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Online vs. Traditional MBA: Which Program Is Best For You?

Top MBA programs are available on campuses and through online learning.

Every year, 185,000 people earn a master’s degree in business,1 with many electing to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA). There’s a good reason for this. An advanced business degree like an MBA can give your career a significant boost and help you become a business manager, or even rise to the executive level. But what’s the best way to earn an MBA degree?

In the past, when choosing a program, you would collect a list of the best business schools, compare them, and then determine which ones were in cities where you would like to live. If you couldn’t move, then you would have to choose from the top MBA programs in your immediate area. Often, that didn’t leave you with a lot of choices. But now, things are different.

Online vs. Traditional MBA: Which Program Is Best For You?

With the advent of online learning, you aren’t limited by geography. If you have a computer and internet access—or can obtain both—you can earn a Master of Business Administration. So, these days, the first question you have to ask when selecting a program is: Should I choose a campus-based or an online MBA program?

To answer that question, you first need to understand that the difference between earning an MBA on a campus and earning an MBA online boils down to format. Every MBA program with accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) adheres to the same set of standards and delivers a quality education. The choice between campus-based versus online isn’t a matter of which is better. It’s a matter of which is better for you.

To help you make the right choice, here’s how the program formats differ.

Campus-Based MBA Programs

You’re likely aware of what earning a business degree on a campus entails. Courses are held in classrooms at the university. These classes take place at set times on set days of the week, and you earn credit for classes at the end of a semester or quarter. In other words, your learning and degree path are structured for you—and you’re expected to adhere to that structure.

A campus-based MBA program may be right for you if:

  • You already live close to the MBA program you want to attend or can move to be near the program that admits you.
  • You don’t plan on working while you earn your degree or you have a job that will allow you to work around your class schedule.
  • You crave structure.

Online MBA Programs

The online learning format differs from the campus-based format in several key ways. At an online university, there is no campus. Instead, you take your classes via the internet. And those classes don’t happen at a set time of day. Instead, you log on and attend class at whatever time of day makes the most sense for you. Many students in online MBA programs take their classes at home, first thing in the morning or later in the evening.

Online learning also offers flexibility in how quickly you earn your degree. You can choose to follow a traditional schedule, where you earn credits for classes at the end of a semester or quarter. Or, you can take advantage of the competency-based option offered by some online MBA programs. In a competency-based MBA program, you earn credits by demonstrating that you’ve mastered core competencies (i.e., concepts or topics) of the degree. Once you’ve demonstrated mastery of all the competencies, you earn your degree. This format makes it possible to earn your business administration master’s more quickly.

An online MBA program may be right for you if:

  • You can’t or don’t want to move.
  • You don’t want to travel to a university campus for classes.
  • You work full time or have other responsibilities and need the flexibility to attend classes at times of day that are convenient for you.
  • You want options for completing your degree faster.
  • You are a self-starter who can thrive without a rigid structure.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an ACBSP-accredited Master of Business Administration degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden’s BS in Business Administration, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), and PhD in Management programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The MS in Accounting and BS in Accounting programs are also accredited by the ACBSP and have earned the organization’s Specialized Accounting Accreditation.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,