Online MBAs set to provide much needed boost amid weak economy

SOURCE: Justin Heiman/Getty Images/AFP
Choosing to upskill during an economic downturn can prepare you for opportunities once the economy recovers.

By U2B Staff 

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Retrenchments and pay cuts are rife in the current job market, making it challenging for both seasoned professionals and fresh graduates who are looking for opportunities in a battered workforce. But a poor job market can be an opportune time for people to pursue an MBA to acquire certain competencies, attitudes and skills in preparation for a post-COVID-19 world.

Find MBA notes that business schools are seeing an uptick in MBA applications. They reported that Insead Business School in France and Singapore have seen a whopping 51% increase in MBA applications compared to the average of the past three years.   

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has enjoyed an approximate 15% increase in applications to the MBA in 2020 compared to last year — partly the result of it achieving a STEM designation in late spring, said the report.


They note that demand for MBAs is counter cyclical, with a strong economy raising the opportunity cost of being out of the workforce, prompting people to upgrade their credentials and increase their marketability.

COVID-19 has also, in part, paved the way for online learning to gain wider acceptance among the public.

Many universities have had to redesign their curricula to accommodate international students who cannot travel due to travel restrictions and temporary closures of universities.

Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of business schools are jumping on the bandwagon to offer online MBAs, said The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). These include the business schools of Howard University, Wake Forest University and John Carroll University. 

They join the ranks of some big state schools, including the University of Illinois’s Gies College of Business and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, which have launched online MBAs and are reporting significant increases in applications and online enrolment for the fall, said WSJ.

The accelerating trend to pursue an online MBA

Perceptions towards an online MBA are changing. According to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the number of online MBAs at accredited business schools in the US more than doubled since 2009, said WSJ. 

Initially, many top business schools resisted the switch, but more high-profile universities are joining the online-learning ranks and attracting more people who want to upskill during the COVID-19-induced recession.

Some schools’ online MBA programmes have attracted students in their mid-30s or older than the traditional MBA candidate with more work experience in addition to attracting more international students.


In some instances, pursuing an online MBA may be a better option than deferring your MBA. Find MBA notes that an increase in deferrals this year could increase the level of competitiveness for next year, with more people vying for fewer MBA places. 

Some online MBAs also tend to be cheaper than their traditional counterparts, while the flexibility of pursuing your MBA in your free time means not taking time off from work, thus reducing the time spent recouping the cost of pursuing an MBA when compared to those who take time off from work to pursue the degree on a full-time basis.

So while many companies may not currently be hiring MBA graduates, it’s worth highlighting that new sectors, such as the tech sector, are quickly becoming big MBA recruiters while choosing to upskill during an economic downturn can prepare you for opportunities once the economy recovers.