Best Online MBA Programs Rankings for 2018

Posted On: July 3, 2018 by Henry R. Steele

This article will detail what an online MBA is and what you should bear in mind as you earn one. It also will discuss GMAT requirements and how you can attend an MBA program without taking the exam.

We also will provide a brief review of five accredited online MBA programs:

Why Earn an Online MBA?

Business professionals who want to accelerate their career and salary potential often choose to earn an MBA. This has been the case for decades, but today, many people are now choosing to earn their MBA online.

A full 96% of companies surveyed stated that hiring MBA graduates adds value to their firms.

A growing number of accredited online MBA programs have been reporting rapid, year on year growth in the number of applications, often far outstripping traditional part time and executive MBA programs on campus.

Earning their master’s of business administration online gives them the opportunity to continue to work part or full time, while completing their graduate degree from their own home, and on their own time. Many busy business professionals can earn their online MBA in two years; some programs allow you to earn your advanced degree online in as little as a single year. See all 12-month Online MBA programs.

When you consider how much more convenient it can be to get your MBA online rather than in a classroom, the benefits of getting an MBA are even more pronounced. By getting your advanced degree online, you have the opportunity to advance your career in these ways:

  • Easily transferable business skills: Online business school offers you new business management skills and knowledge that can lead to promotions and raises. Many online MBA students are gunning for a high paced career in consulting or finance. But a good accredited online MBA program can hone myriad soft and hard business skills that can be used in other specialties.
  • Enhanced job security: Your MBA can boost your chance of getting a job, or keeping your current one in a downturn. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) predicted a robust hiring trend for 2016 that reflected a great demand for new MBAs. A full 96% of companies surveyed stated that hiring MBA graduates adds value to their firms.
  • Many MBA concentrations: Most quality online MBA programs today offer plenty of specialties or concentrations that you set you up for a great business career in many fields. Some of the most popular include healthcare MBA, Technology Management MBA, entrepreneurship MBA, and supply chain management.
  • Networking connections: Top notch online MBA programs still allow you many opportunities to network with other highly talented students, as well as your professors. For many, the connections made in MBA school are the best part. So be sure to carefully choose a quality online MBA program that offers many networking opportunities.

No GMAT Requirement Ideal for Professionals

As more business schools are offering their MBA programs online, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is not always necessarily required for applicants. The number of online – and on campus – MBA programs no longer requiring GMAT scores is growing.

Some educational experts argue that a high GMAT score does not necessarily indicate that a student will do well in a given MBA program. The GMAT, it is further argued, is unable to pinpoint qualities that are so important to graduate school success: drive, self-discipline, business skills and enthusiasm.

See also 10 Best Online MBA Degrees with No GMAT

Taking the GMAT and doing well also requires significant preparation and time. An online MBA program with no GMAT requirement can be a great fit for a busy professional with a fully plate of work and family obligations.

Career Options with an Online MBA

An top online MBA is a great ticket to a better life and career. The MBA degree has been proven over time to be very versatile and of great value for earning better job opportunities, higher pay, and added job security.

See 100+ Highest Paying Business Degree Jobs

Below are just a sampling of some of the promising career options waiting for you with your online business MBA degree:

  • Management consultant: Provide advice to corporations about how they can improve their business practices and pinpoint organizational problems that could be reducing profits and efficiency. You may work as a self-employment management consultant, or you can work for one of the big consulting firms. Many online MBAs like to become self-employment management consultants so they have more earning potential. Many with an MBA can earn more than $100,000 per year.
  • Financial advisor: These financial professionals usually provide personal financial advice to individuals. They help families to wisely invest their money, plan for retirement, save for college educations, and generally build wealth. This is a great career path for the self-starter MBA graduate who wants to help others earn financial independence. Years of experience can bring a salary well over $100,000 per year.
  • Top executive or operations manager: Many who earn their online MBA eventually will become a top executive in their company, or possibly the operations manager. Top executives are responsible for setting long term strategic and financial goals for the company, and operations managers handle the daily operations of the company to reach those goals. Both of these roles are related and quite high paying, with both earning over $100,000 per year on average.

What Makes a Great Accredited Online MBA Program?

If you want to earn your online MBA, how do you sort through all of the different options such as time commitment, cost, requirements and reputation? What should you look for and what should you avoid? We have assembled this handy guide below.

See also MBA Salary by Concentration

Here’s what to watch for to pick a winning online MBA program:

Excellent Student Engagement

You are going to be taking your classes online. But this does not mean that you should not expect to be strongly engaged in the program. Strong online MBA programs are still able to get students to actively participate in their classes. They are able to offer opportunities for a high level of interaction with classmates and professors, almost as much as a campus based MBA.

A program with excellent student engagement will have professors that are easy to access and respond quickly to contact. Professors also are skilled in creating an online learning experience that encourages learning, sharing and knowledge transfer.

Excellent student engagement also is embodied by a high graduation rate, high admissions selectivity, high retention rate and strong online technology.

Robust Financial Aid Options

Financial aid is important in graduate school, because tuition is often high. The university and business school should offer many financial options to pay for your education. While federal loans are always a viable option, good schools have a large alumni base who usually offer many scholarships and grants to those who qualify.

