What Employers Think of Your Online MBA Degree

When Michael Urtiaga goes on job interviews, he regularly gets asked the question, "How were you able to balance an MBA education at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business with your previous full-time job near Cincinnati?"

The answer: The 36-year-old, who's now in between jobs, pursued his MBA online through the Kelley Direct program – not by traveling to the school on the weekends, as some interviewers initially assume given that he lives about a two-hour drive away from the campus.

Urtiaga says interviewers generally seem accepting of his online degree given the strong reputation of the school. Still, he sometimes needs to answer questions about the pros and cons of online learning and the real-world benefits the online program offers.

"Oftentimes, you can see their faces change as you go through the conversation," says Urtiaga, who completed his MBA last year and is now pursuing an online master's in strategic management as part of a dual degree program at Kelley. There's still a bit of a stigma, he says, but people usually come around when they hear some of the format's virtues.

Recruiters say most employers accept job candidates' online MBAs from respected schools, especially now that the quality of an online MBA education at many institutions is equivalent to one on a physical campus. But in some cases, experts say, there's still the need to educate companies about the legitimacy of many online programs.

A significant portion of employers won't even ask about the format in which the degree was earned, says Adam J. Samples, regional president of Atrium Staffing in New Jersey. Others will only dig deeper if they have a specific reason to – as in Urtiaga's case, where they see he worked while pursuing his MBA.

In the latter scenario, for instance, a potential employer might ask why the student chose the online route to an education and how the program works, experts say. What's most important, however, is the reputation of the institution and its accreditation.

"I think more and more employers don't have a knee-jerk negative or positive reaction when they hear the word 'online,'" says Richard Garrett, chief research officer at Eduventures, a research and advisory firm for higher education institutions.

Samples says in the first half of his 12-year career, employers he worked with generally expressed concerns with online degrees. They were unsure, for example, whether students were learning vital business skills gained in a classroom setting, such as group collaboration...

Read full story: U.S. News & World Report

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