You could live in an extremely rural area, or maybe you have five kids and a job that keeps you at your desk until 7 p.m. every night. Or perhaps you're on the road five days a week.
You want to get ahead and know a master's of business administration (MBA) degree could be the ticket, but for one reason or another, you can't attend class at the local university. Should you consider enrolling in an online MBA program, or is that a waste of time and money?
The answer depends upon several factors, including what you hope to gain from your degree, your own temperament and where you plan to go after graduation.
What Do You Hope to Gain?
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If you see an MBA as your ticket into investment banking, consulting or the management suite of a multinational company with 25,000 or more employees, an online degree is not the way to go. Those types of businesses tend to recruit from a small number of top-tier schools, and your online degree probably isn't coming from one of them. (More on that later.)
On the other hand, if you're looking to broaden your knowledge and increase your chance of promotion by your current employer, then who cares what Wall Street thinks? Find out how your company's honchos and human resources personnel feel about online degrees.
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Some employers don't recognize online degrees, because they think there's more to business school than reading, writing and calculus. They believe the in-person MBA experience hones leadership, presentation and negotiation skills. However, online degree program officials argue that their courses do the same, giving thoughtful, quiet students a chance to get a word in edgewise, since communication is typically written.
While for-profit institutions were the first to jump into the totally online degree market, some traditional universities have followed. Many more schools offer alternatives to completely online degrees, such as weekend-only classes or blended delivery programs that combine Internet learning with videotapes, conference calls and on-campus classes.
Who Are You?
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As you consider an online degree's value, you must factor in your own personality and lifestyle. If you have a family, will they leave you alone when you work at home? Can you stick to a routine, or are you a procrastinator who needs on-campus structure? Are you a fast reader, or someone who learns best by listening?
You also must think about hardware issues. Do you have a fast enough computer or a laptop if you travel? Do you have reliable Internet service? If you're using your work computer, are there firewalls that will impede you?
Where Do You Want to Go?
If you're looking to use an online MBA to launch yourself into a new career or job, you'll need to be a careful consumer. Some degrees barely rise above the level of matchbook-cover-mail-order courses. At the same time, some incredible programs combine online and on-campus learning, including Duke University's Fuqua School of Business
and Purdue University's Krannert Graduate School of Management
While you're checking out online programs -- such as those offered by American InterContinental University
and the University of Phoenix
-- you may want to compare them to on-campus programs. Surprisingly, at least one well-known school charges online students more than twice as much as on-campus students for the same degree.
To find out more about online MBA programs, visit MBA Depot
, Dynamo Careers
and The Graduate Management Admission Council
This article originally appeared on Monster.com.