How much does an online MBA cost?

How much does an online MBA cost?

Key Takeaways

  • The best affordable online MBA degree programs cost less than $10,000 per year.
  • There are numerous ways to lower the cost of an online MBA.
  • MBA students typically earn $20,000-$30,000 more per year than college graduates with a bachelor’s degree alone, ensuring a strong return on investment.

Business schools get questions like, “How much do your online MBA programs cost?” for understandable reasons—an MBA degree is among the most expensive graduate degrees in the United States! While the cost of an online MBA varies widely between programs, costs can range anywhere between $5,000 and $60,000+ per year.

Many of the top online MBA programs cost the same as on-campus MBA degrees. So how can students anticipate the cost factors when pursuing this valuable graduate degree? We help you navigate the cost of an online MBA degree in the United States.

Take a look at the Best Online MBA Programs.

Of course, there are affordable online MBA programs that working professionals, adult learners, and traditional students can explore. For example, tuition for Florida State University is only $7,000 per year. Florida State University’s online MBA program is only a little over $30,400 for two years, and ranks #13 on the list of the Best Online MBA Degrees.

An online MBA degree from Brandeis University is more expensive at $58,766 per year. Brandeis ranks #12 on the list of Best Online MBA degrees.

Bottom line: the cost of an online MBA depends on the school you choose.

So how can students anticipate the cost factors that must be considered when making cost-and-benefit analysis of an online MBA degree? Let’s find out.

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Featured Programs

What are the cost components of an online MBA?

When thinking about the total cost of attendance in an online MBA program, it’s a must to consider the specific elements that contribute to it. Keep in mind that while earning an online MBA will likely eliminate on-campus costs, such as traveling and commuting expenses, there are many other factors that will increase the cost of attendance. Many online MBA programs, for example, require on-campus visits, in-person internships, and even study-abroad immersions.


Of course, tuition per credit is the main consideration because it’s usually the largest cost component, but the total tuition will differ on numerous factors, too. Private and public colleges and universities in the same geographical area can have tuition per credit fees that vary widely due to their overall reputation, curriculum offerings, program requirements, and student support services provided.

So if you’re looking for affordable online MBA programs, Ivy League, Public Ivy, and national universities usually charge higher tuition fees than regional institutions.

Tuition fees can also differ based on residency even among online MBA programs where geographical barriers become non-existent. In-state students usually pay lower tuition fees than out-of-state students, but there are online degree programs that have the same tuition fees for resident and non-resident students.

For example, Florida International University charges the same tuition for students in its Professional Online MBA program regardless of residency, while Florida State University tuition varies for in-state and out-of-state students.

Online and on-campus MBA programs may or may not also have the same tuition and fees. Be sure to check the details before making your choice between an online and on-campus program offered by your preferred university.

Technology fees

Online programs usually charge technology fees that cover the maintenance and development costs of their learning management systems and learning infrastructure. Students benefit from technology fees through smooth, positive, and effective virtual learning experiences.

Miscellaneous fees

These are administrative fees that cover application and graduation fees, library fees, and examination expenses incurred by the online MBA programs.

Together, the tuition and fees take the lion’s share of the pie of the total cost of attendance in an online MBA program.

Learning materials

Even with the availability of digital libraries and research resources, online MBA students must allocate funds for their learning materials. These include software licenses and downloads, digital textbooks and e-books, and paid access to online databases and other resources.

Residency and immersion costs

In online MBA programs with in-person requirements, students must also allocate funds for their traveling, room and board, and incidental costs in fulfillment of these requirements. On-campus requirements usually include onboarding and orientation sessions, in-person networking events, and in-person presentation and defense of capstone projects or master’s thesis.

Of course, online students must also account for their living expenses but since they don’t live in on-campus accommodations, these costs are part of their budget anyway. Don’t forget the costs related to meeting an online MBA program’s Internet and technology requirements, such as personal computer and Internet connection.

We must also shine the spotlight on the opportunity costs that students pursuing online MBA degrees must take into account. The time and energy necessary to earn an MBA degree can mean passing up income and career opportunities! Fortunately, among the hallmarks of online MBA programs are their flexible schedules, convenient access, and adaptability to learning styles.

