With keen global competition for high-level and technical jobs, an MBA affords job candidates an advantage over those coming to the table with only an undergraduate degree.
Think an advanced degree is out of reach? It does not have to be. You no longer have to try to twist your work schedule around in-person courses. These days, online is the way to go for busy professionals. With asynchronous learning, students can schedule courses to fit their lifestyles.
The cost for online degrees at many accredited universities can also be bearable, depending upon the program; a student can expect to pay anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars per credit hour up to $2,000 per credit hour for out-of-state students according to the latest U.S. News & World Report. For would-be students who still might have difficulty coming up with tuition, schools offer assistance with financial aid, be it institutional or otherwise.
For this best-of list, we compared the top 25 universities for each category to come up with the best and least expensive options. We looked at curriculum, student ratings, and whether or not the degrees were 100% online.
The 7 Cheapest Online MBA Programs
- Best Overall: Fitchburg State University, Business Administration Department
- Best for Accounting and Finance Professionals: Culver-Stockton College
- Best for Economics Professionals: University of Houston-Victoria
- Best for Entrepreneurs: Fayetteville State University, Broadwell College of Business and Economics
- Best for Healthcare Professionals: Lamar University, College of Business
- Best for Marketing: West Texas A&M University, College of Business
- Best for Veterans: Florida Atlantic, College of Business
Best Overall: Fitchburg State University, Business Administration Department
FSU, which is based in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, won this category by being a smaller school that is part of the Massachusetts State University system. The quality of the program and the student-reported effects the degree had on graduates’ careers put the school over the top.
Accredited from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
According to GradReports, 100% of student reviewers recommend this school, and 60% said their Fitchburg degree improved their career
Not accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Fitchburg State University has a two-year curriculum of 15-week online courses. The program, which can be stretched into a six-year plan of study, is based in the liberal arts and has a total cost of $12,510. Students with a GPA of 3.00 or higher have the opportunity to request to enroll in one additional concentration. Dual concentration students will complete 39 credits instead of the requisite 30. Class sizes, one reason why FSU won, are reportedly small and extremely interactive. Professors actually get to know their students in the program.
Graduate reviews on GradReports say that the MBA program coordinators are extremely helpful, and the professors go out of their way to provide assistance and help. Professors are also engaging and available. Professional courses are supported by a variety of practical business experiences and opportunities for experiential learning through internships structured to give the student a chance to apply classroom theory to specific work experiences, another reason for FSU to win this category. For student life, the school has great opportunities to engage with activities and clubs everyone can participate in. There is also great diversity of students in the program.
Best for Accounting and Finance Professionals: Culver-Stockton College
This Canton, Missouri-based university won this category for accounting and finance professionals because of the high quality of the program coupled with the students’ ability to complete the courses in as few as five weeks.
Rigorous 100% online course curriculum ranks 21st among Best Value Institutions in the Midwest by U.S. News and World Report
Courses are five to eight weeks long and cover areas such as strategic financial management, data analysis, investment analysis, and global strategy
No institutional aid available
The MBA program is more rigorous than most, which is why this school won this category. Admission is competitive at only 46%. While there is no institutional aid available, employees of corporate partners may receive a 10% discount and alumni a 15% discount. There are rolling entry dates every eight weeks throughout the calendar year, making application easier than most other schools.
In the five-week courses, students can expect to develop analytical skills that are necessary to make effective business decisions, evaluate qualitative data, and effectively communicate results and recommendations. The program costs $6,000.
With 70.8% of its classes topping out at 20 or fewer students, this school offers students the ability to get to know other students and for the professors to get to know the students. GradReports notes that the academic support is superior. Professors have such an open-door policy that they will sacrifice their lunchtime to meet with students and are available after office hours. Students also report that the classes are very diverse.
Best for Economics Professionals: University of Houston-Victoria
Located in Victoria, Texas, the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) won out in this category because it offers an online Global MBA program with five start dates each year for only $14,999 that can be completed in as few as 16 months. Core courses include Global Economics, International Management and Leadership, Financial Reporting and Analysis, International Business Strategy, and Economic Development, among others.
Designated an HIS (Hispanic-Serving Institution)
AACSB, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Commission on Colleges-accredited program
Must have successfully completed at least one statistics course before starting program
The Global MBA program in economics is designed to be completed in a year and a semester—one reason the school won this category—which makes it very do-able for the busy professional. The school is considered More Selective according to UniGo with only 48% of all applicants being admitted.
