In 1908, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business Administration began offering a new program: The Master of Business Administration Degree. In the more than 100 years since the first MBA class enrolled at Harvard, the degree has become one of the most popular graduate school pursuits in the United States.
Today, schools across the country offer MBAs with concentrations that range from finance and marketing to management and accounting. The concentration in international business, however, is growing at the fastest pace. In a global economy that depends on managing many cultures, international regulations, and global trade relationships, that should come as no surprise.
Ranking the Best Programs: Methodology
Students who are choosing an online MBA in international business have many options available, but each school offers a unique list of pros and cons. When ranking online MBA programs from across the United States, the following factors were taken into account:
Regional accreditation: In order for a program to be considered for this ranking, it had to be regionally accredited by an organization recognized by the Department of Education. This regional accreditation certifies the program’s rigor, standards alignment, and eligibility for state and federal financial aid programs, and is essential to today’s students.
Professional accreditation: Only AACSB-accredited online MBA programs were considered for this ranking. Considered the most prestigious ranking organization for schools of business, AACSB Accreditation is often required by employers for tuition reimbursement and by recruiters for hiring MBA graduates.
Prestige and networking potential: The BMA is often considered a “networking degree.” That means that its coursework is just as important as the students who share the online classroom and become acquainted throughout the duration of the program. Prestige is also a part of this calculation. More prestigious programs often have more alumni, a better reputation among recruiters, and a greater chance of paying students back in the form of better salaries and more career options over the long-term.
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15. University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
The University of Wisconsin System is often cited as one of the best state university systems anywhere in the country, and especially in the Upper Midwest region. Together with a consortium of other regional campuses, the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater offers an online MBA with an international business concentration. Uniquely among MBA programs, the “consortium” aspect of this MBA allows students to take courses from several different University of Wisconsin campuses, select from among the best business professors at each institution, and tailor the program to their unique interests within international business.
While the University of Wisconsin name itself is quite prestigious in the United States, the Whitewater campus that awards the eventual MBA degree is ranked among the 50 best colleges and university in the Midwest by U.S. News and World Report. The school also ranks as one of the best public schools and one of the top choices for military veterans, according to U.S. News and World Report. The publication also ranks the part-time, online MBA as one of the top 200 such programs available to students across the country. As a result, enrollment is growing fast, and the number of courses available continues to increase annually.
14. Colorado State University – Global Campus
Colorado State University’s Global Campus is distinguished in several ways for its unique history and its unique approach to providing an affordable graduate degree. First and foremost, the Global Campus stands out as the first all-online, state-funded, public institution for students in the United States. The school was established by an act of the Colorado state legislature in 2007 and, since then, has been among the fastest-growing, online-only institutions in the country.
CSU Global’s graduate programs maintain independent regional accreditation, which is a unique aspect of the school. The university is also one of the few institutions with a “price lock.” Students pay the same tuition rate as their first semester for the duration of their enrollment.
As part of the Colorado State University System, CSU-Global offers students the prestige of a major state university on their resume. The university has also been recognized as a top-15 institution for online degree programs by U.S. News and World Report, maintains an affiliation with the broader Colorado State University Alumni Association, and is a powerful asset when MBA graduates begin building a professional network and apply for high-ranking management positions at global firms.
13. Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University was founded in 1920 as a religious education institution but has grown over the course of 96 years to provide a large number of graduate and undergraduate degree programs. The school’s online MBA, which is one of the newest in the country, utilizes an innovative approach to graduate education.
Students who choose the international business concentration at the school are presented with a series of skill-based modules that coincide with the skills they wish to learn. Then, they must enroll in one module at a time. The mastery-based program requires students to master each, individual skill, before moving on to the next module in the series. Upon completing all modules, students earn the MBA degree and complete their chosen concentration.
Though the mastery focus of the MBA program might sound isolating, most modules are group-focused and centered on a series of relevant case studies. For its efforts at transforming online business education, Indiana Wesleyan University has earned AACSB accreditation, a top ranking among regional universities in the Midwest, and a top value ranking by U.S. News and World Report. The inherent flexibility of the module-based approach to MBA learning also contributes to the school’s top-25 ranking for veterans and active military personnel.
12. Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University, based in Carbondale, Illinois, is one of the best choices for international business students who are looking for an international component to the program. Unlike some of its peers, the SIU program allows students to spend up to one month abroad. The study-abroad program, offered in partnership with a university in France, even allows students to pursue a second master’s in France by extending their stay in the country. This innovative partnership is unlike anything else offered by an online MBA program, and it could be a major factor for international business students who want hands-on experience in a foreign environment.
The rest of the MBA program consists of 33 total credits in graduate-level business topics. Seven courses focus on a “business core” in managerial finance, advanced accounting, interpersonal management, and marketing. The remaining four courses allow students to choose a concentration in international business, study abroad and pursue a second master’s degree if they wish. The school ranks at number 153 among National Universities and boasts a network of more than 20,000 business alumni scattered throughout the world.
