Written by TopManagementDegrees.com Staff
Last Updated: October 7, 2020
With demand for management positions on the rise, graduates of online MBA programs can expect to enter an expanding, lucrative field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the top-earning management occupations as of 2019 included computer and information systems managers, with an annual median wage of $146,360, and architectural and engineering managers, who earned $144,830.
Prospective students should engage in careful research as they hunt for the ideal program. They can bolster their search using this list of the top affordable online MBA programs as a foundation. The updated rankings include the top information technology and information science programs, which update each year to reflect a rapidly evolving field.
The 10 Best Cheap MBA Programs Offered Online
|1||Drake University||Des Moines, IA|
|2||Union University||Jackson, TN|
|3||Butler University||Indianapolis, IN|
|4||Valparaiso University||Valparaiso, IN|
|5||Providence College||Providence, RI|
|6||University of Scranton||Scranton, PA|
|7||Bethel University||Saint Paul, MN|
|8||Creighton University||Omaha, NE|
|9||Salve Regina University||Newport RI|
|10||Xavier University||Cincinnati, OH|
Why Get an Affordable Online MBA?
The MBA, the nation's most popular master's degree, prepares students for their choice of executive careers. As schools increasingly offer affordable online MBA programs, more students can access the degree's numerous benefits. Online MBAs can cost less and are more flexible than on-campus programs, ideal for working students in any location.
Many students pursue an MBA as a means of boosting their salary or qualifying for a promotion. Naturally, most MBAs require applicants with a bachelor's degree (preferably, in business) and work experience.
Online MBAs can provide virtual access to a broader professional network while offering flexible hands-on learning opportunities.
- Location: Online MBAs enable students to pursue their top choice of school, without paying out-of-state tuition rates or interrupting their work or family obligations.
- Diversity: Affordable online MBA programs often emphasize global business through international networking opportunities, as they are not confined to a physical campus.
- Flexibility: Students enjoy greater flexibility in an online MBA than a campus program. Some of the cheapest MBAs enable students to choose a self-paced format, which suits quick learners looking to cut costs through an accelerated program.
- Technology: Students who complete their MBA online are required to develop computer, technology, and social networking skills—all invaluable to students in the workforce after graduation.
- Transferability: Since so many schools offer online MBA coursework, students can often seamlessly transfer core and requisite courses from their bachelor's degree online.
Best Affordable Online MBA Program Rankings
The following ranking details 10 of the most affordable online MBA programs. Our ranking includes only accredited schools, many receiving additional programmatic accreditation through an organization such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The following schools embody the top choices in the search for flexible, affordable online MBAs.
1. Drake University
A private university in Des Moines, Iowa, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
Founded in 1881, Drake enrolls more than 4,800 graduate and undergraduate students. The university houses the nationally renowned College of Business & Public Administration (CBPA), which delivers online and hybrid MBAs. The CBPA is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
College of Business & Public Administration
Drake offers an affordable online MBA program through the CBPA. Coursework emphasizes analytical reasoning, strategic decision-making, and ethical leadership. Students who enroll part time in the 39-credit program can graduate in two years. Drake also offers its traditional MBA in a hybrid format.
Drake's MBAs offer nine concentration options, including some only available online. Students may choose to customize their concentration to include MBA, communications, and public administration coursework. The MBA includes professional development seminars in topics like globalization and cross-cultural communication. The program culminates in a capstone in strategic business processes.
- – Healthcare
- – Business analytics
- – Cybersecurity management
Drake supports an employer tuition reimbursement plan and honors veterans benefits. MBA students pay a discounted rate of $700 per credit, regardless of their resident state. Drake recently ranked among U.S. News & World Report's Best Value Schools.
2. Union University
A private university in Jackson, Tennessee, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
As the oldest school affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Union University offers more than 100 liberal arts programs in the Christian tradition. Union offers affordable online MBA programs through its McAfee School of Business, accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Union's online MBA encompasses 12 three-hour courses. Students can choose one of five entry points throughout the year and may complete the MBA in 12, 18, or 24 months. Enrollees can take all courses online or through a flexible hybrid program. Union is temporarily waiving its GRE/GMAT admission requirement for graduate business applicants.
