everyday decision maker in a thriving business, participating in the operations of different areas of the business, from accounting to human resources. This means they’re trained in business school to become proficient jacks-of-all-trades in the business world. There are several different types of MBA programs designed to suit your needs, including accelerated, part-time, executive, blended, and dual programs. More specific programs, such as human resource management and health care management, serve to give prospective managers training in growing fields.

    Although the degree has come under fire in recent years as too generalist and impractical, there has been recent good news for those entering the field. The U.S. News & World Report produced an encouraging statistic concerning 2011 graduates: just under 79% of them were hired within three months of completion of their MBA, the best number since before the recession.

  • Business Management

    You can expand your leadership skills with a master’s in business management. Classes such as leadership models and strategy, and change management set it apart from an MBA, which is more geared toward individuals who want to expand their skills in multiple business disciplines. While MBAs are more popular, a master’s in business management serves a unique purpose for those looking to oversee the ascension of a business.

  • Finance

    If you’re looking to advance your career in investment management or as a financial analyst then a master of finance could be the way to go. In addition to focusing on basic topics, such as economics and accounting, students dig deep into corporate finance and investment analysis. Students can gain exposure to theoretical finance with a master’s degree in financial economics, or focus on mathematical methods with a master’s degree in quantitative finance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that financial managers earn a median annual wage of $103,910.

  • Information Systems

    Business information systems are constantly evolving, and it requires a studious, well-trained individual to operate them. Staying educated in the discipline is the only way to advance in the field, which is why you shouldn’t have trouble finding an accredited online master’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual wage for computer and information systems managers is $115,780.

  • International Business

    A degree that can take you around the world, the master of international business broadens your business skills so that you’re equipped for today’s global marketplace. Upon completion, graduates have a thorough understanding of the operations of a business with divisions in multiple countries. Students specialize in international marketing, finance, or human resource management. Modeled after the degree plan of an MBA, it offers many of the skills necessary to thrive in a position of responsibility within a company.

  • Marketing

    Those in the field of marketing can participate in more analytical coursework by pursuing a master’s in marketing. Students study advances methods in building fruitful relationships between markets and organizations and the types of programs best-suited at undertaking those methods. More specific concentrations include a master of marketing research and a master’s in marketing management. If you’re goal is to become a marketing manager, then you can expect to earn a handsome salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the mean annual wage for the position is $126,190.

Finding the Right Program

Enrolling in an online master’s degree program in business is an investment in your future. Finding the program that’s right for you takes time, and the process should be conducted in the same manner you would go about a comprehensive research project. The strengths and weaknesses of each program vary, but you should be able to pare down your list of choices to a select few by finding the answers of these questions:

  • Is the school accredited? By whom? For how long? If it’s not accredited by a respected organization, then you can eliminate the school from consideration immediately.
  • What is the reputation of the school and program among peers in your field? Did they like the faculty and staff? Do they feel they got their money’s worth? Were they well-prepared for their current jobs? Would they advise you to enroll in the program? Is the alumni network strong? The best source of information comes from the people who’ve been in your shoes before. They’ll give you an honest assessment.
  • Are there stringent prerequisites for prospective students? Do they have to pass an exam, or have an exemplary undergraduate GPA? You want to ensure that not just anyone is admitted into the program. A school is only as good as its students.
  • What are the credentials of the faculty? Do they have impressive resumes that indicate they would be excellent teachers in the subject? Do they genuinely enjoy what they do? Are they approachable? Do they care about their students? As you learned as an undergrad, a good or bad professor can make or break a class.
  • Do you like the curriculum? Do the classes correspond with your needs as a professional in the field? Will you learn new concepts, new methods of analysis, and new skills, or is it just rehashing most of what you know already? You can easily access curriculum guides for a program on the program’s website. Some quick googling will reveal what each class entails.
  • How interactive are the classes? Does the school bridge the gap between you and the campus by ensuring a participatory environment in which every student can ask questions and engage in discussions? Note that classes may be asynchronous, meaning that you, your classmates, and your instructor aren’t participating in the same place at the same time. Other classes may be conducted by use of computer based training (CBT), eliminating the need for an instructor.
  • How much does it cost? What’s the average cost of similar programs? Is tuition rising? At what pace? Will pursuing a degree in the program benefit your career enough to justify the cost? The last thing you want is to accumulate debt or lose your savings and have nothing to show for it.

A Brief Look at the Best Programs

The above criteria hint as to what makes a great program. Ultimately, with your own subjective opinion, based on the conclusions you reach with the answers of those questions, you will be able to determine your own personal ranking system. However, as any academic will tell you, a final opinion isn’t valid until you’ve evaluated all the objective data.

Conveniently, U.S. News & World Report evaluates the top online graduate business programs. Its “Honor Roll” provides a list of programs that rank highly “in the top one third of three out of the four indicators: admissions selectivity, faculty credentials and training, student engagement and accreditation, and student services and technology,” according to the website. Here are the schools that made the list:

  • Arizona State University
  • Arkansas State University-Jonesboro
  • Brandman University
  • Central Michigan University
  • Clarkson University
  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • George Washington University
  • Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Marist College
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Temple University
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake
  • University of Mississippi

As for actual rankings, you can see where your favorite schools placed in the categories that comprise the “Honor Roll” by navigating through the above link. It’s certainly worth a look, as you may value student engagement and accreditation slightly more than student services and technology, for example.

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