And then there’s the cost difference between attending an online and on-campus MBA program. There are exceptions but, on average, online MBA programs are more affordable than their on-campus counterparts, not to mention that attending on-campus MBA programs means traveling expenses and other related costs.

In terms of part-time and full-time enrollment, part-time students pay less in tuition and fees per year than full-time students because of the lesser number of credits taken. Full-time students can pay more than three times their part-time counterparts on annual tuition and fees, but the latter are enrolled for a longer period.

Incoming graduate students in MBA online programs must consider these factors that affect the total cost of attendance before making their move. Asking relevant questions—admissions and financial aid officers are usually the best resource persons for these concerns—is a must.

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What’s the average cost for online MBA programs?

According to Education Data, the average cost of an MBA degree is $61,800 but to get a better understanding, we should look into the specific tuition information provided by many of the top online MBA programs.

Let’s take a look at the expensive online MBA programs first (Dollar amounts are tuition costs only, unless otherwise stated)

Among the cheapest online MBA programs are those offered by the following universities:

Again, be sure to factor in the other components that go into the total cost of attendance in online MBA programs! You should also consider whether the higher cost of attendance will pay off (i.e., return on investment) in better career advancement opportunities where top-ranking online MBA programs are concerned. But don’t dismiss affordable online MBA programs either as their overall reputation, academic quality, and graduate outcomes are just as attractive!

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Are online MBAs more affordable?

Yes, online MBAs can be more affordable, but it must also be said that there are caveats. Here are a few reasons why you may want to consider an online MBA program if you want to save on the total cost of earning a graduate business degree.

Lower tuition and fees

Again, there are exceptions but, in general, MBA online programs have lower tuition and fees because these don’t require physical classrooms and facilities (i.e., lower construction and maintenance costs). Many online MBA students also often have the same access to financial aid programs as their on-campus counterparts.

Flexible course delivery

Since the learning management system and its materials can be accessed remotely, students who are learning exclusively online can save on relocation and commuting costs, resulting in more cost savings. This can even be true for online MBA programs that have some in-person requirements because travel to campus doesn’t usually happen that often.

Opportunity to continue working

As previously mentioned, online MBA programs allow working professionals to maintain their full-time or part-time employment while pursuing the coveted business degree. Online students can then offset the costs of attendance, particularly when they receive employer support, such as in the form of employer tuition reimbursement.

What’s the Difference between an Online MBA and Traditional MBA?

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Is it worth getting an online MBA?

It is worth getting an online MBA even if the degree is expensive. Graduates of the best online MBA programs report a high return on investment in addition to the personal and professional fulfillment that the graduate business degree brings into their lives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), MBA students will earn $20,000-$30,000 more a year than college graduates with a bachelor’s alone. Some MBA specializations have even higher wages.

Even more impressive, the BLS says MBA students with specializations like securities, commodities, and financial services can earn 90% more than college grads! They also report that market research analysts, marketing sales managers, and real estate managers all earned much more with an MBA, so this degree is definitely worth it.

Research also shows that online MBA students have the same salary range as in-person MBA students. This makes the online MBA a good investment.

On the personal and professional fulfillment front, online MBA degree holders report the following positive experiences:

  • The opportunity for entrepreneurial success makes an online MBA worth it! While an MBA degree isn’t essential for business success, the knowledge and skills gained will boost your confidence to take calculated risks and navigate the challenges of being an entrepreneur. The sense of personal fulfillment that comes with launching and maintaining a new business venture, creating employment opportunities, and giving back to the community is priceless.
  • The personal growth that happens when overcoming the challenges that come with pursuing an online MBA degree is also part of the appeal. You must step out of your comfort zone, be open to new viewpoints, and even take on new responsibilities that will strengthen your resilience, confidence, and creativity. You also become tougher under pressure, a trait that’s valuable in high-pressure situations, both in and out of a business environment.
  • The abundant opportunities to make a positive impact on your team, organization, and community are possible because you have the knowledge and network to back up your passion. Making a difference can be personally fulfilling!
  • The new knowledge that becomes part of your lessons in an online business administration master’s program stimulates or strengthens a passion for lifelong learning that, in turn, contributes to your intellectual satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
  • The global perspective that comes from studying with fellow learners from across diverse disciplines and cultures is a bonus. You will become more culturally sensitive and open-minded to other people’s experiences.
  • The ability to be professional and pragmatic complements the ability to multitask as well as strengthens your sense of logic, reason, and practicality. Professional pragmatism is a must because it’s vital for effective problem-solving and decision-making.