Students may choose from one of four concentrations or pursue a thesis program. The accounting concentration prepares students to sit for the CPA certification exam. Congruent to the MBA, students may choose to earn a dual graduate degree in nursing, nursing practice, pharmacy, or social work.
- – Accounting
- – Human resource management
- – Leadership
- – Marketing
Union students pay a set tuition rate of $635 per credit for the online MBA. Graduate students enjoy a variety of financial aid options including federal TEACH grants and veteran benefits. Union recently ranked among Kiplinger's list of the most affordable U.S. universities.
3. Butler University
A private university in Indianapolis, Indiana, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
BU emphasizes experiential learning through programs across six academic colleges. The university boasts a 99% success rate for graduates of the Andre B. Lacy School of Business, which offers one of only two MBAs in Indianapolis accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Andre B. Lacy School of Business
BU's online MBA follows a hands-on learning model. In addition to mostly online coursework, students must complete a business practicum or global business experience to earn the degree. The program also begins with a gateway immersion experience and culminates in a semester-long capstone experience.
Students can enroll in the online MBA in the fall or spring semester. Admission requires applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Distance learners may complete the online, part-time program in as few as 2.5 years. BU ranks among U.S. News & World Report's best graduate schools for its part-time MBA.
- – Entrepreneurship and innovation
- – Finance
- – International business
- – Leadership
- – Marketing
BU's affordable online MBA program incurs a total cost of roughly $39,000, which includes tuition, books, and fees. The university offers payment plans and honors financing options, including offering federal loans to graduate students enrolled at least half-time at BU.
4. Valparaiso University
A private university in Valparaiso, Indiana, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
Headquartered near Chicago, Valpo delivers liberal arts programs in the Lutheran tradition. Valpo's graduate school and its affordable online MBA programs rank among the nation's best, according to U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review.
The Valpo MBA receives accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Students may choose from a part-time professional MBA or a daytime global MBA, offered via cohort for full-time students. Both MBAs include a general business certificate.
Valpo's MBA curriculum also embeds certificates in business decision-making and global enterprise. Part-time MBA students may choose an additional certificate in one of the concentrations listed below. Additionally, Valpo recommends that students choose at least one study abroad or internship experience, special topics course, or field project, each worth three credits.
- – Engineering management
- – Management
- – Finance
- – SAP/ERP
- – Business intelligence
- – General business
The Valpo MBA incurs a set, per-program tuition rate of $30,000, regardless of a student's enrollment schedule or state of residence.
5. Providence College
A private university in Providence, Rhode Island, accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education
The only U.S. college founded by Dominican Friars, PC provides liberal arts programs in the Roman Catholic tradition. Alongside graduate departments in history, theology, and education, PC's esteemed School of Business boasts a 98% employment rate within six months of graduation.
Providence College School of Business
PC offers numerous affordable online MBA programs through its business school. Students may choose from a part-time, full-time, or accounting cohort MBA. Full-time students may graduate in as little as one year, while part-time students may complete the MBA in 1.5-2 years. PC offers MBA courses in fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters.
Students must complete PC's signature MBA core sequence, which includes a business internship and a capstone course in strategic management in a global environment. Applicants may qualify to waive the GRE/GMAT admission requirement. PC ranks among U.S News & World Report's best graduate business schools for its part-time MBA.
- – Finance
- – International business
- – Management
- – Marketing
PC charges a flat rate of $2,145 per three-credit course required in the MBA, which comprises a total of 12 courses. The college offers limited graduate assistantships to students on campus, but regardless of residency, all students pay the same tuition.
