Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting your MBA online? I'm skeptical.

As part of a side project, I recently tried researching online MBA programs.

First off, I learned it's really hard to research almost anything in the online education space because of the vibrant lead generation business. Basically, there are a lot of companies that are willing to pay a lot of money for customer leads of prospective students. As a result, there are lots of spammy sites about online MBA programs that just try to get you to click on their advertisements.

As a rule, if a company is will to pay a lot of money for a customer lead, they are generally taking advantage of their customers. That got me thinking, is getting your MBA online worth it?

First of the pro's. An online education is accessible to lots of people because it's flexible around your schedule and personal life. Also, you can avoid the time-consuming application process for a traditional program. Some employers will increase your pay scale if you can check a box saying you have an MBA, so it seems worth it if you work at one of those places. Finally, I assume these programs actually teach you something about accounting, finance, operations, and strategy, and learning is generally good.

However, I think the bad certainly outweighs the good. First off, you're deprived of most of the benefits of the MBA - the network of alumni and the signaling effect associated with your school's brand. Second, a lot of the learning in an MBA program (specifically in areas like Strategy) is experiential; I'm skeptical that can be recreated online. Finally, these programs charge you an arm and a leg; it seems like highway robbery for a product which has very low variable costs.

What I would suggest is that instead of getting an MBA online, you should get an accounting degree online. I think most of the concrete book knowledge in the MBA program can be captured through accounting and finance. Moreover, accounting is the sort of thing that you can probably learn online well and that a deep knowledge of makes you immediately marketable. Just my two cents!

1 comment:

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