Most importantly, you will develop vital skills that will serve you well, whether you go into employment in leadership positions or into entrepreneurship, including:

  • Strategic thinking and analysis is essential in finding solutions for problems and in making decisions that affect the greater whole.
  • Leadership skills become part of your DNA, too, and it’s crucial for success in any situation. Being a leader also means being a good team player.
  • Data analysis skills are par for the course in online MBA programs and these are crucial for success in a data-driven world.
  • Communication skills are a must in business and non-business situations because, well, humans are social creatures and must communicate to thrive.
  • Networking skills become part of your skill set, too, and it will boost your employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, not to mention enrich your life through meaningful connections (i.e., friendships and partnerships).
  • Time management is crucial for success in a world where multitasking along with effective scheduling and prioritizing are valued traits.

The bottom line: An online MBA degree is an excellent investment!

But we must also point out that whether an online MBA is worth it or not depends on your individual circumstances. You should take into account these questions to determine whether pursuing an online MBA will be worth it or not in your case:

  • What are your career goals in relation to your choice in an MBA program? An MBA degree can be valuable for career advancement or a career switch, as well as for improving your business knowledge and skills in particular and leadership skills in general. Be sure to evaluate how it will contribute to your career goals to make it worth it.
  • What are the costs and return on investment that you expect from an MBA program? Too many MBA graduates earn the degree but end up with thousands of dollars in student loan debt!
  • You must be realistic about the total cost of attendance and its effect on your current finances as well as the expected increase in income after earning an MBA degree. While the income-earning potential is on the positive side, the student loan debt will put a damper on your return on investment expectations (i.e., timeline and amount).

  • Ask yourself, too, whether the MBA online programs you’re interested in offer excellent networking opportunities and specializations or certifications that can further boost your credibility, as well as cater to your learning goals and style. You should always consider the overall reputation of the MBA program in the industries you’re interested in pursuing an MBA degree in.

By making careful considerations of these factors, you will be in a better position to determine whether entering an online MBA program will be to your advantage or not.

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Can I do an MBA online free?

You can not earn an accredited MBA online for free. However, it is possible to get some advanced business education online through the following means:

  • Some platforms offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from accredited colleges and universities offer free MBA courses. You can take advantage of these free courses to increase your business-related knowledge and skills, usually as part of a self-directed personal and professional growth process. If you want to get credits that can be recognized toward a formal degree and/or earn a verified certificate, you will be asked to pay corresponding fees.
  • Free online MBA courses are offered by top business schools like Columbia, Berkeley and the University of Chicago. By auditing these MBA courses, you can access the course materials and learn business knowledge but you won’t earn transferable credits.
  • You may also be able to earn an MBA degree for free or nearly-free through employer sponsorship programs, such as the case with Executive and Professional MBA programs. Check out financial aid options including scholarships and grants that can result in significant reductions of the tuition and fees in earning an online MBA degree.

    Tip: Enroll in an affordable online MBA program that offers generous financial aid packages. You may just find that there’s little need for student loans.

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Are there ways to save money on an online MBA?

Yes, there are several ways that you can enjoy significant reductions in your cost of attendance in an online MBA program! You won’t be compromising the quality of education you will be getting either.

Consider affordable online MBA programs

Look for online MBA programs with competitive tuition combined with quality instruction and good industry reputation, such as Lamart University, Fitchburg State University, and Missouri State University. Between a public school and a private institution, you’re more likely to enjoy affordable tuition in the former.

You can also get the best value from an online MBA by finding a school with a good reputation and an affordable online MBA degree. Schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the University of Mississippi have top ranked online MBAs for $10,000 a year or less.

You can get even better value with the top HBCU MBA Programs Online. You can get an online MBA from the top 9 HBCU programs for under $10,000 a year.

You can even get an online MBA for $6,000 a year or less at excellent HBCUs like Fayetteville State University, Albany State University, and top-ranked Florida A&M.

