The economy has its ups and downs, but today's graduate students are still enthusiastic about earning a master's of business administration (MBA) degree. In fact, the number of prospective students who signed up in 2009 to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to qualify for entry to MBA degree programs is on track to set a record. Student confidence remains strong--they feel they can get a solid return on their educational and financial investment in an MBA degree.
Online MBA programs offer flexible course times and accelerated schedules for completion, making them a popular option among working professionals. Online colleges, universities, and business schools currently offer MBA degree programs with concentrations that allow you to focus on your chosen field. Distance learning MBA programs include specializations in:
- General MBA
- Information technology
- Executive MBA
- Global management
- Health care administration and informatics
- Hospitality and tourism management
- Human resource management
- International or global management
- Internet security
- Project management
The Continuing Popularity of MBA Degree Programs
In a 2008 survey of business school graduates conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), respondents said they enjoyed a 39 percent increase in salaries over their pre-graduate degree wages. With an estimated 70 percent of MBA degree students reporting that they received some forms of financial aid, graduate school still seems like a wise investment.
The Global Management Education Graduate Survey of 2009 reported that 90 percent of MBA grads thought that the overall value of the graduate degree was outstanding, excellent, or good. Only 1 percent reported that the value was poor. The survey found that 80 percent of online or distance education MBA program graduates would "definitely recommend their programs."
More women than ever before are enrolling in MBA degree programs. In 2009, 104,880 women signed up to take the GMAT exams--it was the first time the number topped six digits. And more than 50 percent of prospective students taking the GMAT hailed from countries outside the United States.
Choose Your MBA Field Wisely
As with everything in life, change is inevitable. Your overall success after completing an online MBA degree program depends on your professional focus. Hot sectors in the economy that continue to sizzle include healthcare, energy, utilities, and manufacturing. However, other sectors appear to be on the rebound.
More than 50 percent of 2009 online MBA grads in the energy, manufacturing, or healthcare specializations received job offers. Approximately 43 percent of grads with finance or accounting MBA degrees fielded offers.
Mid- and senior-management professionals are also signing up for executive MBA programs that are tailored for their industries. Online programs can run for several months or several years, depending on the curriculum. Earning a specialized executive MBA can greatly boost management credentials.
Online MBA degree programs in computer information systems (CIS) are also hot tickets. Distance learning MBA programs allow digital professionals to earn advanced certifications and gain expertise while holding their regular jobs. Combined with practical experience, an MBA degree can make a big difference when applying for IT manager or director jobs.
Health care is the largest professional sector in the country. Ten of the 20 fastest-growing careers are in the health care field. The Labor Department predicts that the health care professions will add 3.2 million new jobs during the 2008 through 2018 decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the employment of health care managers and administrators will rise by 16 percent during the decade, a rate surpassing the average growth for all occupations.
Online health care management MBA degree programs focus on the industry, providing expert instruction in strategic management, legal and ethical issues, finance, IT management, policy, and regulations.
Distance learning MBA degree programs in financial planning also appear to have a strong upside. According to the BLS, jobs for personal financial advisors are expected to rise by 30 percent between 2008 and 2018. With millions of Americans moving into retirement in the next decade, advisors should be in prime demand.
Putting Your MBA to Work
The same dedication and persistence you put into your MBA degree studies stand to serve you well as you move out into the management field. While students enjoy the flexibility in scheduling with online master's degree programs, they report that scholarship is hard work. Combining your job and home responsibilities with any degree work is a balancing act.
However, if recent studies are an indicator, your efforts can return solid value when you add "MBA" to your resume.