Choosing the Best MBA Program: Why Where It's from Is So Important

Choose the MBA program that best fits your needs. The experts from the SMU Cox Online MBA program show you why where you earn your MBA matters.

The SMU Cox campus

This blog post was originally published in November 2019, and was revised in May 2023.

With recent data supporting the return on investment of an MBA and a continued strong job market, you may have already looked into pursuing an advanced degree to help advance your career. As you determine whether you are ready to make the time and financial commitment necessary to complete an MBA or other graduate program, it is important to understand that a master’s degree in business administration are not all created equal. In fact, where you attain your degree may be the most important factor affecting the benefits you’ll yield and salary potential post-graduation. Certainly, the ideal program should meet your personal criteria and be a conduit to your career goals. However, if your intention is to advance your career, you will need a degree from a well-respected institution that future employers will look at in a positive light. Here are some components to consider as you further your MBA research:

Online MBA vs On Campus MBA

Depending on your professional goals, a traditional on-campus program may adequately serve your needs. You can attend a university with which you’re already familiar–perhaps your alma mater–or apply to a school that may have been out of reach for you as an undergrad. But if you intend to work while you pursue your MBA degree, and require flexibility to attend class from anywhere, an online MBA degree program may be a better option. The proliferation of online MBA programs has skyrocketed in recent years. There are literally hundreds from which you can choose. And while many reputable institutions of higher education offer quality online MBA programs, the arena is also crowded with substandard players. Conduct due diligence.

The Importance of MBA Accreditation

Accreditation indicates that programs meet and adhere to rigorous standards set by recognized, non-government agencies. Accreditation includes teachers, coursework, and facilities, equipment, and supplies, so you know from top to bottom your program has been thoroughly scrutinized. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “many employers in the United States only recognize degrees earned from institutions accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education.”2 While accreditation is technically a voluntary process, any institution that intends to confer degrees will be accredited in some capacity. Programs can be nationally, regionally or internationally accredited. Top-quality online MBA programs are not nationally credited; they’re either regionally or internationally accredited. Look for AACSB International accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Accreditation is also an important financial consideration, as accreditation is a requirement for institutions to participate in federal aid programs. Programs tend to put their accreditation on display on their websites and in published literature. But even accrediting agencies that sound reasonable and reputable may not be recognized by the Department of Education. Make certain your target school is.

Faculty Research and Leadership

Whether you already work in an industry and want to advance your position, or you are pursuing an MBA to switch careers, to be the best, you need to learn from the best. Maybe your goal is to lead a team of technical experts, or influence a company’s strategic plan, or drive a financial growth initiatives. Whatever the ultimate goal, the program you choose should provide you with a solid foundation of business and leadership skills. Look up leading faculty in the area you intend to pursue. Pick out a few choice articles they’ve written or projects they’ve worked on and do your research. Try to get a sense of how their expertise could help you achieve your goals. Look for instructors with knowledge and experience in management and organizations, corporate strategy, or specializations within the field of finance. Ideally, your instructors will have worked in industry, managed or owned a business, published books or scholarly articles, and/or served in the public sector. While the use of adjunct professors is a common practice in online MBA programs, find out how many of your faculty are full professors and how many are part-time. Ask an admissions representative for a list of possible faculty and consider reaching out directly to them via email. This may help you get an idea of how they manage online communications and coursework. And despite how impersonal email can be, you may get an idea whether they’re someone you can envision as a mentor. In order to reap the full benefits of their curriculum and experiential learning opportunities–a consultative experience, a simulation, or a real-life business case-your learning style should be in sync with the faculty member’s teaching style.

Support Services and Professional Development

There’s more to a good program than the interactions between faculty and students. Your MBA program should support you with professional development opportunities as you take your courses and support you with an alumni network. This means career services, mentorship programs, and experiential learning opportunities. Career services will help you present yourself, prepare your resume and CV, understand the ins and outs of navigating a new role. Your alumni network should be up in the tens of thousands. Those are people willing to guide, support, and provide opportunities to their fellow alumni. Yes, where you get your MBA from matters. The best MBA programs enable their students to think in new ways and apply innovative ideas to complex global business. The SMU Cox School of Business Online MBA program offers flexible online learning as well as hands-on, career-enhancing opportunities to learn in the real world. Earn your MBA from an accredited online program that will equip you with the knowledge and skills a business leader needs to be successful in an ever-changing landscape. Click “learn more” and fill out the form to request more information about our Online MBA program and how you can benefit from all the resources the SMU Cox School of Business in Dallas, TX has to offer.