Class sizes are small enough that each student is able to get the individual attention needed to be successful in the program. B-Schools rates the University of Houston-Victoria MBA program as one of the best among Texas’ online MBA programs. The program itself comprises 54 credits, including 24 for foundation courses and 18 core courses, and comes in at just under $15,000—another reason this school tops out this category.
The Global MBA prepares students with the business competencies, cultural skills, and global mindset essential in today’s marketplace. Professors, according to GradReports, are very friendly and engaging. Upon graduation, B-Schools reports that students are well-equipped to take up leadership roles in private and public organizations.
Best for Entrepreneurs: Fayetteville State University, Broadwell College of Business and Economics
Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fayetteville State University won this category not only for its low cost of $6,900, but also for its design that allows students an extended option for completion, unavailable in most programs.
Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Princeton Review rates the school in the Best Business Schools in the Southeast
Applicants who do not possess an undergraduate degree in a business-related field may be required to enroll in up to 15 additional credit hours of foundation courses
Fayetteville State University is considered a Selective school according to UniGo with only 59% of all applicants being accepted. The program was designed with working professionals in mind. Students are required to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours.
MBA candidates generally take two classes a semester to complete the program in 24 months. The flexibility of the program, however, allows students to take classes at their own pace, enabling an MBA to be earned in as few as 12 months to a maximum of 72 months.
The core curriculum includes Principles of Accounting, Principles of Business Statistics, Fundamentals of Economics, Foundations of Finance, and Fundamentals of Marketing. Elective courses allow students to tailor their education to their unique career goals. At $6,900, this MBA program was easily the best pick for this category. For the price, the program design and accreditation give this program the edge for entrepreneurs. Instructors and advisors, according to GradReports, work very hard to assist students in reaching all their degree goals. Professors are described as wonderful, caring, and tough and make students work for their grades.
Best for Healthcare Professionals: Lamar University, College of Business
This Beaumont, Texas-based university won this category for online MBA students because of its accreditation, broad curriculum that can be completed in just 16 months, and its relatively low cost of $14,668 for a typically expensive degree.
Fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which accredits only 5% of business schools
Healthcare administration courses include healthcare economics, healthcare entrepreneurship, healthcare information systems, and healthcare strategy
Students without an academic background in business may be required to take foundational business courses in accounting, economics, and finance
According to UniGo, graduates say the professors genuinely care about student success and are available to help, even after office hours, which makes getting assistance easy for the busy professional. Professors are reported to be both helpful and fair, and the class sizes make it so the professors get to know students by name.
The diverse array of students is encouraged to participate in the classes. Graduates report professors thoroughly teach the subject matter and care about students’ success in the courses. Lamar University places a heavy emphasis on experiential-based approaches to problem-solving, including the knowledge, skill, and ability to incorporate ethical considerations, leadership, teamwork, and a global perspective into the decision-making process. As a result, students also report they are given the opportunity to become directly involved in their specialty, which enabled them to gain valuable experience.
The broad curriculum, which can be completed quickly at a low cost of just under $15,000—reasons this school won this category—sets graduates up to earn relatively high salaries in healthcare upon graduation.
Best for Marketing: West Texas A&M University, College of Business
Canyon, Texas-based, West Texas A&M earned our top spot for marketing professionals not only because of its low cost of $10,385 but also because of the availability of a 100% asynchronous learning option. As WTA&M is part of the Texas A&M University system, students are getting a top-tier marketing program for a bargain price.
Princeton Review, TFE, and U.S. News and World Reports ranked WTA&M’s online MBA programs among the best in the nation
Offers five MBA concentrations as 100% asynchronous courses: Marketing, Management, Health Care Management, General, and Computer Information Systems
Students must first establish proficiency in Finance, Accounting, as well as Statistics before starting the program
The West Texas A&M University MBA program, which is accredited by ACSB, ABET, and the Computing Accreditation Commission, was designed specifically for full-time employed professionals. UniGo rates the school as Selective with only 59% of applicants gaining acceptance.
The school allows up to six years for completion, though most students complete the program in two years. Its 100% asynchronous courses priced at just less than $14,000 makes the program the best for this category. Students report that the best thing about the course is the size. They have more one-on-one time with professors, which is important for the students who are returning to school after many years in the workforce who may need additional course direction.
