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Best Online MBA Programs in 2023


designed to be your guide to navigating this new, rich, and somewhat overwhelming world of education. April 2022 marks our second ranking of the Best Online MBA Programs, and a consecutive year of ranking more than 100 online master of business administration programs. We set out to find online MBA degree programs that both prepare distance learners for the business world and launch them into good career paths.

What is an MBA and what will you learn in an online program?

An MBA, short for master of business administration, is the internationally recognized graduate-level degree that focuses on business leadership and management. The degree is intended to prepare graduates to lead organizations, and is offered in a variety of formats including online, in-person, and a hybrid of the two. There is no real difference between an online MBA program and an on-campus program other than the way courses are held—and, in fact, the curriculum is likely to be the same with classes taught by the same professors.

General curriculum and skills taught

Most business schools have a “core” set of coursework that are required of all MBA candidates, including accounting, management, marketing, and finance. These courses may account for about half of a student’s time in business school, and the content covered is likely to be similar from school-to-school or across the different MBA formats. 

As part of the MBA curriculum, MBA students can expect to learn some technical skills, such as how to perform statistical analysis or decipher financial statements. What’s more, graduates will acquire soft skills that include how to manage a team and tackle ethical dilemmas that arise in a workplace.

Capstone (final project)

The final step before graduation at many business schools is a capstone project, which students typically complete in a team. These projects are designed to mimic problems a business leader might face, and some business schools even facilitate capstone projects in partnership with companies or organizations.

A capstone project is similar to a thesis in that it’s a requirement for graduation. Whereas a thesis is usually an individual endeavor and typically takes the form of a long research paper focused on research and theory, capstone projects are designed to be more practical and solutions-oriented and are completed in teams.

Specializations and concentrations

The core MBA curriculum is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of business and management topics. Advancing within the business world typically requires some sort of specialization, and MBA students can choose from a variety of concentrations to add specificity to their general business education. 

Concentrations in MBA programs may include the following options:

Admissions information

Admissions requirements may vary from one business school to another, but generally include:

  • Successful completion of a bachelor’s degree, as demonstrated by an official transcript from the college or university
  • A résumé that highlights relevant work and educational experience
  • A personal statement or essay that allows applicants to distinguish themselves
  • Letters of recommendation from supervisors, professors or alumni
  • GMAT and GRE scores are increasingly waived by many online MBA programs, including for students who meet minimum undergraduate GPA requirements
  • Some online MBA programs require applicants to complete an interview with admissions officers


The GMAT has historically been the standardized test of choice for MBA applicants, while the GRE was favored by students applying to other types of graduate-level degree programs. Online MBA programs will generally accept either test—though many schools no longer require a test score at all or offer waivers to students based on factors like work experience or undergraduate GPA.

Most programs don’t have strict minimum GPA requirements, though students may wish to supplement a low undergraduate GPA with standardized test scores.

Which factors drive acceptance?

As with any admissions decision, no single factor is likely to make-or-break a candidate’s chances at being accepted into an online MBA program. Rather, admissions officers generally take a holistic approach when considering an applicant’s educational background and work experience. Because test scores are increasingly optional, many business schools place a heavier emphasis on the personal statements and letters of recommendation.

The online MBA experience: What is it like to study online?

The number of fully online MBA programs has surged in recent years, which has made this an increasingly common way for students to pursue this degree. Many programs offer a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous learning, meaning courses that either need to be attended live at a particular time or can be viewed at the student’s convenience. Even though students don’t need to be physically present, they can expect to spend time doing group projects and participating in class discussions via video conferencing or using other technology.

Students in online MBA programs are often attending school part-time, which means they must juggle work and family obligations in addition to coursework. Many business schools strive to replicate the in-person, on-campus experience by offering the same services—such as networking events or career services—online. And some programs even offer the option for immersive, on-campus components that typically last a few days. 

