MBA hiring

Weighing the merits of an online MBA

November 9, 2012: 11:04 AM ET

Long-distance graduate degree programs have proliferated in recent years. Here's how to tell whether an online MBA is the real deal.

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I was intrigued by your column about online degree programs, because lately I've been interviewing candidates for a department head position at my company. The people who have held this job before have been MBAs, as are the most promising people I'm considering right now, but there's a catch. Two of them, both highly qualified in terms of experience, got their graduate business degrees online -- one from a school I've never heard of (which I realize doesn't necessarily mean anything, since I'm hardly an expert on the subject). Can you tell me how to evaluate an online MBA degree? — Stumped in SoHo

Dear Stumped: You aren't the only one wondering. Headhunters and hiring managers hold wildly differing views on the merits of online MBAs, according to Tavia Ewen, a recruiter in the Houston office of the Alexander Group, which specializes in C-suite executive and board member searches. Ewen has heard some variation of your question from so many clients that she has come up with a list of four guidelines for evaluating an online MBA.

Long-distance programs are usually made up of exactly the same course content as campus-based MBAs, Ewen notes, and they answer a real need. "So many executives now maintain rigorous travel schedules, with some on the road up to five days a week" that traditional classroom learning just isn't practical, she says. "So universities have responded accordingly, with prestigious institutions like Duke, Johns Hopkins, MIT, and the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School offering their programs online for on-the-go professionals."

MORE: Vote: Businessperson of the Year Round 2

As you point out, however, many lesser-known schools have followed suit. Here's how to evaluate a long-distance MBA with an unfamiliar name. More

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