METHODOLOGY REMAINS UNCHANGED FROM LAST YEAR
From the get-go, our ranking has been based on three equally weighted categories — admissions standards, academic experience, and career outcomes (see a full explanation of our methodology). Admissions standards data is collected from a survey sent directly to schools while academic experience and career outcomes data is gathered from an alumni survey. Both surveys took place between May and September of 2022. This year, we surveyed students graduating between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
While this year’s methodology remained the same, last year we made two significant changes. First, we significantly reduced the weight given to the average GMAT score and dispersed it evenly across other admission data points (average undergraduate GPA, average years of work experience, and a program’s acceptance rate). GMATs or GREs are not required for most online MBA programs, and this year the vast majority of schools continued to waive test scores due to the pandemic (see Average GMAT, GRE & GPAs For The 2022 Top Online MBA Programs). The second change was the introduction of alumni data from two years of surveys (this year and last year). This year’s alumni data was given a 70% weight while last year’s data was given the remaining 30%.
Because it’s a composite of three categories, a school can technically win overall without topping any of the categories. Indiana Kelley, however, took first in the admissions category for the second year in a row. Kelley placed fifth in academic experience and 13th in career outcomes. For the second year in a row, Santa Clara’s Leavey School took the top spot in both alumni survey categories — academic experience and career outcomes.
THE BLUEPRINT FOR A TOP OMBA PROGRAM
Like full-time residency MBA programs, OMBA programs are not created equally. There is probably a bigger spectrum of structure and style among our ranked OMBA programs than among residential full-time programs. Some are fully online with no residential components. Others have some optional in-person meetings, and others require many in-person residential meetings. Others offer career support, while others do not.
Generally speaking, we’ve learned the programs that do best in our ranking are the ones that tend to be more akin to residential programs, offering residential components, limiting class sizes, offering real-life consulting projects and student-run clubs, as well as plenty of career support. “All students take part in Kelley On Campus (year one) and Kelley On Location (year two) in-person MBA residencies which include a live consulting case competition working with a real client to solve a challenge the organization is grappling with,” Indiana Kelley reported to us through the school survey. “Students meet directly with the client to inform their proposed solution and present their final recommendations at the culmination of the experience.”
Kelley also includes work with live clients in other electives and its core capstone experience and assigns a career coach to every online student. At a total cost of $82,158, the program is also the least expensive of the options ranked in the top five this year and clearly among the most reasonably priced of all the fully-featured online MBAs in the market, with weekly Internet classes limited to no more than 45 students and taught by the school’s core faculty. Kelley’s program also features seven different majors and a
curriculum that allows half of the credits to be electives, a level of choice which is unusual in online MBA programs. The school’s core capstone experience if often cited by students as one of the program’s high points.
“This experience brings students off-campus for an integrative course focused on multiple business-focused theme areas. The experience rounds out the core Kelley Direct coursework and may include consulting experience with live clients depending on the theme topic,” Kelley said. The program also features an option for students to enroll in a three-credit global or domestic immersion course. “Domestic immersion courses focus on a specific career path, such as business analytics or consulting, and include online content as well as residencies in a U.S. city typically aligned with the career path, such as advertising in New York,” the school said. “Students provide consulting services to the company and present their findings and recommendations to management virtually as well as on-site at the company. Global immersion courses involve students working in teams to provide consulting services to business owners while in-country.”
CAREER SUPPORT AND STUDENT CLUBS
At USC Marshall, OMBA students have access to more than 30 graduate student organizations. “Ranging from community outreach, diversity and affinity groups, career clubs, and social and athletic organizations, students are able to expand their network to other USC Marshall MBA graduate programs and corporate contacts,” USC Marshall reported. “Club activities take place during the day, evenings and weekends, and can include networking opportunities, social events, and company visits.”
USC also provides students with a dedicated career strategist for individualized career coaching and guidance on strategic career planning, skill building, and employment negotiations.
Online MBA program students have a dedicated career strategist for individualized coaching and guidance on skill building and employment negotiations. “Marshall Graduate Career Services offers career education programs and workshops tailored to the specific needs of graduate students seeking career transition or advancement, from first post-MBA job to mid- and senior-level executives seeking to hone their skills in preparation for the C-suite,” the school reported. “Students also have access to MBA-specific job postings and industry networking opportunities through alumni groups and student organizations.”
Carnegie Mellon, meanwhile, gives access to more than 40 MBA clubs, including Finance, Marketing, Consulting, Data Analytics, Business Technology, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Women in Business, Black Business Association, Partners, and Veterans. “All clubs offer regular events and activities in a virtual format to accommodate remote students and some online students hold board positions in these organizations,” the school says.
“Students in the Online MBA program have access to the same services provided to students in the full-time, on-campus MBA program,” the school also reported. “These services include career exploration, resume development, networking skill development, interview preparation, and offer negotiation.”
Tepper’s MBA programs are so integrated, students can transfer from the OMBA to the residential MBA or vice versa. “Students can transfer to the full-time program if their career aspirations and life circumstances change; so the Tepper Online MBA offers more flexibility than many other online MBA programs,” the school reported. “In addition, our program includes Access Weekends where students start classes in-person and then move to online delivery. Students don’t need to give up the on-campus experience as an online student.”
LAUNCHING A NEW PROGRAM IN AN INCREASINGLY CROWDED MARKET
This year’s youngest program to participate in the ranking was also one of the most highly anticipated — the University of Michigan’s OMBA program. The school specifically designed the program for working professionals, including live, synchronous sessions, in-person residencies, and asynchronous learning for students to complete on their own time. “It is a flexible format, and students can advance through the program at their own pace. The majority of students finish in three-to-four years,” the school tells P&Q.
Senior faculty members at Michigan Ross developed and now teach the program. It includes experiential learning opportunities like Ross’s signature MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Projects) program, where students apply classroom lessons to assist real companies and organizations in solving high-impact business problems. “We offer a variety of courses where students are embedded in actual business settings and get to interact directly with executives from major companies and gain experience navigating ambiguous situations,” the school says. “Additionally, our world-class centers and institutes provide students the opportunity to explore specific areas of interest such as sustainability, global operations, and entrepreneurship.”
Ross has also made major investments in the technology used to deliver the OMBA program. Ross developed a state-of-the-art Digital Education Studio for its online courses and is in the process of building a second and more advanced studio.
“What truly makes the Michigan Ross program stand out from competitors is our commitment to academic rigor and quality, which prepares students to lead at the highest levels,” the school says. “The Online MBA curriculum is developed and taught by the same world-class faculty that teach our Full-Time MBA students. This commitment also attracts bright, accomplished, and ambitious students who enhance the learning experience. Throughout the program and beyond, personalized career resources and an engaged Ross and University of Michigan alumni network support students as their career advances.”