How to choose the best online MBA for you: Factors to consider beyond rankings

While Fortune’s ranking of online MBA programs can be a valuable resource, prospective students may want to take into account a broader array of factors when choosing an online MBA program. The cost of the program, of course, is important for most students who are self-funding their MBA education. In addition, a school’s prestige, the strength of its alumni network, and the variety of concentration options it offers may be important to students looking to switch careers. Finally, some students may be particularly motivated to complete the degree quickly, in which case when the program starts and how long it takes to complete may be a priority.


Even if accreditation doesn’t matter to you, it may matter to recruiters and potential employers—and that’s why receiving an MBA degree from an accredited institution may bolster your return on investment. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) conducts a rigorous accreditation process of business schools to ensure their MBA programs provide students with the courses and learning they will need to succeed.

Start times, schedule, and program length

About half of the schools on Fortune’s ranking of the best online MBA programs offer rolling admissions, meaning that students can apply at any time and start classes at the next-available date. Because students can dictate their schedules, many MBA candidates in online programs attend school while working full-time, though there are also accelerated options for those students who want to finish the program in as little as one year. Such flexibility is a primary reason why the online format appeals to students who are motivated to complete the degree to advance within their current company or switch jobs after graduation.


Prestige can mean different things to different people—but the prestige of a business school’s on-campus program is typically shared by its online program. For students, a school’s name reputation locally may be more important than on a national basis, particularly if they’re looking to change jobs after graduation. Meanwhile, recruiters may be keen to recruit students from MBA programs that are especially well-regarded for particular concentrations or based on the reputation of prior alumni who were hired from that program.


Most MBA students matriculate with a post-graduation career plan in mind, even if they change those plans while obtaining the degree. Concentrations may weigh heavily into those career considerations—and selecting an online MBA program. For example, business schools that are located within close proximity to an urban area dominated by particular industries, like tech or finance, may be good feeder schools for those industries.


Tuition can vary widely among online MBA programs, from as little as $10,000 per year to nearly $80,000. While some scholarships are available to defray costs and employers may partially reimburse students for the cost of the degree, many students end up self-funding their education with student loans. Graduate students may borrow up to $20,500 in federal loans, though these loans also carry higher interest rates. As a result, cost is certainly a factor that most students will consider—and particularly when deciding between two different programs.

Network and access to alumni

The value of an MBA is derived from more than what’s taught in the classroom. Rather, pursuing an MBA is as much about building a network among fellow classmates and alumni. While the size of a program will dictate how big the alumni network, applicants may also want to consider how robust that network is in terms of facilitating opportunities to meet fellow graduates—all of which can help with career advancement.

Immersive experiences (on-campus visits)

Many online MBA programs offer in-person elements, such as on-campus visits or study abroad opportunities. Even if students complete a bulk of their degree program online, these immersive experiences can help them to forge bonds with their peers and professors and feel more connected to the business school. Students who are keen for some in-person elements to a program may also want to consider programs that offer a hybrid option of online and in-person.

Careers for MBA graduates

Not only does an MBA degree open the door to more job opportunities, graduates typically earn higher salaries, as well. The median salary for new MBA grads, at $115,000, is 77% higher than the salary for people who only have a bachelor’s degree, according to figures from the Graduate Management Admission Council. There’s a wide range of salaries for MBA grads, however, based on location, industry, and a candidate’s relevant experience.

Just as salaries vary, so too do the career paths for business school grads. The tech industry, for example, has increasingly become a big recruiter of MBA grads, while the degree is still all-but required in some roles in finance and banking. Some people will pursue an MBA to climb the ranks within their current company, while other students have a goal of switching careers (and, potentially, industries) or becoming entrepreneurs. Below are some of the most common careers for MBA grads:

  • Consultant
  • Financial analyst
  • Product manager
  • Marketing director
  • Investment banker
  • Sales manager
  • IT manager
  • Chief operating officer (COO) 
  • Chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Chief executive officer (CEO)

Financing and scholarships

There are three main options for students to finance the cost of their MBA education: Self-fund the cost, get the cost reimbursed (in part or completely) by their employer, or apply for loans and scholarships to defray the cost. Many business schools, even some of the top-ranked institutions, offer scholarships to applicants with eligibility determined either by need or qualifications. While full-ride scholarships are somewhat rare, the University of Florida (Hough) and Babson College (Olin) are among schools that cover the full tuition for some full-time MBA students. 