Graduates report they have built relationships with their professors and feel comfortable getting advice from them. Professors are reported to be passionate about teaching their subjects and demonstrate a helpful attitude. Students are encouraged to be independent, think freely, and to get involved in discussions, which makes for a more rounded experience given the diversity of the participants.
Best for Veterans: Florida Atlantic, College of Business
This Boca Raton, Florida, school topped our list because of its 100% asynchronous learning delivery, which is so important to active military to be able to access courses when their schedules permit. The variety of concentrations available to the student also played a part in winning this category for FAU.
Course delivery is 100% asynchronous for maximum flexibility
Offers concentrations like Advanced Analysis of Accounting Data, Marketing Management in a Global Environment, Communication Skills for Business Professionals, and Operations Management
Not a Yellow Ribbon Program participant, which is the provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps students attend expensive private schools at little or no cost to themselves.
Florida Atlantic University’s OMBA (Online Masters of Business Administration) program is designed to be completed in just under two years, and the tuition and fees cost an amazingly low $9,861 for veterans. The program is student-rated as competitive and intense, but supportive. The faculty is knowledgeable, accessible, and always willing to help students succeed.
Professors are reported to care deeply about their students’ success. Students say that the professors are engaging and easy to understand, which is important for online asynchronous learning—the main reason the school won this category. Because the courses are 100% asynchronous, veterans can access courses at any time and from any location with an internet connection.
The instruction and content replicate the classroom experience; lectures, presentations, discussions, and chats are recorded. The makeup of the classes is diverse. Students have the freedom to choose to take elective courses across several areas for a General MBA or take all elective courses from a single area for focused expertise in a specialized business function. Those who do not elect a concentration will be granted a General MBA.
What Is an Online MBA?
An online Masters of Business Administration (MBA), just like a traditional MBA, is a kind of business degree usually aimed at professionals who have at least several years of work experience. While both versions of the degree provide practical and theoretical training in business areas such as administration, accounting, finance, marketing, and healthcare, among other areas, the key difference between an online and traditional MBA is that the former is delivered primarily through distance learning.
Are Online MBAs Taken Seriously?
The short answer is “yes.” According to Northeastern University’s survey on the use and value of educational credentials in hiring, 71% of HR officials say they have hired a candidate with a 100% online degree. The accreditation of the school coupled with a job candidate’s ability to talk about the high quality of the courses, professors, and overall learning experience often sway the interviewer on the veracity of the degree.
Who Should Get an Online MBA?
Editor-in-Chief of PoetsandQuants.com, John Byrne, said in a recent Forbes contribution that for those who cannot quit their day jobs and want an MBA, online is the best alternative. You just need to do your homework because online programs can run upward to $128,000. Plus, not all schools provide full access to their career management centers, which include one-to-one executive coaching—perks that assist in career placement.
What Does an Online MBA Cost?
Depending upon the school and major, even the least expensive online MBAs vary widely. It is not impossible to find the cost ranging anywhere from $200 per credit hour to $2,000 or more. For this list, we found the least expensive options in the best schools for each major. There were some schools that had less expensive programs, but their school ratings were not as high as we found here. As a result, we found total cost for our list varies from $6,000 to $14,668 depending upon the program.
How We Chose the Cheapest Online MBAs
To create our list, we started by comparing the top 25 universities for each category for a total of 175 possible options. From there, we narrowed our picks by comparing accreditation, reputation, program delivery. Student feedback and third-party ratings and reviews played a major role in choosing the best in each category. And while cost was important, a less-than-reputable program did not make the list just because it was cheap. Quality was still required.
U.S. News & World Report. “10 Most Affordable Online MBA Programs.” Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
B-Schools. "University of Houston-Victoria." Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
UniGo. "Fayetteville State University." Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
Best Colleges. “Top 30 Most Affordable MBA in Healthcare Management Degrees Online 2019.” Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
UniGo. "Lamar University." Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
EdSmart. “Most Affordable Online MBA Programs 2020.” Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
UniGo. "West Texas A&M University." Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
Northeastern University. “Educational Credentials Come of Age: A Survey on the Use and Value of Educational Credentials in Hiring.” Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.
Forbes. “Is Getting An Online MBA Worth It?” Accessed Jan. 10, 2021.