Strong Networking Opportunities

Networking refers to how effective the online university helps students to connect to other students, faculty and alumni to further their professional careers.

The best online MBA programs have a large group of alumni that can be an excellent resource for the current MBA student. They may be able to help you find a job later, or to connect you to other professionals who can offer you work or professional growth opportunities.

The program should also offer strong career services, including job placement and resume services. Other good networking examples are large and active social media channels with a high level of interaction with current and past students, such as Linkedin and Facebook accounts.

The best programs make a strong effort to offer online MBA students as many networking opportunities as possible, given the fact that they are not physically present on the campus.

AACSB vs ACBSP Accreditation

Accreditation of an online MBA program is important. You want to know that the program you are spending considerable time and money on are worth it. Your potential employers also want to know that you are earning a high quality degree with the best and most rigorous preparation in business management education.

AACSB International, or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, is regarded as the gold standard for business program education accreditation in the world. Accreditation by the AACSB means that the program has undergone an extremely rigorous, 2+ year accreditation process. You and your employer can be confident that the MBA program is of the highest quality.

See also AACSB vs ACBSP for Online MBA Accreditation

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is the other accreditation body that you will likely see as you are shopping for an MBA program. While the accreditation standards for the AACSB and ACBSP are similar, there are important differences.

The AACSB puts a strong emphasis on faculty research in its accreditation process. But the ACBSP is under 30 years old and is offering a different approach to accreditation. The accreditation agency was established because its founders saw a need to have a more innovative approach to measuring what it calls ‘teaching excellence and educational outcomes.’

Major Differences

Experts say that both business accreditations have a place in the business and accounting accreditation field. They note that the different approaches of both accreditation agencies are able to strike a good balance between the applied and the theoretical approach to business.

Generally, business programs that have a strong focus on research want AACSB accreditation, and programs that a focus on teaching emphasis want ACSBP accreditation.

Like the AACSB, ACSBP accreditation requires the business program to collaborate with a mentor team that provides oversight. It helps that business program to generate a self study report that shows how well it meets the standards of the ACSBP.

At the AACSB, the process begins with pre-accreditation and goes through a very rigorous review process before a full accreditation status is reached. AACSB also requires a thorough program review every five years.

ACBSP requires a full QA review every two years after the initial accreditation process.

Which accreditation is best for you and your career? You should determine if your business passions lie more in research, or in a real world business environment. Employers may recruit business candidates based upon the specific type of MBA program they completed and how that program approaches teaching the MBA material. Is it more research and theoretically based, or is it more based upon real world scenarios.

It also is important to remember that the AACSB accreditation is better than than ACSBP. Many students prefer to go to a program that has been accredited by the  AACSB simply because it has been around longer and is well known.

Superior Student Services

What kind of resources does the program offer online MBA students to make learning easier? Many experts recommend online tutoring for students who need assistance with some of their business classes. Strong academic advising is also important to help you to schedule the right classes, and to schedule classes that will not overwhelm you in light of your work obligations.

Some important student services to look for include 24/7 tech support, academic advising, online library access, and online tutoring services.

Selectivity and Application Standards

Every accredited online MBA program will have varying application requirements. There are many top ranked online MBA programs today that do not require GMAT scores to be considered for admission. However, these programs still are often very selective and focus on other important factors to make their admissions decisions:

  • GPA: Many schools will want to see at least a 3.0 GPA from undergraduate work
  • Writing samples: Expert to write at least a personal statement or an essay on a business-related matter
  • Letters of recommendation: You will need at least two recommendations, usually at least one academic and one employment related
  • Interview: Some online programs may conduct a phone or Skype interview
  • Work experience: Some programs expect at least three or five years of full time business experience
  • Resume: Each program will expect a varying amount of business related experience to be reflected on your resume

High Level of Business Experience

As you are looking at top online MBA programs, we recommend that you try to determine what the average years of work experience the admitted students have. US News and World Report rankings typically document the average number of years of work experience from each rated online program.

Some programs have an average level of 5-7 years of business experience, while others have 2-3. Generally, the more experienced the MBA students, the more professionally rewarding the MBA program tends to be. Experienced business professionals are great learning resources for you as you progress through the MBA program.

Do Rankings Really Matter?

As you are looking at some of the best rated online MBA programs, know that some of the less known ranking factors can be very important as far as how much you get out of the program.

Many people just look at the top line rankings from US News and World Report and make their decisions based upon that, but there are other things to consider.

US News delves much deeper into rankings than simply which programs are ‘the best.’ Its entire top line score, which is a ranking of 0-100, is based upon these factors:

  • Faculty credentials and training, indicating how well the teachers are trained to specifically teach online MBA students
  • Student services and technology, which measures the level of financial, academic, technical and career support distance education students receive
  • Student engagement, which is an indicator of how happy students are with the responsiveness of the program and professors
  • Admissions selectivity – generally, the more selective, the higher quality of the program
  • Peer assessment, which is a very important indicator of how highly the program is thought of by other MBA programs in the US

In short, yes, rankings do matter, but it matters more than simply what the top line ranking is of the program. We recommend that you look more closely at the underlying ranking factors for the MBA program you are considering. For example, a program that is very highly ranked overall may lack the distance learning support you need.