Many companies will also reimburse some—or all—of the cost of an MBA degree for employees, though they may require a student to remain employed for a certain period post-graduation. A recent survey found that 63% of companies offered formal tuition reimbursement and another 4% said they help employees repay their loans, according to figures from the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans. 

Finally, current or former members of the military may be eligible to get the cost of their online MBA degree paid for by Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, while the Yellow Ribbon Program can cover any tuition and fees not covered by those benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an online MBA worth it?

Thousands of business professionals have improved their career trajectory and salary by completing an online MBA. Since online MBA students are typically working full-time, they also get to apply their lessons directly and immediately to their workplace.

Will an online MBA increase my salary?

At $115,000, the median salary of new MBA grads is 77% higher than that of people with a bachelor’s degree alone, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2021 corporate recruiters survey. At $145,000, the median salary of MBAs in the consulting industry is twice that of bachelor’s degree holders.

What do the best online MBA programs have in common?

The best programs typically attract the best students. The top 10 schools in this year’s Fortune ranking admitted students with both higher average undergraduate GPAs and higher GMAT scores than those students who were admitted to the broader group of online MBA programs.

How much does an online MBA cost?

The cost of an online MBA can vary from $10,000 to upwards of $100,000. The good news? Since many online MBAs are designed to be completed while working, students don’t have to forgo a salary while pursuing their education.

Do employers value an online MBA?

Companies see the same value in an MBA degree, no matter how the student attended class, according to Mark Johnson, associate dean of MBA programs at Wake Forest University School of Business. Instead, salary prospects depend more on the quality of the institution.

Is an online MBA valuable?

In 2021, 91% of employers planned to hire MBA grads, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. For many of those employers, it didn’t matter what format the master’s of business administration degree was obtained.

Does Stanford offer an online MBA?

Stanford Graduate School of Business does not offer an online MBA program. However, Stanford does offer LEAD—an online general management certificate that can be completed in one year.

Does Harvard offer an online MBA?

Harvard Business School does not offer an online MBA program. However, Harvard Business School Online does have several online-only courses and certificates. That includes a financial accounting course priced at $1,600.

Online MBA versus traditional MBA?

While online MBA programs allow for more flexibility in students’ schedules, traditional full-time programs offer students more personalized coursework and the opportunity to take full advantage of internships, networking, and other career resources. Traditional MBA programs are best for people who are switching careers.

Who’s a good fit for an online MBA?

Given that online MBA programs typically skew toward older students who are already established at their companies, many programs try to tailor their courses to account for the differences in the in-person and online cohorts. Online MBA programs are usually aimed at students who want to stay in their current industry and career path.

Is the online MBA market growing?

Online education, including in the MBA space, has been growing for years. And with that growth comes normalization of the online format—for students, professors, and, crucially, employers.

How much does an online MBA cost?

The cost of an online MBA can vary from $10,000 to upwards of $100,000. The good news? Since many online MBAs are designed to be completed while working, students don’t have to forgo a salary while pursuing their education.

What is the biggest misconception of online MBA programs?

Students in the online MBA cohort can still have a tight bond even though classes are remote. Many online programs have some sort of in-person programming with required intensive weekends or week-long stints on campus.

Which online MBA ranking is best?

Fortune’s ranking of the best online MBA programs stands out by finding schools that not only offer comprehensive curricula, but also see their graduates move up in their careers.