To Put This in Context:
Business is the most popular major in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 12 million students majored in business at some point in their educational careers.  If you’re a current student or full-time professional seeking to specialize your expertise, an MBA can be the answer to achieving your goals. However, you must first distinguish the best program for your schedule and goals without putting your career on the backburner. Read on to learn the top three factors that could help you make this important decision a bit easier.
According to Fortune magazine, an MBA creates the opportunity to evolve, change, or reinvent a career path — largely by gaining a broader perspective. Additionally, the Graduate Management Admission Council states that more than 90% of business school grads consider an MBA a good value. 
However, the variety of concentrations can make your MBA selection confusing. Here are the critical factors that can help you determine which program fits your needs:
1. Online vs. on-campus format
If you’re the student who prefers structure over autonomy, consider a traditional classroom setting for your MBA. The benefits of this structure include face-to-face time with cohorts and real-time question-and-answer sessions with instructors. However, the lack of flexibility can be a real detriment to working students.
With an online MBA program, you take the same courses as campus-based students — many times taught by the same professors — while having the flexibility to maintain your career and complete work as time allows.  Additionally, online programs have integrated the benefits of on-campus courses, such as:
- Question-and-answer sessions
- Team collaboration through discussion boards
- Virtual office hours for contacting professors
- 24/7 technical help desk support
Did you know?
Universities now offer GMAT waivers or have removed the GMAT requirement altogether from their admissions criteria. And the best part? Many of these programs are available 100% online.
2. Traditional vs. trending concentrations
With the employment of management occupations projected to grow 6% from 2014 to 2024, which will result in about 505,400 new jobs across industry, it’s important that you align your MBA with the needs of the current marketplace.
Consider traditional MBA concentrations in marketing or management if you desire to enter the business world with an established skill set. These programs can serve as a bridge to the corporate world for anyone with a non-business undergraduate degree.
In contrast, MBA specializations in strategy, finance, and entrepreneurship have the potential for increased salaries, averaging as much as 13% higher than some of the more traditional degrees.  This is because employers are finding more value in professionals capable of analyzing complex business metrics and cross-functional operations.
Did you know?
Universities and colleges offer online MBAs in a variety of specializations, such as international business, entrepreneurship, information technology, strategic planning, marketing, finance, accounting, operations management, sustainable business, and more.
3. Cut your selections by analyzing the specifics.
The popularity of MBAs has made it difficult to separate the best from the rest. Here are some additional factors to consider when analyzing the line-items of your list of programs:
- Does the cost make sense? MBAs are expensive — some can cost more than $100,000. Therefore, you should review the business school’s curriculum to see if there is a balance of coursework and knowledge at a reasonable price. Also, review the financial aid opportunities at each institution if you need to secure an awards package.
- Compare admission requirements. Many online MBA degrees have dropped the standardized admissions tests requirements in favor of work experience — typically five to 10 years — or prerequisite courses. 
- Scrutinize your programs. Consider a school’s reputation, the program specifics, student outcomes and career opportunities the program offers before choosing a program. 
- Learn where the business world is headed. Read business publications and trade journals to learn about trending competencies that may show a knowledge gap in the workforce — and an opportunity.
- Review job listings on career websites. Understand what potential employers are looking for in an MBA graduate.
And don’t stop there; speak with enrollment advisors and program coordinators to gain even more insight into your program. Your persistence could unearth key information that guides your decision-making.
Ready to apply? Answer these questions.
Once you have narrowed down your list of MBA programs that fit your needs, consider these questions before starting the application process:
- Does this MBA program and its concentrations align with my experience and career outlook?
- Will this MBA degree help me strengthen my profile as a business professional?
- Can this degree meet the expectations of the employment marketplace?
- Can I expect a positive return on investment after earning an MBA based on career opportunities with the concentration I am selecting?
Once you can answer these questions with conviction, it’s time to apply for a degree that’s proven to provide results.
Your checklist is complete.
Whichever program you pursue, completing an MBA degree can help you prepare for a fulfilling career with increased earning potential and a variety of advancement opportunities in your industry of choice — whether you desire to work in health, technology, finance, or any of the fields that benefit from highly specialized expertise.