T Nation

MBA - Online


Has anyone earned an MBA online? Is it worth it?

I was thinking of applying to Penn State World Campus after my current Masters program is over (Towson/University of Baltimore). The only well known university in my area is UMD and I could also get an MBA through Towson/UB. I'm wondering if Penn World will be more valuable though. It's nationally ranked according to U.S. News (#19) and they are AACSB accredited. It's also Penn State vs. UMD, UB, or Towson. UMD would be an 1-1:30 commute as well.

Any thoughts?




I'm wrapping up my MBA right now (1 class left for the past 4 years lol).

I would highly suggest you do an MBA in person if possible. The best things you get from a MBA, in my opinion, is from interaction. You get:

1) A wide breadth of experience from different industries, career types and background
2) You learn to work in groups. I know everyone says you need to learn to work remotely, which is true, but so much of business is still face to face team work.
3) You get more interaction. Fact is, MOST people who do MBA's online are pressed for time or are underachievers. They will only do the bare minimum needed to pass the class. Again, this is a generalization and is not true of most people
4) The professor interaction is much better and these are the guys you want to challenge you...especially in front of others. That's real life business management
5) Life long contacts. Chance are, someone online is going to forget who the hell you are a few weeks after you are done. Not to mention, most of the people won't be local.

This is purely my opinion. I think an Online MBA can be valuable, but I can only speak for Central Michigan University's online MBA (I went to Central Michigan and have my MBA from there). There online MBA does not differ much from their in person MBA and it's cohort style, which means you start and end with the same group of people. You appear to be a veteran, like myself, and Central Michigan has an AWESOME veterans department to help you figure everything out.

As far as the rankings in WorldNews and stuff, I'd take that with a grain of salt. It's mostly self reported stuff and rarely audited. Whoever writes the most and best, and spins their data in a certain way, gets the highest ranking.

Now, before I give you my opinion on whether it's worth it or not, let me ask what you do for a living and what you are hoping to do? To be honest, I wasn't going to finish my MBA because I'm a CPA and it hasn't meant anything for me not to have it in my career. I'm only doing it b/c I'm one class away and decided I'd kick myself if I didn't finish.


Thanks for the response ZJStrope. I have a B.S. in Accounting; however, I'm a budget analyst. I haven't given up on being a CPA (Took AUD 3 times and scored in the low 70s each time), but since I'm not in the field I can't be licensed in MD anyway. I'm not 100% sure I want to remain a BA, but it's not bad work. I'm also about 25% through an M.S. in Accounting and Business Advisory Services (Towson/UB). I also work with the Internal Audit department at my company, which I do rather enjoy. I've thougth about becoming a CFE and/or getting a degree in Forensic Accounting. I've also thought about becoming a CIA.

That being said, networking is an issue for me. It's just not my cup of tea, but I have no problem working in groups at all. I do this at work and I did this in the Marine Corps quite a bit.

I'm also pretty much stuck in western MD because my wife is very well established in her career (Public Accounting) and it's not likely she will be moving. I'm also within commuting distance of the D.C. job market, which is good for BAs.


I have a CFE too. Doesn't really mean that much unless you are in the industry, and that industry is hard to break into unless you are willing to travel a lot and have audit experience.

I've been in public accounting for about 2.5 years, and now have been in internal audit for about 2.5 years. Forget getting degrees at this point to help get you into a role, unless it's a very specific role. Fact is experience in accounting and auditing will get you a job in forensic accounting, and many other management type jobs in business, way faster than going back to get a specific degree in it.

Honestly, unless you get your MBA from Wharton, Experience > MBA.

What company do you work for? If you work with the Internal Audit department, I'd discuss with the Audit Director/Managers or your performance manager, about doing a rotation in Internal Audit for 1-2 years. Most internal audit departments have this option and it is THE fastest way to learn about business.

Unless you feel you want to be in accounting, especially public accounting, I'd just ditch the idea of becoming a CPA for now. Do the rotation, study and take the CIA exam, the CFE exam if you want (took me 1 week to study and take the test for the CFE), and you'll be much more marketable.

If you DO want to be in accounting/public accounting, finish up your MAcc and get the CPA exam done. You could get into a public accounting firm as an audit staff, starting at $52k + year, plus 20-25 days PTO; however, you are stuck working some ungodly hours as I'm sure you know from your gf


I second this.

Much better to do it in person, and not online.

I finished my MBA in 1 year and 9 months, and yes it was 40+ hours. I really do not remember the exact hours, but I took 6 hours per quarter at night, and two quarters took 9 hours. It was difficult, but I got it done.



