In choosing an MBA, the name and reputation of the school is, unfortunately, of about the same importance as the content of the program.
There are a number of great MBA programs available in my area like Queen’s, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), but they all have Saturday components. Unfortunately, with my work there is no way I can take Saturdays off. They are all run at quite a high speed and I have known a number of people who really endured great stress and struggled trying to balance the program with full time work for the eighteen months or so of the program. Queen’s also cost over $75,000, UBC’s about $45,000, and SFU’s $36,000.
It became more evident that I was going to need to look to an online program. I wanted something that I could do at a slower pace and take longer than a year to complete as my work involves lots of very long days. I wanted to be able to absorb the material and be able to concentrate on it rather than having to rush through while taking four courses at a time and remembering nothing from the material. I would have liked a program where I could meet other MBA students and have good networking opportunities, which is the downfall of an online program.
There aren’t that many online MBA programs in Canada. I considered Athabasca University, but if I wish to have an international career, it doesn’t have the recognition that I would like. I wanted it to be from a solid, well-regarded school. I wanted a program without a residential component because I just couldn’t fit that into my schedule — many online programs have a week on campus every semester or two. In reading the Economist one day, I learned about the University of Massachusetts’ online MBA. It is from a real bricks and mortar university with a great reputation. If I look for work overseas, it will have name recognition. It was recently ranked number 11 in online MBAs globally by the Financial Times (number 7 among US schools) (FT rankings here) It was relatively affordable. In looking at the top 10 schools in the FT rankings, UMass is the cheapest, coming in at about half the price of nearly all of them (and a few thousand dollars less than SFU‘s), and about the same as the University of Nebraska which was one spot ahead of it at number 10. It looked like a rigorous, real program, and not the kind from a cereal box, which was another fear about studying online. I pay with each course that I take so I can slowly nibble away at the cost.
It also had real admission requirements. I needed to take a few undergrad courses in order to gain acceptance. I took undergrad Organizational Behaviour, Accounting, and Finance via correspondence from Thompson Rivers University (British Columbia’s Open University). It took about a year to complete those courses and they were not easy. I didn’t have to do the GMAT because they accepted my LSAT marks instead.
Once accepted, I have a window of five years to complete the twelve courses. I can choose how many courses to take at any one time and it runs on the semester system. About half the time I only took one course in a semester, but the odd time I knew my work would allow me to take two courses at a time I doubled my workload. My two year anniversary of being n the program is coming up soon and I will be able to complete my MBA over the span of about two and a half years.
I have really enjoyed the content of the courses. We have lots of assigned reading, term papers, online discussions, and timed quizzes that are done online. Most of the courses have video lecture components, and sometimes we have live online sessions. I have made a few friends over the duration of the program, but networking is the one area where it is not as good as an in-person program. It has a great career centre for American students and has great partnerships with companies in the New England area.