Online Master of Business Programs

By Shannon Lee

In a highly competitive business world, a degree in business may help prepare those seeking positions in operations, information technology, marketing, advertising, finance and more. In addition to the Master of Business Administration or MBA, specialized master's degrees in business may offer concentrations in business communication, business intelligence, business logistics engineering, business and science, and other subjects. Graduate programs in business span traditional, online and hybrid studies, which may combine distance learning with on-campus residencies or workshops.

Master of Business degree programs

According to the College Board, only 10 to 15 percent of those who graduate with an undergraduate degree in business immediately apply to graduate school. The majority of students may take an year or two to gain work experience. When they do apply to graduate school, it may usually be to pursue their master's of business administration.

A passing grade on the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, may be necessary for entrance into business school. Some schools might accept the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, in place of the GMAT. The master's degree may take one to two years of full-time study to obtain. Part-time programs can take three years or more.

The National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, reports that the bachelor's degree in business was awarded to 347,985 students in the 2008-2009 school year, while 168,375 students earned master's degrees in business, and another 2,123 earned their doctorate.

Coursework for the Master of Business degree

According to the College Board, those with an undergraduate degree in business may generally have already studied related courses such as these:

  1. Accounting
  2. Calculus
  3. Communications
  4. Computer science
  5. Economics
  6. Statistics

Candidates for graduate programs typically have a background in business courses, such as:

  1. Advanced courses in finance, accounting, economics and the like
  2. Business policy
  3. Finance
  4. Marketing
  5. Organizational behavior
  6. Operations management

Those pursuing a master's degree usually take courses that focus on applying business concepts to employment opportunities, which might include the following:

  • Acquisitions and contract management
  • Customers and marketing
  • Human resources
  • Information and analysis
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation and coaching
  • Process management
  • Strategic planning

Online master of business degree programs

Those who plan to gain experience through employment can consider taking a look at online courses that may allow them to fit classes into their busy schedule. Many students have to work to finance their studies: The NCES estimates that in 2009, 41 percent of full-time college students and 76 percent of part-time college students age 16 to 24 were employed. In addition, in 2007-2008, up to 70 percent of students in MBA programs were employed full-time.

Distance learning programs also offer technological experience that may be useful in business that is conducted on the Internet. Completion of a self-directed e-learning program could demonstrate qualities such as motivation and responsibility to potential employers.

Salaries and career paths in the business world

Hiring of business degree graduates is on the rise. According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, over half of full-time MBA students had a job offer by mid-March 2011, compared with 40 percent in March 2010. Consulting firms have led the charge in open positions as demand and funding for these services have picked up. GMAC expects the strongest demand for MBA graduates in finance, accounting, health care, pharmaceutical, consulting and high tech.

Since opportunities are broad-ranging for those with a business degree, average salaries may also vary. The GMAC survey estimates the starting salary for those with a master's of business administration degree at $91,433 in 2011.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics supplies salary and training information for many careers that graduates could enter. For example, many financial managers may hold a master's degrees or advanced education. Marketing, sales and promotions managers may often need a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. For computer and information systems management positions, employers may prefer a graduate degree, especially an MBA with a focus on technology. The BLS reports these mean annual wages in 2010 for this sampling of management positions:

  • Computer and information systems managers: $123,280
  • Marketing managers: $122,720
  • Financial managers: $116,970
  • Sales managers: $114,110

Thanks to online degree programs, working students may be able to pursue an MBA without giving up their current positions. Online master of business programs may also allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations in their professions.

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