11. Florida Atlantic University
Florida Atlantic University has been enrolling students in its online MBA program since 2000. Over the past 16 years, the school has increased the program’s ranking by U.S. News and World Report with each new review of the program. As of 2016, the school’s Virtual MBA program ranks in the top 25 online programs in the country and also constitutes a “best value,” according to U.S. News and World Report. Alongside its position in the top 25 programs nationwide, Florida Atlantic University also offers the power of a massive alumni network, primarily in the southeastern part of the country, and the value of public college tuition.
Unlike many other online MBA programs, Florida Atlantic University revises its international business curriculum each academic year to ensure that students focus only on the most current and relevant skills in international management. The program’s 46-credit structure also allows a greater focus on international business skills than many of its peers offer, with 28 core credits and 12 credits in the student’s chosen area of concentration. To date, more than 15,000 students have taken part in the school’s online MBA offering and 12,000 of them have become part of the FAU alumni network.
10. Central Michigan University
One of the largest public universities in the state of Michigan, Central Michigan University offers a broad array of online programs that include its online MBA in international business. The school proudly boasts that its online degree is ranked 6th out of 148 programs in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. The school also maintains AACSB accreditation and an active chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, the most prestigious honors society for students in a business school. Aside from the school’s top-notch rankings, the international business program is also innovative regarding its focus areas.
Central Michigan University is one of the several schools that shifted focus to “ethical business” in the aftermath of the financial downturn of 2008. Today, the school is widely regarded as its required course in business ethics, and the ethical component of each concentration offered to students. In the international business program, students will specifically work on case studies of international business ethics, work through cases of fraud, and learn how ethical issues in foreign transactions can harm a business both within the United States and in overseas markets. The MBA capstone course further reviews ethical standards and gives MBA graduates the tools they need to make sound decisions in any situation.
9. Florida International University
One of Florida’s fastest growing schools, as well as a university that is shooting upward in state, regional, and national rankings, Florida International University’s online MBA is also highly affordable. The international business concentration, along with the core business curriculum, typically costs between $35,000 and $40,000. That’s well below competing schools in the state. In addition to affordability, Bloomberg Businessweek ranks the school 8th in the nation for international business studies. U.S. News and World Report ranks the online MBA among the top 60 in the country.
For maximum flexibility, international business students at Florida International University take courses in 8-week blocks, up to six times per year. The block structure and the 36-credit requirement for graduate students allow some students to complete their degree in as little as a year. Others can take two or three years to finish the program, depending on their needs. An international business student can also opt to pair their MBA with a Master of International Business diploma as well as an international trip to Europe or South America. Graduates join more than 8,500 FIU business school alumni in one of Florida’s largest alumni associations.
8. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
The University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus is the flagship campus of this public university system. The chief rival to Colorado State University and its Global Campus, the online MBA here is ranked even higher than the one at CSU-Global. In fact, the UCCS online MBA ranks as the best in Colorado and the 40th best in the United States. As one of the oldest business schools in the country, the University of Colorado’s College of Business has maintained AACSB accreditation for several decades and offers membership in a highly awarded Beta Gamma Sigma chapter to high-achieving students in the final year of the program.
Students who choose a concentration in international business at UCCS choose from a pool of five courses when building a custom-designed emphasis within their program. A minimum of three international business courses must be taken to graduate with an IB concentration, though students with advisor permission are invited to extend their residency in the online program and complete the remaining classes if they wish to do so. The capstone course in strategic management allows students to work with their peers on a management simulation, building valuable networking connections and honing skills in global management that will immediately benefit graduates as they pursue management positions.
7. Washington State University
When it comes to the “heavy hitters” of online, public university MBA programs, Washington State is among the best. The school, which has offered an online version of its MBA degree for well over a decade, is ranked as the 22nd best online MBA in the country. Washington State University also ranks 19th among the best online MBA programs for veterans and active military personnel.
Beyond the degree itself, Washington State ranks highly for its emphasis on professional networking, its available international seminar, and the flexibility of its block-based format for online students. As one of the older MBAs in the country, WSU also has an alumni network that spans the globe. More than 20,000 former business students in over 30 countries are members of this crucial network.
Unlike many MBA programs, Washington State University encourages students to build a concentration from a massive pool of elective courses. An MBA concentration at the school consists of at least three courses in a narrow area of study. More than ten international business courses are available, in fields like international marketing, multinational management, global trade and economic policy, and many others. Upon completion of these three courses, students are permitted to apply for the relevant concentration. As long as all three courses are completed with a grade of “B” or better, approval is granted.
6. University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota is one of the most affordable online options for students considering an MBA with an international business concentration. As a flagship state university, UND is also an excellent choice when it comes to establishing a broad professional network. The University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation includes members from across the country, maintains a particular interest in institutional advocacy and networking, and is free to all graduates of the program. Additionally, UND alumni gain the benefit of a top-30 online MBA and one of U.S. News and World Report’s top-ranked National Universities.
While the MBA program at the University of North Dakota is pretty standard for students outside of the international business concentration, online enrollees who are pursuing the IB concentration will notice one big difference at the school. Unlike virtually every other program in this list, the University of North Dakota requires that international business students take no less than nine graduate-level business credits from a foreign institution. The school offers partnerships for both online and offline coursework that meet this requirement. This is truly one of the best ways to gain a sense of what it’s like to manage a multinational organization, and it’s one of the reasons that the school’s online MBA program ranks so highly in most publications.
