Key takeaways

  • Earning an MBA can be a lucrative endeavor, which is one reason why this degree is one of the most in-demand options.
  • There are lots of online MBA program options to choose from, but these programs can vary in quality and affordability, so it's important to choose the right one.
  • The online MBA programs offered by the University of Florida, Florida State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Texas at Dallas and Florida International University are some of the top options worth considering right now.

A master of business administration or MBA is one of the most sought-after degrees in the market. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 92 percent of recruiters in the U.S. projected hiring MBA graduates in 2022, the most recent data available. MBAs can also be quite lucrative, with MBA graduates earning about $94,000 a year as of 2024.

But not everyone can uproot their lives to pursue an in-person program. For some, the online experience may be the better option.

To find the best online MBAs of 2024, the Bankrate team evaluated multiple programs in three key aspects: affordability, academic offering and student outcomes. Here’s what to know about each of our picks.

Top 5 online MBA programs of 2024

The best online MBA programs of 2024

Best online MBA program for accelerated learning

University of Florida

UF’s online MBA program is open to students with at least two years of professional work experience. It offers small class sizes and flexible enrollment options. The program is cohort-based, which means that you’ll be studying with the same classmates for the duration of your program. UF also hosts several networking programs and a speaker series for online MBA learners.

School status Public
Tuition and fees $49,205 to $59,807.20 total
Accreditation AACSB
Exam requirements GMAT or GRE accepted

Key benefits

  • Multiple options: MBA online students can choose between a 16-month or 24-month program. The more accelerated pathway reduces the credit requirements by accepting only students who possess an undergraduate business degree.
  • Career benefits: The online MBA program hosts career development services like career assessments, remote video interviewing, career development webinars and a job board.
  • Networking opportunities: The online MBA features a cohort of around 50 students for a more intimate experience and to provide more effective networking potential. In addition to the networking elements built into the curriculum, UF runs regular networking nights and opportunities to build lasting relationships.

Key drawbacks

  • In-person orientation: While the courses run asynchronously, enrollees in the accelerated 16-month online MBA must attend an on-campus orientation at the beginning of the program. Enrollees in the 24-month program are also encouraged to attend.
  • Experienced applicants only: For admission, applicants need a bachelor’s degree and GMAT scores, along with a minimum of two years of professional experience. Applications also need to highlight relevant responsibilities, advancement opportunities and professional goals.

Best online MBA program for a budget

Florida State University

FSU offers a 39-credit online part-time MBA that allows students to access the same in-depth training from the full-time on-campus program in a part-time, asynchronous online format. Applicants can choose from the standard program or a program with a specialization. Its tuition and fees also make it our top choice for students on a budget.

School status Public
Tuition and fees $30,427.02 to $31,599.36 total
Accreditation AACSB
Exam requirements GRE and GMAT accepted, GMAT preferred

Key benefits

  • Specializations available: FSU’s online MBA program features a real estate specialization, which includes courses in real estate valuation, finance and investment. Other FSU specializations include business analytics, management information systems, marketing and risk management and insurance.
  • Few prerequisites: The online MBA program does not require previous coursework in business, although applicants should be familiar with economics and management principles.
  • Relatively low tuition costs: Compared to other top MBA programs, FSU’s total tuition costs are low — on average $10,000 to $15,000 cheaper overall. Additionally, in-state and out-of-state students pay around the same amount.

Key drawbacks

  • GMAT is preferred: While FSU accepts both the GMAT and the GRE, it strongly recommends taking the GMAT. For some students, the GMAT is the more challenging of the two exams.
  • No accelerated option: The only online MBA program that is available through FSU is the seven-semester part-time degree. Students who would like to learn full time or accelerate their degree will have to look elsewhere.

Best online MBA program for flexible program timelines

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Running for more than a decade, the UNC-Chapel Hill online MBA features 18- to 36-month study options. Learners take a blend of asynchronous and synchronous training in the STEM-designated program, gaining the skills to improve decision making through data analysis.

School status Public
Tuition and fees $125,589.06 total
Accreditation AACSB
Exam requirements GRE and GMAT accepted

Key benefits

  • Program concentrations: In addition to the general online MBA path, students can choose from five concentrations: strategy and consulting, data analytics and decision making, finance, entrepreneurship and marketing. UNC-Chapel Hill also offers more than 25 electives for even more program customization.
  • Alumni network: UNC-Chapel Hill’s MBA students participate in an experiential learning curriculum that features various networking events and opportunities. Learners benefit from the business school’s alumni network of more than 42,000 graduates, including more than 2,000 graduates from the online MBA program.
  • Flexible completion: Online degree-seekers have access to year-round classes and can choose the pace that’s appropriate for them. On average, students complete the program within 24 months, but you can choose to complete your program in as few as 18 months or as many as 36 months.