6. University of Scranton
A public university in Scranton, Pennsylvania, accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Founded in 1888 as Saint Thomas College, Scranton offers more than 150 academic programs from a Jesuit Catholic perspective. Three of the school's 10 programs delivered through the Kania School of Management rank among the nation's best, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Scranton offers an affordable online MBA with a focus in global business. The 36-credit program begins with Scranton's signature cornerstone course requirement and culminates in a capstone course. Students must also complete a three-part core sequence and electives in their choice of concentration, including at least one international course.
Applicants with at least three years of supervisory work experience may waive the GMAT/GRE requirement for admission into the online MBA. Students can choose from six start dates per year. Each course lasts for eight weeks. The program receives accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
- – Accounting
- – Business analytics
- – Enterprise resource planning
- – Finance
- – Healthcare management
- – Human resources
- – International business
- – Operations management
Scranton guarantees tuition rates for a three-year period for graduate students who complete at least nine credits per year. Each credit in the online MBA costs $965. Scranton also keeps its online MBA costs low by offering payment and financing plans.
7. Bethel University
A private university in Saint Paul, Minnesota, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
The largest university in the Christian College Consortium, Bethel enrolls more than 4,500 graduate, undergraduate, and seminary students. Bethel's graduate school offers affordable online MBA programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Bethel's affordable online MBA imparts a holistic curriculum for spiritual, professional, and intellectual growth. Students complete a total of 42 credits, combining core and concentration course requirements. Bethel co-hosts some concentrations, marked below with an asterisk, through a partnership with MIT.
Most concentrations enable students to choose an online or hybrid delivery format. Courses in the online MBA begin every six weeks. While completion times vary by concentration, most students can complete the program in 18-24 months. All programs culminate in a capstone requirement.
- – Data, economics, and development policy
- – Finance
- – Healthcare administration
- – Management
- – Principles of manufacturing
- – Statistics and data science
- – Strategy and execution
- – Supply chain management
Bethel assigns a set tuition rate per program, depending on MBA concentration. Program rates vary from between $20,000 and $27,300. Bethel offers scholarships for graduate students and honors military benefits.
8. Creighton University
A private university in Omaha, Nebraska, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
Creighton enrolls nearly 8,900 graduate and undergraduate students in Jesuit-Catholic academic programs. The Heider School of Business recently ranked among U.S News & World Report's best in the nation for its online MBA and graduate business programs.
Creighton focuses on producing MBA graduates poised for success in business and leadership fields. The 33-credit program requires core and functional core coursework. Students must complete a graduate internship and a project management capstone, which also prepares students for popular professional business certification exams.
Creighton students may choose to pursue a dual degree such as an MBAjuris doctor, MBA/MD, or MBA/doctor of pharmacy. Applicants with work experience and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 may waive the GMAT entrance requirement. Online MBA students can choose one of five start dates.
- – Finance
- – Leadership
- – Business intelligence and analytics
- – Accounting
- – Financial psychology and behavioral finance
- – Personal financial planning
Creighton's online MBA costs $927 per credit, regardless of a student's state of residence. The school also allows installment payment plans. Students with military benefits may pay even less.
9. Salve Regina University
A private university in Newport, Rhode Island, accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education
Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Salve is a Catholic university offering more than 70 graduate and undergraduate programs. Salve's Office of Graduate Studies houses a variety of affordable online MBA programs and liberal arts degrees.
The Salve MBA emphasizes customizable degree options. Students must complete 12 courses, totaling 36 credits, in topics including business law, managerial accounting, and creative problem-solving. Prerequisites include accounting, economics, and statistics. The online MBA culminates in a strategic management capstone.
Students can supplement the online MBA with electives in any graduate field. The program offers rolling admission for prospective students. Distance learners may complete the degree in 18-24 months. Online courses follow a 15-week semester schedule. The MBA is accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
- – Cybersecurity
- – Nonprofit management
- – Social ventures
- – Entrepreneurial enterprise
- – Healthcare administration and management
Salve assigns a tuition rate of $625 per graduate credit, regardless of the student's state of residence. The school provides financial aid benefits for military students and veterans. Salve accepts all applications online and does not require an admission fee.
