3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Embarking on an Online Degree Program

Young man online learning session
A young man learns online. (iStock image)

You could live in the boonies, or maybe you have five kids and a job that keeps you at your desk until 7 p.m. every night. Or perhaps you're on the road five days a week.

You want to get ahead and know a master's of business administration (MBA) degree could be the ticket, but for one reason or another, you can't attend class at the local university. Should you consider enrolling in an online MBA program, or is that a waste of time and money?

The answer depends upon several factors, including what you hope to gain from your degree, your own temperament and where you plan to go after graduation.

What Do You Hope to Gain?

If you see an MBA as your ticket into investment banking, consulting or the management suite of a multinational company with 25,000 or more employees, an online degree is not the way to go.

If you're looking to broaden your knowledge and increase your chance of promotion by your current employer, Find out how your company's honchos and human resources personnel feel about online degrees.

While for-profit institutions were the first to jump into the totally online degree market, some traditional universities have followed. Many also offer weekend-only classes or blended delivery programs that combine internet learning with videotapes, conference calls and on-campus classes.

Who Are You?

As you consider an online degree's value, you must factor in your own personality and lifestyle.

  • If you have a family, will they leave you alone when you work at home?
  • Can you stick to a routine, or are you a procrastinator who needs on-campus structure?
  • Are you a fast reader, or someone who learns best by listening?

DegreeSelect.com has more information on online learning programs.

You also must think about hardware issues. Do you have a fast-enough computer or laptop if you travel? Do you have reliable internet service? If you're using your work computer, are there firewalls that will impede you?

Where Do You Want to Go?

If you're looking to use an online MBA to launch yourself into a new career or job, you'll need to be a careful consumer. Some degrees barely rise above the level of matchbook-cover-mail-order courses. At the same time, some incredible programs combine online and on-campus learning.

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business offers a blended MBA program. Applicants need a decade of experience and about $100,000. The program sends you to locations as far away as Hong Kong for a few weeks at a time during the course of your studies. (Airfare is extra, but a laptop is included.)

Purdue University's Krannert Graduate School of Management offers a 22-month blended executive MBA. You attend on-campus classes during six two-week periods, and the last trip is international. Or you can go for the international program and rotate through Hungary, the Netherlands and Germany.

While you're checking out online programs -- such as those offered by Capella University and the University of Phoenix -- you may want to compare them to on-campus ones. Surprisingly, at least one well-known school charges online students more than twice as much as on-campus students for the same degree.

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