How is Affordability Measured?

When you are comparing online MBA programs, clearly how much it costs is going to be a factor in your decision making process. It is not wise to choose an online MBA program simply on price alone. That is, you should not select the most expensive program because you assume it is ‘the best.’ Nor should you choose your MBA because it is the least expensive.

Many professionals considering an MBA will wonder if earning that graduate degree is worth the expense in terms of time and money. The good news here is that a recent survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council recently asked 15,000 MBA alumni if they were happy that they went to business school. Ninety-two percent stated ‘yes.’

But the value of an online MBA will vary depending upon where you go. In some cases, US News and World Report has found that the average MBA graduate’s student debt was larger than their starting wage after the program. On the other hand, US News’ data showed that 10 programs with the highest salary to debt ratios had starting wages that were more than their debt.

US News and World Report data in 2017 had some strikingly unusual results in terms of affordability. It turns out that some relatively lesser known MBA programs provide more ‘bang for the buck’ than better known programs.

For example, MBA graduates from the University of Texas-Dallas made the most relative to their total debt, among the 87 ranked US News schools that reported data. At UT, the average MBA starting salary for those who found jobs within three months of graduation was $86,644. That is an amazing 12 times more than the average student debt for students who attended that MBA program – only $7,132 of debt for the MBA program itself.

The average salary to debt ratio for all ranked business schools that reported data was 1.9. But at the top 10 schools where salaries were much higher than debt, the typical salary to debt ratio was 4.4.

To summarize, you should carefully look at what the potential starting salaries are for MBA graduates from various programs, compared to their total debt.

Suggested Online MBA Program Options

Consider these online MBA programs without GMAT requirements for your business management education:

Northeastern University

If you are already a seasoned and successful business professional, you can gain the MBA-level skills and expertise you need to accelerate your career – at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. This program is AACSB-accredited, and was ranked as the #4 online MBa in the US by Financial Times.

Northeastern University has earned a high reputation for excellence in innovation, teaching and research. Unlock your potential with an Northeastern online MBA today.

  • Campus: Boston, Massachusetts, Online
  • Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Per Credit Hour: $1,476
  • GMAT Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Programs: Online MBA in Finance, Healthcare, High Technology, Entrepreneurship, International Management, Marketing, Sustainability and Supply Chain Management
  • Financial Aid Available: Yes

Washington State University

The WSU online MBA program will equip you with the knowledge, skills and tactics that are used by some of the best business leaders in the world. And, you will learn the cross cultural fluency to use them in virtually any business setting anywhere.

WSU’s online MBA program is ranked #27 by US News and World Report, and The Princeton Review ranked it among its Top 25 Online MBA Programs for 2015.

  • Campus: Pullman, Washington, Online
  • Type: Non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Per Credit Hour: $587 part time; $5,868 per term full time
  • GMAT Required: Yes (waiver available for qualified applicants)
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Programs: MBA in Finance, Hospitality Business Management, International Business, Marketing, General MBA; Executive MBA
  • Financial Aid Available: Yes

Southern New Hampshire University

Earn a versatile, online MBA with more than 20 concentrations available. This advanced degree from SNHU will provide you with the skills and expertise to reshape companies, create long term sustainability in small businesses, and to become a business leader in the global economy.

Each concentration typically features three classes that offer you a deep dive into certain business subjects, such as entrepreneurship, HR, accounting, finance or marketing.

  • Campus: Manchester, New Hampshire, Online
  • Type: Non-profit
  • Accreditation: ACBSP
  • Per Credit Hour: $627
  • GMAT Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Programs: MBA in more than 20 specialties available – inquire
  • Financial Aid Available: Yes

Liberty University

Liberty University’s online MBA program will greatly enhance your management skills as you increase your knowledge base in entrepreneurship, legal/business issues, non-profit management and much more. You also will discover the most recent research methods and scholarship involving business management and administration.

Choose from more than a dozen concentrations, including project management, American legal studies, criminal justice, marketing and more.

  • Campus: Lynchburg, Virginia, Online
  • Type: Non-profit
  • Accreditation: ACBSP
  • Per Credit Hour: $615 part time; $565 full time
  • GMAT required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Programs: MBA in more than 12 specialties – inquire
  • Financial Aid Available: Yes

Ohio University

Ohio University’s online MBA is well known as engaging, affordable online mba and academically rigorous. It has been ranked as the 3rd best MBA value according to Fortune magazine, and it also is ranked as a Best Business School by US News and World Report.

Past graduates also report that OU’s MBA program was critical to their career success: 90% of graduates report that their job performance improved, and 80% of graduates stated that the online MBA helped them to advance their career.

  • Campus: Athens, Ohio, online
  • Type: Non-profit
  • Accreditation: AACSB
  • Per Credit Hour: $1,004 in state; $1,023 out of state
  • GMAT Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Programs: MBA in Business Analytics, Executive Management, Finance, General MBA, and Health Care
  • Financial Aid Available: Yes


Henry R. Steele
Henry R. Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation. Follow on

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