Key drawbacks

  • In-person components: Students take the vast majority of their training online, but they need to complete two in-person summits. UNC-Chapel Hill summits take place over three days at various locations around the world. While most expenses are included in the program costs, students are responsible for airfare.
  • Program cost: UNC-Chapel Hill’s tuition prices may be prohibitive for some students. Regardless of the pathway chosen, students pay $125,589 total for the program.

Best online MBA program for a customizable education

The University of Texas at Dallas

UT Dallas offers an online MBA for state residents and a global leadership option for nonresidents. Learners can complete the 53-semester hour program in as few as 21 months, taking courses in organizational behavior, economics and data analysis. The program is extremely customizable, with 15 available concentrations and 59 electives.

School status Public
Tuition and fees $58,024 to $94,887 total
Accreditation AACSB
Exam requirements GRE and GMAT accepted; average GRE score of 310, average GMAT score of 609

Key benefits

  • Customizable: UT Dallas’ online MBA features 15 concentrations, giving students control over their studies. While some concentrations are standard offerings, like finance and real estate, the program also has unique tracks like internal audit, supply chain management and international management.
  • Academic certificates: While pursuing an online MBA, UT Dallas students can choose to complete one of four academic certificates: organizational consulting, transformational leadership, project management and executive and professional coaching. The credit requirements for each certificate vary, but they could be a good way to get even more specialized training.
  • Flexible tuition options: UT Dallas learners can choose between a guaranteed tuition plan or a variable tuition plan. Students are automatically enrolled in the variable tuition plan, where tuition is subject to change every year. If you choose the guaranteed tuition plan, your tuition might initially be higher, but you’ll have a locked-in rate for four years.

Key drawbacks

  • Nonresident tuition: Tuition fees for nonresidents are almost double those for Texas residents, with residents paying a base tuition fee of $58,024 for three years of study and nonresidents paying a base tuition fee of $94,887 for three years of study.
  • Additional courses: While students need to complete 53 credits for the online MBA, some degree-seekers may need to take up to two additional courses to satisfy the program prerequisites: communications for management and quantitative foundation of business.

Best online MBA program for professional development opportunities

Florida International University

FIU’s professional online MBA builds on the school’s 20-plus years of experience delivering distance education and provides students with a flexible online education. Students take courses in competitive strategy, financial analysis and business legal environment. They also enjoy access to support programs and services from one of the largest schools in the country.

School status Public
Tuition and fees $42,000 total
Accreditation AACSB
Exam requirements Optional GRE or GMAT

Key benefits

  • Schedule flexibility: FIU offers online MBA students five start-date options throughout the year, and enrollees can complete their training in 18, 21 or 33 months, depending on the course load they choose.
  • Professional development opportunities: As part of the online MBA curriculum, learners complete three mandatory professional development seminars. They also have access to industry nights, virtual meetings and various support staff and business career management services.
  • Performance-based scholarship: After the completion of their 10th course, high-performing students are eligible to receive a scholarship of $3,000 to $15,000. Students who hold a GPA of at least 3.0 are automatically considered for the scholarship.
  • Many specializations: FIU offers 10 specializations to choose from, ranging from real estate to sports management.

Key drawbacks

  • In-person components: FIU’s online MBA features a two-day residency in Miami. While this residency is not mandatory, the cost is built into the tuition — so students who are unable to attend may lose out on value.
  • Fewer electives: Compared to other online MBA programs, FIU has fewer elective opportunities, with most of the focus centered on the core curriculum. If you’d like an MBA concentration, you may take two courses within one of the eight specializations offered.

Traditional MBA vs. online MBA

An MBA is a degree program exploring the inner workings of businesses and the roles and responsibilities that keep them moving. MBA students learn how business professionals can use information, tools and techniques to improve operations, decisions and results. The training also typically emphasizes leadership and networking, which prepares graduates for most management positions.

The main difference between an online MBA and a traditional MBA is that in an online program, classes are taught remotely. Students may view pre-recorded lessons (asynchronous) or live streaming (synchronous).

Online MBA programs also tend to be cheaper than in-person programs, some costing under $15,000. Additionally, online MBAs allow greater schedule flexibility than in-person programs, making them an ideal option for those who want to juggle school and work.

Online MBA accreditation

Several organizations provide accreditation for online MBA programs. These three institutions are the best-known: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

Attending an accredited MBA program helps guarantee that the program provides a quality education. Accreditors vet institutions’ teachers, classroom experience and career opportunities to ensure that the programs are worthwhile. Some employers will only hire graduates who attended an accredited program.

