More graduate students are pursuing online business degrees than ever before. According to GMAC, demand for online MBA programs is outstripping that for classroom-based part-time and executive courses.
In 2015, the Online Learning Consortium reported that one in four higher education students in the US takes at least one of their university modules online. The number of distance-learning students is also increasing by almost 5% each year.
“You don’t have to be sat at a desk in an office to do your job,” says Gloria Barber, who’s worked for Birmingham Business School’s Careers in Business department for almost a decade.
“How we work is also reflected in education. Distance-learning has become more accepted, and the online learning experience has really improved.”
For global employers, online MBA and business master’s programs have become credible alternatives to traditional classroom-based courses.
“Employers are far more accepting now of online degrees than they used to be,” Gloria explains. “I spend a lot of time speaking with employers, and I don’t think any of them ask me about the method of delivery. They’re more interested in where the MBA is studied, the rankings, and the accreditations.”
Birmingham Business School positions its Online MBA as a direct alternative to the full-time MBA program. Online MBA graduates receive the same certificate as graduates from the full-time course.
Last year, Birmingham’s Online MBA became the world’s first fully-online MBA to be accredited by AMBA, raising the profile of 100%-online programs internationally.
The University of Birmingham is part of the UK’s Russell Group – world-renowned for its faculty and research facilities, and with strong links to top MBA employers like Accenture, HSBC, and PwC.
Gloria and her colleagues in the Careers in Business team are available to Online MBA students from day zero, offering tailored, one-on-one careers support; interview prep, resume workshops, and job search advice.
“Most of the people that do the Online MBA are working full-time at the same time,” Gloria continues. “The fact that they’ve been able to do that shows resilience, ambition, and their ability to multitask – that in itself is going to be attractive to prospective employers.
“At the same time, when companies look at supporting their own employees to do an MBA, the online MBA causes far less disruption – compared with, say, letting one of their employees take one or two years off to study an MBA full-time.
“If online MBA students are doing their dissertations and final projects while working, for the company, then that’s going to bring immediate value.”
Patrick Gettleman is a Birmingham Online MBA student working for a leading multinational corporation. His employer offset some of the program’s cost.
“My employer is pleased that I’ve decided to get my MBA,” he says. “Having a different perspective on things helps shape different responses to situations. I now look at my projects from more of a big picture perspective than I would have before.”
Helena Feibert, a Danish student on Birmingham’s pre-experience Online MSc International Business, started the program in August 2015 and landed a new job at jewelry manufacturer Pandora in December.
“Distance learning allows me to prioritize work and education without one eliminating or overshadowing the other,” she says. “We have group work, individual work, class discussions and assignments; everything you would find in an on-site program.
“I’ve gained a deeper insight into many aspects of international business and I’ve been able to apply theories in my work activities,” she continues. “[The MSc] will add substance to my resume and allow me to maneuver more easily in a global context.”
Daniel Chicksand, director of Birmingham’s Online MBA, says application numbers have grown year on year. “The future is for more flexible learning programs,” he says.
“The Online MBA is in no way an easy option. The expectations for students are the same. [And] employers see the Online MBA in the same light as the face-to-face program.”