How Potential Employers View an Online MBA

Going back to school for your MBA is a huge commitment of money, time, and effort.

For most, the reward — an MBA — is worth the sacrifices required.

However, it still doesn’t make it any easier. Thankfully, in today’s technologically advanced world, there’s another option to a Full-Time, Part-Time, or Executive MBA — the Online MBA.

At a glance:

An Online MBA seems like the perfect option for candidates who don’t have the time or money for classroom study.

At most schools, the online MBA is the same as the in-class MBA.

It offers the same curriculum, and the virtual campus offers the same resources including workgroups, career counselors, library access, and communications.

Some students even find that the online MBA is a more attractive option than on campus program. That’s because an online MBA offers quite a bit more freedom.

  • You don’t have to relocate and disrupt your life.
  • You can keep you current job and salary.
  • You can immediately apply what you learn.
  • There’s less urgency to graduate and start a new career.

An Online MBA lets you receive the same education for less money and more flexible commitments.

But what if you want to start a new career or advance in your current position after you online MBA?

How will Potential Employers Look at Your Online Degree?

The MBA Recruitment Process

First:

You have to understand how companies hire MBAs.

There are typically three types of recruiters:

  • campus recruiters
  • experienced hire
  • executive search/headhunters

All three of these recruiters look for MBAs, but it’s how they look that makes the difference.

Campus Recruiters

Here’s the deal:

Many top-notch b-schools have deals with large, local companies to hire MBA candidates. These recruiters look for talent during on-campus presentations, networking events, clubs, and job fairs.

In this case:

Online MBAs are at a distinct disadvantage.

Why?

These recruiters are viewing a small and highly selective group of MBAs. It’s incredibly competitive, and they prioritize hiring talent fast in a programmatic process.

They typically come on campus in December and find their candidates during a narrow window of time.

Unfortunately:

Campus recruiters don’t even consider Online MBAs.

At most schools, there’s not the same hiring season or process available for online students, and so they miss out on interviewing and impressing these b-school corporate partners.

So:

If you’re an online MBA, don’t expect to gain a new job through your program.

Experienced Hire and Executive Recruiters

Good news:

For experienced hire and executive recruiters, Online MBAs have the same opportunities as on-campus MBAs.

That’s because these recruiters are looking at the whole package and not just the hiring process on campus.

If you’re an MBA graduate with years of work experience and possess attractive qualities such as a global mindset and aptitude for strategy, then these recruiters will want you.

The key:

These recruiters, unlike campus recruiters, aren’t hiring you because of your MBA; they’re hiring you because you have the full package. The only issue you might run into is convincing them that your Online MBA degree offered the same experience as an on-campus program.

Selling Your Online MBA to Potential Employers

When it comes to interviews, if you want your Online MBA to count the same as a traditional MBA, it’s all about how you sell your degree.

Employers want to know and ensure that the education you received online equals that of on-campus. One of the first things you’ll need to be able to do is offer proof that you attended a reputable program.

How do you do that?

Well, you need to be able to show that you learned the same curriculum as your on-campus counterparts and that you had basically the same experiences, except you streamed your lectures to your computer instead of sitting in class.

You’ll also want to demonstrate to your employer that you can add business value by talking about the online discussions you attended, the mentoring you had, and the projects you completed.

That’s all it takes?

Unfortunately:

For many applicants, the biggest barrier to getting the job has nothing to do your education; it’s all about your employer’s education.

What does that matter?

You’ll need to be ready to educate your potential employer about the legitimacy of your online program. Be prepared to explain that an online MBA from a reputable institution is equivalent to one on-campus.

However, be prepared for a potential uphill battle.

“Oftentimes, you can see their faces change as you go through the conversation,” Michael Urtiaga told U.S. News.

Urtiaga completed his Online MBA at the Kelley School of Business and regularly gets asked about his education during job interviews.

For the most part, he’s received positive responses, but sometimes he has to answer questions about the format’s virtues and convince them he didn’t take the “easy way out.”

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that most employers now understand the value of an online education, but not all hiring managers are familiar with the format.

The best thing you can do is be prepared for the worst so that you’re ready and able to answer whatever question is thrown your way.

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