10. Xavier University
A private university in Cincinnati, Ohio, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
Among the nation's leading Jesuit Catholic universities, Xavier boasts a 98% graduate success rate. Xavier enrolls more than 6,500 students across three colleges, including the Williams College of Business, which receives accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Xavier's affordable online MBA program requires 39-45 credit hours, culminating in a global strategic thinking capstone course. Students may complete the online MBA in 1.5-3 years. Xavier also offers day and evening MBAs held on campus, and an accelerated executive MBA.
Online MBA students belong to a far-reaching network of alumni and business professionals. Xavier MBA graduates earn some of the highest starting salaries in their field in Ohio. The online MBA begins at multiple start dates throughout the year and offers full- and part-time enrollment options.
Xavier ranks among U.S. News & World Report's best in the nation for its graduate accounting program, graduate marketing program, and part-time MBA.
Xavier charges a tuition rate of $860 per credit hour for the online MBA. The university offers financial aid through its unique Cintas Graduate Ethics Fellowship, and honors a variety of federal grants, loans, and military benefits.
Our Methodology for Ranking the Cheapest Online MBA Programs
To arrive at our ranking of cheap online MBAs, we analyzed programs based on the following three factors:
- – Online Modality: Schools on this list offer an online option. While some may have brief in-person requirements (generally for orientation), these MBA programs include the ability to attend classes and complete coursework predominantly online.
- – Accreditation: Accreditation directly affects value and program brand recognition, which in turn affects the competitive advantage of each alumni in the job market. Thus, accreditation should factor into a student's school search. When vetting affordable degree programs, a student must be assured that even though the price is low, the value must not be. Therefore, every program included in this ranking is regionally accredited by one of the six accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and additionally accredited by one of the top three business school accrediting institutions: IACBE, ACBSP, and AACSB-International.
- – Estimated Tuition Cost: Each MBA was ultimately ranked based on the estimated total tuition of the program. The tuition information was gathered from the most recent data available on each MBA program or school website. This financial data was calculated for the entirety of the degree, but does not include fees, books, or room and board, with the exception of programs that only offer all-inclusive figures. In the event that a school offers a lower in-state tuition cost, the in-state pricing was used. The average tuition cost from this affordability ranking is $8,449.
What to Expect From Affordable Online MBA Programs
The typical online MBA experience differs significantly from a campus program. While the curriculum is nearly identical in online and traditional degrees, online MBAs sometimes reorganize course materials for streamlined delivery in the virtual classroom. Additionally, many online MBAs maintain hands-on learning opportunities, such as internships, but keep in-person requirements to a minimum.
Many online MBAs offer faster completion times through accelerated schedules. While online MBAs require roughly 30 credits for graduation, students can often choose whether to enroll full or part time, or apply transfer credits for previous experience. Some online MBAs maximize affordability by charging a set tuition rate per program, enabling students to overload credits at no extra cost.
Schools may administer synchronous or asynchronous courses in an online MBA. With unlimited networking potential compared to a campus program, online MBAs emphasize unique concentrations such as international business and global finance. While requirements vary, most online MBAs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in business, and submit GRE or GMAT scores.
How Long Does It Take To Get an Affordable Online MBA?
Online MBA programs typically require about 30 credits for graduation. Full-time students can sometimes complete a degree in 1-2 years, while part-time study can take longer. For working professionals, some schools operate accelerated courses to help students quickly complete the program. Many also offer rolling admissions, with start dates available throughout the year.
While some online MBA programs do not require students to complete a thesis, others may require a capstone project or internship. A capstone project may involve collaboration with other students. Some programs offer capstones and internships as electives for students seeking hands-on experience in the field to bolster their knowledge and resume.
MBAs provide a variety of concentrations to accommodate professionals in nearly every business sector. Traditional MBA concentrations include accounting, finance, marketing, and human resource management. These specializations prepare students for mid- and senior-level careers in their preferred area of expertise.
