The Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s STEM Online MBA Program was the only school to debut this year in the top-10, coming in at seventh in the 2020 rankings. WPI’s finish was carried by the alumni survey, which makes up two-thirds of our rankings. The most recent graduating class rated WPI’s STEM MBA program fifth in the total academic experience and career outcomes categories.
The program takes students three to five years to complete and costs $75,168. It’s a super small program that enrolled 20 students in total during the 2018-2019 academic year. Of those, 15% submitted GMAT scores with an average of 600. Some 10% of the class submitted GRE scores with an average of 291. WPI had one of the highest average undergraduate GPAs of its most recent incoming class at 3.45. At 28-years-old, WPI also has one of the younger average populations of students and those students bring in an average of a little less than seven years of working experience.
The majority of the program, which has 15 required courses and two electives, is delivered on an asynchronous basis. As implied by the name, the school reports that the majority of the students come from the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields and are like-minded in that regard.
PROGRAM BECAME STEM-DESIGNATED LAST YEAR
Launched in 2011, the program became one of the only online MBA programs with STEM designation last year.
“In MBA programs, a lot of schools might focus on a sector — for instance, healthcare — or offer a general MBA,” MBA program director at Foisie Business School Fabienne Miller said in an interview last year. “But there’s no school we could find that focuses on the skills needed by STEM professionals while offering them a flexible program with high faculty involvement.
“The few programs we did find that have a STEM focus are different because they take students right away, right after they earn their undergraduate degree. We don’t. We want experienced professionals. We work with a lot of business cases, not textbook exercises. It’s about learning from experience and applying new skills. If you don’t have that experience to bring in, it makes it difficult to contribute to the class and to learn from each other.”
The result is a program geared towards STEM professionals that could benefit for some training in soft skills or working on cross-functional teams.
“We have increased the focus of the program on soft skills and financial decision making, the areas that STEM professionals are often weak in when they move into business and managerial roles,” Miller said. “Employers are telling us STEM professionals have strong technical skills, but the challenges they experience working with people at different levels of the organization or from different backgrounds can render communication difficult and can be costly for organizations.”
For international students, a STEM-designated degree can help extend work visas for two years. Gaining STEM-designation has been a strategy among full-time residential MBA programs to help attract international students as the traditional H-1B work visas have been tougher to earn.
HIGH MARKS FROM ALUMNI
As stated above, WPI’s top-10 ranking was buoyed by overwhelmingly positive alumni feedback. When asked if their primary goal for entering the online MBA program was met, 100% of WPI alumni answered in the affirmative. Only three other schools had alumni report the same.
Foisie alumni were also positive about the career services support they received. Half of the responding alumni said they gained a promotion at work directly because of the online MBA program and more than half (57%) reported receiving a salary increase because of the online MBA. About 29% reported changing employers because of the program. When asked about the effectiveness and support from the school’s career services, WPI alumni ranked their career services department in the top-five of all 35 schools in the ranking.