Unfortunately I don't think doing a rotation in the internal audit department is a possibility; although I think I'll ask. I work for Random House Inc. (The book publisher). Corporate HQ & Internal Audit is in NY, my office is in MD. I assit the audit department on various procedures, but it only amounts to a small portion of my duties <5%. I have talked with the director and there is a possibility my role will increase, but it will likely never be over 25%, while I maintain my current position with the company. The curret M.S. program and an MBA program would be to supplement experience. I 100% agree experience is vital and is where I lack the most currently. I am and will continue to go to college only part time. I have also shelved the CPA and doubt I will pick it back up unless I get into audit or financial accounting. I am not at all interested in managerial or tax work.


So the consensus thus far is the name of the university doesn't carry as much weight as the experience itself?

For the record Towson/UB is also ranked pretty high on that link I added to the OP, which is likely where I'd go (I know grain of salt).

What about multiple degrees from the same university vs. multiple universities? I've always been concerned employers would see I've gone repeatedly to the same school and think I'm unwilling to branch out of my comfort zone, is that valid concern?


if you are going to supplement your skills with education, I wouldn't go for a "degree", especially in business. You already have an accounting degree. I always tell this to everyone...you can do anything in business with an accounting degree, you just need to get the experience. You could start an entry level position in marketing, or management, or whatever with an accounting degree; however, you can't start an entry level accounting job with any other degree, except maybe Finance. See how that works? You mad a good choice already!

Instead, supplement your business experience with College Courses that results in skills. For instance, focus on finance classes, technology classes, SQL, law, etc. Learn all those little tips and tricks that will make your current job more efficient, effective, and indispensable. In this way, no one will care that you got it all from the same university. And, you get say on your resume "developed new budgeting tools by programming an SQL report" or whatever.

Now if you want to go back to school and get your Mathematics, physics, or engineering degree, that's a whole other story.


I find it kind of odd you aren't interested in managerial work, but want an MBA, unless you are specifically talking about managerial/cost accounting?

Look, an MBA does not provide you with skills. It provides you with a level of understanding at all different aspects of business so you can MANAGE all aspects of business..but it, in itself, will not make you good at accounting or marketing or regression analysis or statistics. MBA classes rely heavily on case analysis where you see how things were done and you talk about how or why they did what they did, what they did wrong, what they could do better, etc etc. It's awesome, but it didn't make me better at anything except working with people and managing across different lines of job duties.


For the record, my undergrad is from Central Michigan University and my MBA is from Central Michigan University.

I've worked at Big 4 Accounting Firm and Fortune 100 company and a Fortune 1000 company (only so many jobs in Tampa lol) and I get requests all the time for other Fortune 100 companies through LinkedIn all the time.

Experience, experience, experience...and being in an in demand field always helps.


Yes, I'm talking specifically about managerial/cost accounting.

I understand this and that's what I'm looking for, a better understanding of how to manage situations/others. I would like to eventually reach a management level either at my current company, another private company, or with the government.

I'm working on building and refining the technical skills needed for my current job now. I figure I won't be finished my current M.S program and an MBA for around 5 years anyway. So I might as well do it concurrently while refining my on the job skill set.


I do like this. The M.S. program I'm in is actually designed this way. I'm learning a lot about IT systems that wasn't covered in undergrad. I also have several fianance classes to go through.

Getting into Accounting Information System design and maintenace is also something I've thought about.


That sounds good man. Just wanted to make sure you understood what the purpose was. I've had a lot of friends who have gone to get their MBA b/c they were bored or didn't know what to do. Now they are $30-50k in debt with the exact same job or some entry level position somewhere making at best the same amount of money.

As far as Towson/UB is concerned, go for it. Looks like a solid program as long as they are accredited. Obviously, UMB and Penn State are more well known, but it's really not that big of a deal and more expensive.


Awesome, thanks for the input! I'm leaning towards Towson/UB as it is. I won't need to decide for a while anyway.

Thanks again,


Seems like a total waste to me. So many people have gone back to school for MBAs since the recession and most of them can't even find jobs, much less is an online degree going to be competitive.


Doesn't it make sense to at least stay level (competitive) with these folks? I'd agree if it was say Phoenix online, but some of the online schools have just as strict acceptance requirements as their brick and mortar counterparts. Penn State's curiculum, for example, is taught by the same faculty regarless of whether it's online or not and thier acceptance requirements are the same either way.