MBA program concentrations

You may choose to select a concentration or specialization when you enroll in your MBA program. A specialization can help you prepare for your future career with tailored courses. MBA program concentrations include:

  • Operations: Operations concentrations focus on the processes involved in creating and delivering goods and services. The training examines the planning, analytical tools and service management strategies used to improve operations.
  • Accounting: Accounting concentrations focus on accounting principles and theory while teaching learners how to apply accounting concepts to other management practices.
  • Business analytics: Business analytics concentrations teach students how to use statistical tools and methods to improve business decision-making within business sectors, such as marketing, finance and operations management.
  • Health care management: Health care management concentrations examine the planning and operations within health systems and services. Students explore health policies and economics, along with quality management and resource allocation.
  • Information systems management: Information systems management concentrations teach students to create business intelligence systems, stronger networks and more productive business operations.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability concentrations focus on how organizations can improve energy efficiencies, integrate and satisfy green policies and procedures and incorporate sustainable initiatives into their operations and communications.
  • Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship concentrations give students the tools and knowledge necessary to develop and lead their own business ventures. Some of the training may include entrepreneurial finance, strategies and communication.
  • International business: International business concentrations prepare students for careers with global organizations. Learners may explore topics in international economics, financial policy and communication strategies.

What can I do with an online MBA degree?

An online MBA degree opens up a variety of interesting and high-paying careers in the business world. Depending on your specialization, you could find jobs in finance, information technology, health care, management and more. Some of the highest-paying jobs that typically require an MBA degree include the following:

Position Average salary
Chief financial officer $141,415
Business development director $113,917
Investment banker $118,119
Senior project manager $104,496
Information technology manager $92,083
Management consultant $95,190
Business operations manager $85,182
Financial manager $100,176
Health services manager $73,949
Marketing director $97,204

Source: PayScale

Frequently asked questions about online MBA programs

  • An online MBA can lead to some of the most attractive management positions in the country. The advanced leadership training prepares graduates for most management occupations, and the program’s numerous networking opportunities allow learners to build and expand their professional networks. Many online MBAs feature the same curriculum as the equivalent in-person MBA.
  • Most MBA programs take approximately two years to complete, though many online MBA programs now offer accelerated pathways. Students can reduce their study times by transferring credits, taking learning assessments or enrolling in more courses at once. Asynchronous online training helps learners accommodate heavier course loads while working.
  • Online MBA programs typically focus on leadership training and equip learners with advanced management skills and strategies. For that reason, most programs recruit early- to mid-career professionals with management experience.
    Most of the best online MBA programs run for two years and feature between 30 and 60 credits. The training builds on business foundations, delving into more advanced concepts and providing learners with an in-depth understanding of the various business management functions and responsibilities.
    In addition to the core training, many online MBA programs offer specializations. Learners can focus a portion of their education on a certain area, such as finance, health care, management, technology or human resources. Specializations can help students direct their training toward their interests and distinguish themselves from other MBA graduates.
    Compared to traditional programs, earning an MBA online can provide more scheduling flexibility and fewer travel requirements. However, many programs feature on-campus residencies, which students may need to attend. Group assignments and networking opportunities may also require real-time attendance, even within primarily asynchronous programs.
    Online MBA core courses
    An MBA curriculum will differ from program to program. Common courses you may encounter include:
    • Data analytics.
    • Operations management.
    • Teamwork and leadership.
    • Corporate finance.
    • International economics.
  • Many MBAs feature high admission standards that can restrict certain students from applying. While programs may set GPA and GMAT score minimums, some of the most restrictive admission prerequisites come from the experience requirements. Many programs ask for a minimum of two years of professional leadership experience.
  • According to MBA Today’s list of the top 25 MBA programs, the cost of the programs it features ranges from $102,302 to $168,104 in total. However, online programs typically cost less; the online MBA programs above range from under $15,000 to $126,000.
  • MBA graduates enjoy a high return on investment from an MBA. GMAC’s Corporate Recruiters survey reports that the median annual base starting salary was $115,000 in 2021. That’s 77 percent more than the median starting salary of $65,000 for bachelor’s graduates.
  • The pay you receive with an MBA degree largely depends on your location and experience. However, PayScale reports some of the highest-paying MBA jobs as:
      • Chief financial officer.
      • Business development director.
      • Investment banker.
      • Senior project manager.
      • Information technology manager.
  • Federal student loans are almost always the best choice when it comes to financing education costs. However, there are also private graduate loans to fill in the gaps where federal loans fall short. Some private lenders even have MBA-specific loans.

Methodology

To find the best online MBA programs, we evaluated colleges’ academics, affordability and programming — weighing statistical data like enrollment rate, graduation rate, average net price, percentage of enrolled students taking out federal loans and more. Our top picks are all accredited programs that provide unique features like flexible enrollment and diverse course options.