As a business owner, you already have a grasp on the skills you need to keep your business afloat, while every entrepreneur experiences an element of filling in the knowledge gaps "on the job". However, if you want to get a more formal educational grounding in business management, widen your skillset, or simply enhance your credentials, then you might consider getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
An MBA represents an investment in your own abilities that will give you a better global perspective on your business' performance, while also enhancing your skills as a leader. Yet, whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur in a full-time job, or a business owner with your hands full, finding the time to complete one can be challenging.
This is where an online MBA can help. Structured to accommodate part-time students who cannot physically attend a campus, they are an excellent solution for those who want to get a fully accredited qualification alongside their existing commitments.
The Best Online MBA Programmes
Given the rise in digital learning, there are plenty of options available, too. To help narrow down your choices, we've compiled a list of the ten best online MBAs for business owners, compiling the latest data from the Financial Times and QS.
Here are the results:
10. Florida International University
Average Ranking: 10
Campus Location: Miami, FL, USA
Although FIU is a relatively young school, having only been founded in 1965, it is the largest university in the populous Miami region of southern Florida. Its expansive campus hosts almost 60,000 students and is known as a research-intensive university.
Its distance learning MBA course is designed to give students the knowledge they need in a fast-paced environment and caters to ambitious entrepreneurs. The class is flexible regarding start times, too, with five opportunities to begin the programme throughout the year, meaning you can jump in whenever you are ready.
Notable business alumni from FIU include Marc Hoffman, COO of Sunstone Hotel Investors, Allen Susser (whose restaurants won him a James Beard Award), and John McKibbbon, CEO of hotel management providers, McKibbon.
8. USC Marshall
Average Ranking: 9.5
Campus Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
One of the largest and oldest universities in the state, the University of Southern California was founded in Los Angeles in 1880. Its postgraduate business facility – the Marshall School of Business – has a similarly impressive history, dating back to 1920 and adopting the Marshall name after a $35m donation from alumni Gordon Marshall.
The school's distance-learning programme is developed with an online format in mind, prioritising communication, metrics, and best practices for remote collaboration. The school also puts attendees into contact with the 400,000 members of the extended USC alumni network.
This is particularly handy, as many of these alumni have gone on to do great things. For instance, Marc Benioff founded Salesforce in 1999, Kevin Tsujihara became the CEO of Warner Brothers, while Henry Caruso founded Dollar Rent A Car in 1966.
8. Warrington College of Business (University of Florida)
Average Ranking: 9.5
Campus Location: Gainesville, FL, USA
Tied in eighth place, this prestigious Florida research university traces its history back to 1853 and has operated from its current Gainesville location since 1903. The school is particularly well known for its athletic achievements, producing 126 Olympic medals, as well as its law, engineering, and business programmes.
The university's distance-learning MBA programme, meanwhile, is offered through the Warrington College of Business. The school offered one of the first fully accredited online degrees in 1999, and today there are two options available for prospective business students. Entrepreneurs can either take a one year accelerated program, or a longer, more in-depth two-year degree.
Over its long history, the school has produced many notable businesspeople, including Robert Carter, CIO of FedEx; Paul Dixon, commissioner of the US Federal Trade Commission; and Douglas Leigh, an advertising pioneer who designed New York's Times Square.
7. Alliance Manchester Business School (University of Manchester)
Average Ranking: 9
Campus Location: Manchester, UK
The business arm of the University of Manchester – a renowned Russell Group university founded in 1824 – Alliance Manchester (which takes its name from a donation by Lord Alliance) is a hugely respected institution in both the UK and abroad.
The University of Manchester itself is the second highest-ranked university in the UK for research, and is highly sought after by employers; their part-time MBA programme is available to students anywhere in the world, with graduates receiving the same qualifications as full-time, in-person students.
Some of the most notable business alumni from Alliance include Karen Cook, chairman of Goldman Sachs; Andy Duncan, chief executive of UK's Channel 4; and Terry Leahy, a past CEO of Tesco. The school's MBA also has a renowned recent graduate, with celebrated former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany completing the course in 2017.
6. AGSM @ UNSW
Average Ranking: 7.5
Campus Location: Sydney, Australia
One of the premier universities in Australia, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has been educating Australia's most prominent professionals since 1949.