5. Marist College
Marist College might be most widely known for its political polling operation, but this liberal arts college, based in Poughkeepsie, New York, offers so much more. The online MBA program at the school, which recently received full AACSB accreditation, benefits from the school’s reputation as an innovative center of learning. In fact, the school ranks as both a top Mid-Atlantic institution and a top center of educational innovation according to U.S. News and World Report. With a more extensive curriculum than many other programs, students who choose the online MBA from Marist will dive more deeply into issues of business ethics, decision making, and interpersonal communication, as well as advanced skills in international business, negotiation, and regulation.
One thing that sets Marist apart is its convergence of business ethics and the Catholic tradition. As a liberal arts college with Catholic affiliation, the school guides students according to its religious principals when teaching a required course in business ethics. This ethical commitment is reinforced throughout all 48-course hours in the program. International business students also learn the ethical guidelines of multinational management and decision-making. As a result, the Marist MBA has received top marks from “good business” groups and ethical leadership organizations.
4. The University of Scranton
The University of Scranton’s Kania School of Management offers an online MBA with a similar commitment to Catholic and Jesuit principles. In addition to top national and regional rankings from U.S. News and World Report and The Princeton Review, Scranton’s Kania School of Management has also been recognized as one of the leading schools for students interested in business systems and technology management. That’s because Kania is part of the SAP University Alliance, which specifically lobbies schools for the teaching of tech-related management courses. These core concepts are integrated into the MBA’s core curriculum, alongside innovative classes in business ethics and charitable enterprises.
While the University of Scranton offers many concentrations, most of which require three courses to complete, the school’s international business concentration is notably more in-depth. In fact, IB students at the University of Scranton must drop one of their core business classes and replace it with an international business elective as a condition of selecting the IB concentration. Alongside elective courses, Kania School students can also opt to take a 3-day international trip to one of the several destinations in Europe, Asia, or the Americas. Scranton’s alumni association, which is free to all graduates, is strongest in Pennsylvania but serves students around the world with networking, professional education, and social media events.
3. University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Another flagship state university campus, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers the highest-ranked part-time, full-time, and online MBA degrees in its home state. U.S. News and World Report ranks the school 103rd among all national universities and has awarded its part-time MBA program with a top-15 ranking. The Financial Times ranks UNL’s online MBA as the 12th best online program in the world.
It should also be noted that UNL one of the Midwest’s largest alumni associations with members from all 50 states and more than 25 foreign countries. The alumni association’s mission is specifical to help students pursue professional opportunities and to enrich the University of Nebraska community after commencement.
Within the international business concentration, UNL does things a bit differently. The school offers what it calls an “international overlay” program. All students must take at least one internationally-focused business course as part of their core. International business students, however, can take the full slate of “overlay” courses, giving each of their core courses an international focus. Electives in highly specific international business courses are also available. A student who wishes to concentration specifically in IB must take a minimum of 9 credit hours from a pool of relevant electives. An international experience is offered to all students, ranging in duration from 3 days to more than three weeks.
2. Northeastern University
Few schools offer as much name recognition and resume prestige at Northeastern University. Located in the city of Boston, Northeastern University has transformed from a commuter school to a major hub of international research. In fact, the school is home to more than 30 federally funded centers of scholarly research, several of which focus on the evolution and advancement of management concepts. These research centers are open to all online and offline students who wish to participate in scholarly research during the academic year or during term breaks.
The D’Amore-McKim School of Business ranks fourth in the nation for its online MBA programs. Even better, the school’s international business program is ranked 15th among hundreds of schools, according to U.S. News and World Report. The school has long maintained AACSB accreditation and offers students access to more than 15,000 global alumni, many of whom are in high-ranking executive positions at organizations throughout the United States.
Unlike many other schools with an international business focus, the D’Amore-McKim MBA pursues an emphasis on globalization. Students study what globalization means, how it impacts communities in various countries, and how it will play into the future of management and multinational operations. Globalization is also researched extensively at Northeastern University, and offers students a chance to engage in research, meet their professors, and pursue a more academic future in the business community after graduation.
1. Arizona State University
The W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is one of the most prestigious business schools anywhere in the country, public or private. A leader in online education since its inception, W.P. Carey ranks as the 5th best online MBA in the country and the second-best online graduate business school in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report. The Wall Street Journal ranked ASU’s business school 19th regarding recruiter preference for hiring MBA alumni. Arizona State University itself is ranked as the most innovative university in America, according to U.S. News and World Report. Among all online MBA programs in the world, the Financial Times lists the W.P. Carey online MBA in tenth place.
Unlike many other universities with an international business program, the W.P. Carey School of Business allows students to pursue either an MBA concentration or a graduate certificate in the field. While the MBA concentration is included in the cost of the MBA program itself, students who want a more in-depth study of IB can opt for a separate certificate and extend their time at the institution. Like the MBA, the certificate can be earned entirely online. Students in the MBA program at Arizona State also have the opportunity to select a 3-day international residency or a full-blown study abroad program to help further their understanding of international management.