Some specializations prepare students for professional certification: Accounting programs, for instance, often qualify students for the CPA exam in their state. With a wider reach than a traditional degree, online MBAs may offer a variety of concentrations with a global focus, many incorporating a study-abroad experience. Such programs can benefit executives within international corporations or global market chains.
The nature of a general online MBA is to develop a broad set of skills in management, marketing, and leadership for mid-level professionals to advance their career. MBAs with specific concentrations, on the other hand, qualify students for specialized supervisory roles in fields like human resources, information technology, or operations management. This path can also benefit aspiring entrepreneurs or small business owners in a specialized area.
Popular Online MBA Classes
While schools vary in their approach to online MBA curriculum, many core and foundational courses are universal in a graduate business program. Most online MBAs include some combination of core, elective, and concentration coursework, often culminating in a capstone. The following covers some of the core courses most commonly found in an online MBA.
- – Finance: This course covers topics like corporate finance, financial institutions, and capital markets. Students learn standard and risk analysis, capital budgeting, and discounted cash flow valuation techniques. Finance coursework also explores financial market imperfections, policy choices of firms, and deals and transactions.
- – Marketing: This course provides a comprehensive education in marketing in the context of general management, companies, and consumers. Students learn how marketing affects other business functions and how it creates value by cultivating customer behavior. Graduates are prepared to implement brand management campaigns.
- – Leadership and Organizational Behavior: This course trains students to lead a business effectively by building both individual and team management skills. Coursework explores the elements of group culture, including developing healthy relationships with subordinates and supervisors. Many courses look to real-life examples of successful marketing leaders for inspiration.
- – Technology and Operations Management: This course emphasizes technological innovation in the context of successful business leadership. Students learn to implement techniques including process analysis, operations strategy, and product development to streamline technology and operations management within an organization.
The MBA Capstone or Thesis
Most affordable online MBA programs culminate in a capstone or thesis project. While capstones are more common, both options require students to summarize and reflect on their education and experience throughout the online MBA. Many MBAs enable students to choose which conclusion best fits their degree, based on the student's career goals.
Online MBAs commonly require a final capstone course, often in strategic management. The program may require students to develop a simulated business plan in their area of expertise. Some programs include opportunities with a local business for real-life capstone experiences. Others offer flexible options that enable students to develop their own format for concluding the MBA.
Some MBAs feature a thesis option. These programs emphasize research. Many schools require MBA students to develop a thesis instead of taking elective courses or completing a field internship. While capstones typically occur in the last term of the MBA, a thesis can take at least two terms to complete.
What Jobs Can MBAs Get You?
Earning an affordable online MBA can lead to advanced careers and higher salaries in nearly every type of business and industry. Candidates typically seek out a cheap online MBA after a few years on the job to increase opportunities for advancement in their current profession or switch careers. MBA graduates can land positions that pay higher than the national average salary.
Top executives assume the highest-ranking management positions within businesses and corporations. C-suite employees like CEOs, CFOs, and COOs are top executives. They oversee the functions of all departments, including HR, finance, and operations. Most employers, especially large corporations, prefer candidates who hold an MBA.
- – Job Outlook: +4% (2019-29)
- – Median Annual Salary: $104,690
Human Resources Manager
Human resources (HR) managers direct recruiting, hiring, and training operations for a company or organization. Those interested in this career often pursue an MBA with a concentration in HR management. These professionals may pursue voluntary professional certification. Jobs require a bachelor's or master's degree in HR, business administration, or a related field.
- – Job Outlook: +6% (2019-29)
- – Median Annual Salary: $116,720
Management analysts explore methods of streamlining operations within an organization. They may specialize in an area of operations such as inventory control, or work in a specialized industry such as healthcare or government. Many management analysts are self-employed, acting in a consulting capacity or performing contract work. Most clients prefer analysts with an MBA and several years of experience.