Their business department is the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), which offers a part-time MBAX programme for distance learners. While these classes are suitable for business owners of all types, their curriculum is specifically aimed towards fields such as finance, medical technology, and computer technology industries.
Since its establishment in 1977, the AGSM has produced numerous esteemed alumni, such as Bruce Buchanan, CEO of Jetstar Airways; Dr Matthew Miles, CEO of MS Research Australia; and Gavin Bell, the CEO of Freehills.
5. Politecnico di Milano
Average Ranking: 7
Campus Location: Milan, Italy
Politecnico di Milano (or the Polytechnic University of Milan), has a history that stretches back to 1863. Today, it is the largest technical school in Italy and one of the largest in the country's northern region.
The university's graduate business school offers a unique distance learning programme known as the International Flex EMBA. Developed in collaboration with some of the most iconic brands in the world – including Amazon, Moleskine, Vodaphone and Microsoft – the two-year course gives students an executive MBA specialised for international ventures.
Some of the most notable business alumni from the school include Stefano Pessina, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance; Francesco Starace, CEO of the Enel Group; and economist Francesco Giavazzi.
4. Imperial College Business School (Imperial College London)
Average Ranking: 6.5
Campus Location: London, UK
Imperial College London is another result of a merger of British universities, with three prestigious London programmes entwined by royal charter in 1907. For 100 years it was part of the University of London, becoming an independent organisation in 2007.
Queen Elizabeth II opened the Imperial College Business School in 2004, and the programme has since evolved into a prestigious, internally focused business school. The college's Global Online MBA programme is offered online, spanning two years and accessible to students across the globe.
The Imperial business alumni network extends worldwide to 124 countries, too, and includes notable businesspeople such as Alan Howard, co-founder of Brevan Howard Asset Management, and Gary Tanaka, co-founder of Amerindo Investment Advisors.
3. Kelley School of Business (Indiana University)
Average Ranking: 5.5
Campus Location: Bloomington, IN, USA
A research-focused public college, Indiana University is the largest university in the state, and is the flagship campus of the larger Indiana University ecosystem founded in 1820.
Its business arm – the Kelley School of Business – hosts the highly-rated Kelley Direct Online MBA, a diverse programme that offers students seven different majors to focus on (including specialisations in analytics, entrepreneurship, and strategic management). In addition, these specialisations can be combined in an online dual degree, allowing for further customisation to your particular needs.
If successful, you'll be in good company; the school has graduated some of the most significant names in the business world today, including billionare investor Mark Cuban, Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Steve Bellamy, the founder of Kodak.
2. Warwick Business School (University of Warwick)
Average Ranking: 2
Campus Locations: Coventry, UK / London, UK
Although the University of Warwick's history only traces back to 1965 (when it was established to increase higher education accessibility in the UK), the university's selective admissions and rigorous standards have made it one of the most respected schools in the country.
One of the most significant departments in the university is the Warwick Business School, with offices in both Coventry and the iconic London Shard building. The college's distance-learning MBA programme trains graduates to lead through innovation and international perspective, with a two-year course covering eight required sections and four electives to prepare you with the knowledge you need to guide your business.
Graduates from Warwick Business School are in influential positions across the globe, and include Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover; Idris Jala, CEO of Malaysia Airlines; and Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroën.
1. IE Business School
IE Business School via Twitter
Average Ranking: 1.5
Campus Location: Madrid, Spain
In first place, however, is the IE Business School, a private programme in Madrid that teaches classes in both English and Spanish. Known for its strict exclusivity, the school actually precedes its parent college, having originally been founded in 1973.
Its top rated Global Online MBA programme uses blended methodology to manage online learning, and takes two years to complete. Notable alumni of the IE Business school include Martin Varsavsky, founder of Jazztel and Viatel; Spanish economist Luis Garicano; and Juan Guemes, former Spanish Minister of Employment.
Of course, when making your decision, you should factor in a variety of things, such as your budget, your time commitment, and your industry. Just because a particular programme is not on this list, it doesn't mean that it isn't the right choice for you. The key is to find a course that aligns with your goals and your requirements – and, of course, to assess carefully how your chosen programme will benefit your business endeavours.
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