Distance Learning: MBA
As anyone working in business knows, it’s hard to get anywhere without a master’s in business administration, commonly called an MBA. There are plenty of jobs to be had with a bachelor’s degree in business, but they are entry level, and it can be nearly impossible to progress beyond a certain point. But once you’ve completed a bachelor’s and gotten to work, it isn’t easy to figure out how to drop everything to return to school for an MBA. Compounding the situation for plenty of people is the fact that they began a family after completing that bachelor’s and landing a job that seemed great at the time.
So what are the choices? Well, you can leave your job to return to school. That means you’ve left behind an income you’ve no doubt grown to depend upon, as well as the security of knowing you’ve got a job and benefits—no small thing in this economy. In addition, unless you’ve decided to use your savings to pay for school, you’re racking up debt. In that case you’ve got no cushion for emergencies, much less enough income to live on. With luck, you might have gotten a federal loan or scholarship money, but it’s not going to be enough to pay for college and living expenses, too.
If you’ve got both a job and a family, you no doubt feel that your options are extremely limited. You can either quit the job and lose the income the family depends upon in order to go back to school and eventually earn a much better income, or you can keep the job and attend school in the evenings, which means hardly ever seeing the kids. Fortunately, there’s a third option.
Several decades ago, most people looked at distance learning as odd, quirky, and at best, an experiment. Most teachers weren’t interested in working with students they’d never met, most schools weren’t interested in fostering that kind of learning relationship, and most students figured they not only wouldn’t actually get an education, but there wouldn’t be a job at the end of it because employers would look askance at a degree that was earned from a distance.
In spite of a world of naysayers, the distance learning experiment worked. Enough people were fascinated by the nature of learning and how it could be done outside the traditional model of attending traditional classes in a brick-and-mortar school, to explore the possibilities. The explosion of computer use and the internet sealed the deal as more and more educators and students alike realized that online chats, email, streaming video, and a host of other new technologies meant distance learning wasn’t only equal to, but in some ways superior to, traditional classroom learning.
Earning a distance MBA allows you to continue to live your life with minimal disruption. Of course, the more time you can give to your studies, the more quickly you’ll reach the goal of earning that degree. But if you can spare even an hour or two after the kids are in bed, trading brain-deadening television for mind-stimulating studies, you’ll progress steadily. In fact, many returning students say that distance learning is actually easier and faster for them than attending classes with a live instructor. This is true for a couple of reasons.
First, since they have invested a few years or more working in the business field, there’s a lot they already know that the course work will address. That’s a big time saver, since they will only need to brush up on the information in the book and won’t have to labor over memorizing what they already know. Secondly, being in a class surrounded by classmates might be a good fit for students who depend on others to help them learn, but for self starters it can be frustrating to have to devote so much of their class time to all the questions other students ask. Also, most folks don’t think about the hours they spend commuting from work or home to school until they’re in their cars stuck in traffic. Distance learning saves students dozens of lost commuter hours over the course of a semester, and that time can be more efficiently spent focused on studying.
Another factor is money. When you don’t have to drive back and forth, you don’t have to keep adding gas to the tank, getting more frequent oil changes and other maintenance, and even fixing problems that pop up as the miles pile on. Another financial benefit is that distance learning programs offered by virtual colleges are often less expensive in terms of tuition. Since the colleges themselves don’t need to purchase or build and maintain buildings and college property, add parking lots as the school grows, and accrue other necessary expenses that brick-and-mortar schools do, they are often able to charge considerably less tuition.
Some people assume that since they will need to rely on federal grants, scholarships, or loans, they can’t consider a distance learning MBA program. In fact, that is only true if the school itself isn’t accredited by a federally recognized accrediting board, agency, or group. You probably wouldn’t want to attend a school that hadn’t undergone voluntary accreditation, anyway. Accreditation means the school has voluntarily requested a board of experts carefully examine their curriculum, equipment, teaching methods, and other areas to determine if the degree they offer is worth the paper it’s written on. A school that isn’t accredited may still offer degree MBA programs, but in most cases, they aren’t worth a whole lot because employers don’t respect them.
With distance learning programs, it’s extremely important to do due diligence. A school can claim to be certified on its website—and, in fact is—but if you don’t know which regional or specialized accrediting groups are recognized by the federal government, you won’t know if the particular agency is a legitimate one. Sadly, there are always scam artists waiting to fill whatever gaps they can find, and distance learning is no exception. Some schools establish their own dummy accrediting agencies and try to hide the connection, and others simply hire a for-profit agency that is simply selling accreditations. It’s legal, but it certainly isn’t ethical. Employers are very aware of which distance learning programs and online schools have simply bought accreditation, and they won’t be impressed with your degree.
Look for accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Association of MBAs (AMBA). By visiting their websites, you can find out if the programs you are considering have been evaluated and approved by them. You can also check the U.S. Department of Education’s website for a list of accrediting organizations it considers to be valid.
People who work in the field of business tend to be well organized, and understand how important systems are. For these reasons, they often make outstanding distance learners, and are able to work independently in online courses that will culminate in earning an MBA. Whether you are able to complete the degree in two years or less or need to pace yourself in order to balance work, family, and school, a little determination goes a long way in establishing yourself in a financially and professionally successful life when you earn your MBA.
Last Updated: 03/01/2017