You should also consider an in-state online program so that you can enjoy in-state tuition (i.e., it’s more affordable than out-of-state tuition). But if you’re interested in an out-of-state online MBA program, you should check if it offers the same tuition and fees rate for in-state and out-of-state students.

Of course, you must make cost comparisons even between affordable online MBA programs and consider all cost components. While we’re not saying that hidden charges are common, it’s best that you’re well aware of their possibility and adopt steps to avoid being surprised later on.

You should also consider your current finances—how much you earn, what your expenses are, and what your financial goals are (e.g., savings for emergencies)—and see where MBA tuition, fees and other expenses fit in. An online MBA requires significant investments in time, energy, and money, so you must be proactive and plan for the future, particularly if money is an issue.

Consider online MBA programs without standardized test scores requirements

You can also save money by getting into an online MBA program without paying for testing. Some MBA programs require you to take the GMAT exam.

The GMAT only costs $250. But many students will pay for exam preparation too. Exam preparation companies like The Princeton Review charge nearly $2000 for classes.

The good news is that you may not have to take the GMAT. You can save money and time by looking for the Best Online MBA No GMAT Required.

Look for financial aid opportunities

This is a no-brainer for enrolled MBA students but can be challenging when applying to a program for the first time. Federal and state financial aid is your first recourse. You should file your FAFSA regardless of whether you think you will qualify or not.

Institutional scholarships, grants, and work-study programs are also excellent options, as are external sources of funds including employer tuition reimbursement programs.

Consider accelerated online MBA programs or part-time enrollment.

With an accelerated online MBA degree program, you can complete your graduate degree at a faster pace and save money by spending less time on it. In turn, you’re more likely to enjoy faster return on investment since you can leverage your MBA degree sooner.

Part-time enrollment is also a good way of saving money on an online MBA. You can continue pursuing full-time employment, meaning less opportunity costs, and pay for lower tuition. But you will still spend the same or slightly higher tuition and fees if you enrolled on a full-time basis.

Apply for transferable credits.

You should ask the admissions officer of your preferred online MBA program about their transferable credits policy. You may be able to transfer graduate-level courses from a previous master’s degree, which you may or may not have completed, or from relevant work experience, military training and experience, and professional certifications.

With transferred credits, you can decrease the number of credits and courses you will be required to take and pay for. You will save money because you’re paying for less credits.

You can also save in other ways including:

  • Using open educational resources and buying used textbooks.
  • Exploring MOOCs that can supplement your MBA education.
  • Taking advantage of free workshops, podcasts, and webinars for useful industry insights for free.
  • Don’t discount academic advisors, professors, and staff members as a source of information. These professionals in the best online MBA programs may also help you to find ways to decrease your overall costs.

Indeed, the cost of attendance in graduate business programs doesn’t have to be a deterrent to your career ambitions!

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How can I get the best value from an online MBA?

First, let’s define what getting the best value from an online MBA degree means. Basically, it means finding the optimum balance between the cost and benefits of earning an online MBA degree.

  • Make sure that your career goals align with the competencies you acquire from an online MBA education.
  • Network extensively with your fellow students, alumni, faculty members, academic advisors, and industry professionals for your personal growth and professional advancement. Networking does not only mean building your place in the industry but also creating meaningful connections that can last a lifetime, perhaps even contribute to your legacy.
  • Engage in practical learning experiences, such as internships, study abroad opportunities, and consulting projects, as well as pour your heart into your capstone project. While knowledge is a strong foundation, skills are the pillars that others see and appreciate—and both can be strengthened by practical learning experiences.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities, if possible, since these are vital for your personal and professional growth, too. Community immersions, student organizations, and case competitions are notable examples.
  • Customize your learning experiences by taking on elective courses based on your personal interests and career goals. Electives will deepen your knowledge and expand your horizons about your specific niche.
  • Use student support and career development services that will put your credentials in the sight of future employers, partners, and clients. In doing so, you’re getting the best value for the money from your online MBA degree.

In conclusion, an online MBA degree is, indeed, a valuable asset! You must remember, however, that its potential impact on your personal and professional advancement is your responsibility. You must then be persistent, stay proactive, and be adaptable throughout your MBA journey and beyond.

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See our complete guide to MBAs for more information.

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