If you’re a working professional with a desire to get your MBA, but you’ve got little time to spare for on-campus courses or even periodic residencies, D’Amore-McKim Business School’s Online MBA may be the program you’re looking for. Course content that’s delivered 100% through popular online learning platform, Blackboard, is matched with totally optional in-person residencies, and the ability to finish the program at your own pace.
Still, the highly flexible nature of the program is not to be confused with the intensity that it takes to get in and to do well. The program is heavily focused on real-world experience and bringing that experience to the program. Standardized tests such as the GMAT and GRE are not required nor are in-person interviews with an admissions team, however an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher is required and so is a minimum of five years work experience.
“From that time, students should be able to show evidence of participation and leadership of work teams, financial and/or budgetary responsibility, and management of others in a direct reporting relationship,” says Associate Dean of Graduate Business Programs, Kate Klepper. Other required documentation includes two professional letters of recommendation and an application essay.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING AND ENTREPRENEURIAL THINKING
Work experience is critical within the program itself because Northeastern’s curriculum is heavily focused on practice-based education. The school credits its success as a leading program (eighth in the nation this year according to Financial Times) to the emphasis it places on experiential learning and entrepreneurial thinking. The school also touts the program as one that helps students put ideas into action.
“What’s unique about our Online MBA is the same as our on-campus program which is that it’s so rooted in the real world,” Klepper tells Poets&Quants. “Students are able to take the conceptual parts of the curriculum and apply it in the real world right away.”
For 2016 alumnus, Curtis Webb, this stood out to him the most about the program’s design.
“Most people in the program had day jobs, a side business, or a side hustle of some sort. I would say that in about 50% of the classes, you’re forced to focus your coursework and assignments around the company you’re in or the business you’re running, and that’s really cool.”
Webb joined the program with five years of experience at Mastercard where he held various roles in digital payments, emerging payments, and the future of payments. Think Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and others. “I remember going to my company’s compliance office for a paper I was working on. I gained a ton of knowledge I never would’ve known and met a ton of people I never would’ve come into contact with.”
Webb says the coursework also prepped him for job interviews he’d pursued within Mastercard. “I was able to take three or four papers with me to show I’d been thinking and writing about issues related to the positions I pursued.”
A TYPICAL WEEK: DISCUSSIONS, READINGS, AND OTHER DELIVERABLES
Having been around since 2006, Northeastern’s Online MBA program is among the early pioneers of online business education. In fact, it’s one of the first MBA offerings in the U.S. in online format.
Students typically get through the 50-credit curriculum in two to three years, but it’s all according to their preference and what their professional/personal lives will allow.
“It’s a pretty significant time commitment,” says Klepper. “For just one course, students are typically actively engaged five to six out of seven days of the week. Discussions, readings, and other deliverables are all a part of a given week.”
Webb, who did the program while maintaining 50-hour work weeks, says the time commitment for each class was 20 hours a week. “Most of that time was early mornings, late evenings, weekends. If you’re determined to get through it and be successful, you find all this time you didn’t know you had.”
In a given semester, times this per-class commitment by three. For the online MBA, Northeastern breaks up a traditional academic semester into three parts (Fall 1, Fall 2, and Fall 3), that are essentially five-week mini semesters. Students can select and take one five-week course at a time in as many or as few of the three breakouts as they’d like. They can do all three, choose one or two, or skip a semester altogether and pick up where they left off in the following term. Again, it’s all determined by their own schedule and their own pace.
EIGHTEEN CLASSES, EIGHT SPECIALIZATION OPTIONS
Although there’s zero in-person content that’s required in the program, and oftentimes students’ first and only time to Northeastern’s Boston campus is for graduation, there are options where they can do full course work at one of the school’s hubs around the world such as Seattle and Toronto, they can participate in a week-long immersion course that is a campus-based residency, or they may take part in an International Fields course where students — alongside a faculty member — study abroad for one to two weeks.
Still, with so much flexibility, there are some standard requirements that are the same for all online MBA students. To graduate, 18 classes that make up the 50-credit program must be completed. Thirteen of the classes — a little more than 50% — make up the core curriculum and must be majority complete before students can start taking elective and specialization courses. Northeastern offers eight specialization options in the online MBA: finance, healthcare management, high technology management, innovation entrepreneurship, international management, marketing, supply chain management, and sustainability. Specializing is not required, however, as students are welcome to select general management as their track.
According to the associate dean, outcomes — both desired and actual — are wide-ranging for the online MBA program. “Most online students are looking for career enhancement and growth, and, when we hear back from them, they’re pretty pleased about getting a lot out of the program,” Kate Klepper says. She points out that it doesn’t always happen after the program is complete, however. “What we hear is they’ve gotten more responsibility, more calls from headhunters, raises, etc. before they even finish the program.”
Webb is one such case. Two months before he graduated, he made the switch from Mastercard to Citi Bank and is now a Vice President leading strategy initiatives for global digital payments.
“I left Mastercard because I had grown up there and thought it’d be wise to experience another company. I wanted more responsibility, more pay, and to grow my network. I will say that having the MBA from Northeastern helped not just by having it printed on paper for my resume, but it helped me during the interview process.”
“The role I left was a middle management role and I transitioned to a similar role that’s a little more senior. My experience is that moving from Mastercard to Citi has increased my earnings by 25%. I’m only 28 years old, but I can relate to people and talk about different topics with confidence because of my time at Northeastern. It really helps.”