- – Job Outlook: +11% (2019-29)
- – Median Annual Salary: $85,260
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Also commonly called IT managers, these professionals oversee the computer-oriented operations of a corporation or business. They may hold a top executive position such as chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer. Duties include recommending upgrades to new technology systems, budgeting, and projecting staffing needs for IT services. Many employers prefer IT managers who hold an MBA.
- – Job Outlook: +10% (2019-29)
- – Median Annual Salary: $146,360
Financial managers oversee and direct the long-term financial operations of a company or organization. Examples of financial managers include controllers, treasurers, and credit managers. The majority of financial managers work in finance and insurance fields. Employers require a bachelor's degree but most prefer an MBA and five years of work experience.
- – Job Outlook: +15% (2019-29)
- – Median Annual Salary: $129,890
Will Getting My MBA Pay Off?
While schools offer affordable online MBA programs in abundance, some students wonder whether earning an MBA truly pays off. Specifically, many expect to see an immediate return on investment (ROI), which is uniquely high for MBA graduates.
In 2019, recent MBA graduates earned a median annual starting salary of $115,000 — the highest on record, and more than double that of bachelor of business administration graduates. ROI is especially high for MBAs in consulting and finance/accounting.
Students should consider a variety of factors when calculating their prospective ROI: their own salary-to-debt ratio, a school's graduate hiring rates, and the length of the program. Beyond a lucrative starting salary or significant pay bump, cheap online MBAs can help students avoid missed income opportunities and save on books, campus housing, and commuting costs.
While MBAs permeate a variety of business and finance fields, graduates qualify for some of the highest management roles within a company or corporation. MBA graduates with experience often pursue top executive jobs such as CEO, CFO, or CIO. GMAC reported an MBA hiring rate of 69% in the U.S. in 2018, with nine out of 10 Fortune 500 planning to hire recent MBA graduates in 2019, consistent with previous years.
Making Cheap MBA Programs Even Cheaper
Even the cheapest MBA can yield further savings for prudent learners. The following outline some of the ways in which students can cut costs in an already affordable online MBA program.
Online vs. Traditional Format
Many affordable online MBAs offer in-state tuition rates for online students. Additionally, online students can eliminate relocation or commuting costs. However, online programs cannot accommodate students seeking in-person attention from instructors or participation in campus activities.
Students with prior experience may reduce the cost and completion time of the MBA. MBAs typically require a bachelor's degree and several years of work experience. Seasoned professionals who transfer credits up to the maximum their school allows may reduce their tuition costs and graduate faster. Many schools only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions.
Find MBA Programs That Do Not Require the GMAT
Many online MBAs do not require GMAT test scores upon application, which can reduce the overall costs of the degree. Students can expect to spend $250 to take the GMAT, not including the high costs of practice courses and study prep materials. Thrifty learners can take an additional cost-saving measure by applying to a school that does not require GMAT scores.
Mitigate an Online MBA's Cost With Financial Aid
Even for the cheapest MBA programs, pursuing an MBA requires a sizable investment. Most students still need financial aid to enroll in an affordable online MBA. Schools typically offer a variety of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Students should begin by completing the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for financial aid.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should I pay for an MBA?
While the cost of earning an MBA varies by school, students can save money and time by pursuing a cheap online MBA instead of a traditional program.
Is it worth getting an MBA?
An enduringly popular major, MBAs qualify graduates for lucrative positions and high starting salaries, especially in consulting, finance, and accounting fields. Even the cheapest MBA yields a high ROI for recent graduates.
Is it worth getting an online MBA?
Affordable online MBA programs can offer benefits beyond a traditional MBA, including faster completion times, lower tuition costs, and flexible enrollment options. Students can earn their degree while upholding work and family obligations.
Are online MBAs cheaper?
Generally, online MBAs cost less than campus programs. Students who study online often enjoy accelerated completion options and in-state tuition rates, regardless of their state of residence. They can also avoid housing and commuting costs.