What Can an Online MBA Do for Your Career?

Do online graduates have the same career advancements and lucrative employment outcomes as their counterparts on campus?

Gone are the days when traditional on-campus MBA programs were the sole gateways to leading jobs in business. Online MBA programs have risen to prominence, offering students the opportunity to enhance their skills, broaden their horizons, and propel their careers forward without the constraints of geographic limitations.

But do Online MBA graduates truly experience the same career advancements and lucrative employment outcomes as their counterparts who opt for the traditional brick-and-mortar path? For anyone considering an Online MBA, it is imperative to assess the outcomes of these programs and the tangible impact they have on employment trajectories.

Highest paying career paths are not dramatically different from what you would see for hires from a full-time MBA program. “The highest paying careers are in professional services, which includes accounting and consulting firms; the technology sector; and from there, the cluster of healthcare, government, aerospace and defense, and consumer products,” Neta Moye, executive director of career services at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. “The highest paying roles within these industry sectors are in general management or leadership, consulting, marketing or sales, and operations.”

She says that Online MBA students generally fall into one of two career goal buckets -- career climbers (seeking to advance in leadership hierarchy within their current organization industry) and career switchers (seeking to change industry or function).

“With that said, 61 percent of Maryland Smith graduates, with support from the Office of Career Services and alumni, have used their degree to change roles or companies, or have been promoted,” Moye says. “Moreover, 67 percent have received a compensation increase. Of those, 50 percent increased their salary by 20 percent or more.”

The unique value of Online MBA grads

Employers value Online MBA graduates because they are just as committed or even more so than full-time students. “They must be disciplined to study by themselves and manage their time, they are extremely good at dealing with busy agendas and skillfully juggling personal, professional and educational lives,” says Lisa Umenyiora, executive director of careers at London’s Imperial College Business School.

Students gain increased resilience and personal effectiveness due to having to manage the additional demands of studying on their time, which can then be translated to greater effectiveness in their professional roles. “These skills are beneficial to any employer,” she says, adding that graduates from Imperial’s Global Online MBA have seen an average salary increase of almost 30 percent.

“Director and senior management-level roles within finance, consultancy, technology, and oil and gas are some of the highest paying routes our graduates take,” she adds.

According to Nina Canfield, director of employee relations and graduate career services at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in the US, employers fall along a continuum when considering online degrees -- from skeptical to enthusiastic.

“During their infancy, online programs often failed to attract competitive students and deliver learning experiences that created the level of competency employers were seeking. So online education got a bad reputation in early days, and some employers still carry that perception,” she explains. But more highly ranked programs have entered the market since then, helping to improve the reputation of Online MBAs.

This is reflected in the career outcomes at Kelley: “Approximately half have the goal of deepening their expertise in their discipline and broadening their business acumen so they can receive promotions and move into higher leadership roles, both technical and general management, within their current organization or a competitor,” Camfield says. “Although anecdotal, we have observed many success stories.”

How business schools support careers

Business schools are on hand to support Online MBA candidates in their job search. Kelley Direct Career Services makes available numerous services and resources including job boards, career events, guidance, professional development courses and one-to-one career coaching.

It is a similar story at ESMT Berlin, says Rebecca Loades, director of career accelerator programs.

“All Global Online MBA students are full members of the ESMT student body. This means that all career events, alumni, club, and other extracurricular activities are open for Global Online MBA students,” she says. “Taking part in these events gives students the opportunity to meet with potential employers and recruiters, and connect with business leaders from an array of different sectors. Our alumni network will also help them build their professional network on a local and international level.” 

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