Business Schools in Pennsylvania (PA) with Online MBA Programs


Pennsylvania continues to enjoy a solid economic recovery that leads the Mid-Atlantic region; its real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of almost 2 percent in 2017—double that of the previous year—despite the economy’s lagging government and retail sectors.

Led by natural gas, the state’s economy has witnessed strong growth in the previously fragile energy industry, as well as the “meds and eds”—i.e., healthcare and education—sectors. Employment in bioscience and technology continues to grow, aided by an educated labor market and low living costs compared to other Northeastern metropolitan areas.

Pennsylvania’s economy is driven by higher energy prices and a rebounding service sector, and despite fiscal challenges and an aging population, it appears poised for continued strong performance.

An MBA can prove a smart investment in any climate but can pay exceptionally handsome dividends in a growing economy like Pennsylvania’s. Our BSchools guide “What Can I Do with an MBA Degree?” presents salary uplift research demonstrating that most MBAs will more than double their compensation upon graduation. In fact, as discussed in that guide, Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business reported the fifth-highest salary uplift metric in the study, at 154 percent.

Read on for profiles of seven online MBA programs—and three of their best professors—from universities in Pennsylvania.

Featured Online MBA Programs in Pennsylvania

Villanova University, the state’s oldest Catholic university, offers a six semester, 48-credit flexible MBA degree that one can complete online, in a hybrid format, or at an accelerated pace. While the program is primarily asynchronous, some synchronous activities are available, such as online discussion sessions and virtual office hours. The school organizes the program pedagogically around four pillars: information technology as a strategic lever, the global political economy, management for innovation and creativity, and ethical business practices.

The business core course topics include analyzing and leveraging data, performance measurement and reporting fundamentals, corporate finance, strategic marketing management, business operations in the 21st century, and team leadership and group dynamics. Specializations include finance, analytics, and international business as well as marketing and strategic marketing. Typical of Catholic business programs, the school focuses on ethics, service, and giving back to the community.

The school has no minimum GPA or work experience requirements—yet mandates GMAT or GRE scores from all students. The school requires a leadership challenge residency weekend during the first two semesters, a team practicum for a consulting client during a community service weekend, and a week-long international or domestic immersion.

Location: Villanova, PA
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online blended hybrid with live, synchronous course activities, residency, practicum, and immersion
Tuition: $1,350 per credit
Program length: 18 to 24 months

The University of Scranton is a Jesuit university that offers an online MBA with six specializations: accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), healthcare management, human resources, international business, and operations management. This 36-credit, 100 percent online program offers six start dates throughout the year, although students who lack prior business education may need to take 12 credits worth of foundation modules before entry.

Students have the option to opt out of core courses that most other programs require. Students can do this by choosing two out of three courses in accounting for management, managerial economics, and finance management; one out of two courses in operations management or management information systems; and a selection from organizational behavior or marketing management.

The degree also requires an international elective; an ethics course on the topic of responsibility, sustainability, and justice; and a capstone course on business policy—a topic no longer found among most modern MBA curricula. Applicants need at least three years of supervisory or professional work experience. No GMAT scores are required but students must have a 3.0 or higher undergraduate GPA.

Location: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online
Tuition: $34,740
Program length: Two to six years

Widener offers online MBA concentrations in business process management (BPM) and healthcare management, in addition to a general leadership concentration. The healthcare concentration requires a local healthcare internship. Courses in the business process specialization include business process management, business process strategy and innovation, and a course in knowledge management and social BPM. All students must complete courses in managing business processes and data analytics as part of their core curriculum studies.

The 33-credit program can be completed in 18 months or moer. However, students may need to take up to five foundation courses before entry—some or all may be waived based on evidence of prior completion. Foundation topics include the principles of economics, applied quantitative analysis, the accounting and legal environment of business, organizational behavior and management, and financial foundations for managers. Most courses are online, but some synchronous activities may be included.

Widener requires GMAT scores and has a GPA of 2.7 or higher. GMAT waivers are available to applicants with five years of relevant experience or a master’s degree. Although Widener never requires students to set foot on campus, the school does welcome them at on-campus networking events, such as career fairs. Especially for those planning careers as process managers and quality assurance executives, Widener’s emphasis on process management make it the go-to place to study.

Location: Chester, PA
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online, but may include live synchronous activities
Tuition: $33,132
Program length: 18 to 24 months

For years, one online MBA program has earned rave reviews from students, alumni, and commentators alike: Carnegie Mellon. During the last decade, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School has consistently placed at or near the top of online program rankings. It once snagged the top spot on Poets & Quants, where it currently ranks fourth, and has consistently placed in the top five online MBA programs according to U.S. News & World Report. This is not surprising, given that the best professors from the school’s perennially top-ranked residential MBA program also teach the online courses. Besides top rankings, several characteristics distinguish the program.

First, Carnegie Mellon pioneered the hybrid or blended approach—a now popular delivery format combining online and on-campus course delivery. In 2013, Tepper launched its hybrid MBA program, an innovative feature of which involves six yearly “access weekends” every six to eight weeks during fall and spring terms.

At these events, students work and network face-to-face with classmates, faculty, and alumni. The sessions take place not only at the business school in Pittsburgh but also at Carnegie Mellon’s sites across the nation. These include the Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley center at the NASA Ames Research Park near Mountain View, California, as well as centers in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Cindy McCauley, the executive director of Tepper’s online master’s programs, emphasizes that blended MBA programs like Tepper’s supply the networking opportunities that some say are missing from a purely online MBA. At Tepper, students begin every course in-person, which provides a stronger connection between students and their peers and teachers at the start, so that they can build on them throughout the program. This is true for peer-to-peer connections as well.

“When students have the opportunity to get together in person, they have a much greater ability to connect with their peers,” McCauley explained to TopMBA News. “In our online hybrid MBA program, they spend nearly three days together every six weeks taking classes, participating in workshops, co-curricular activities and socializing. Our students become very close and build a strong network that will last a lifetime.”

Second, few schools employ live synchronous courses as extensively as Tepper. The school’s online video classes enable students to interact in real-time with their professors and other students. Synchronous courses provide an online experience that can feel very much like on-campus classes and can encourage collaboration and relationship building. At Carnegie Mellon, most courses involve live 70-minute classes of 30 students held two evenings a week.

It is significant that all three of the highest-ranked schools in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 best online MBA programs ranking rely heavily on synchronous course delivery. The top three schools include Indiana University, the University of North Carolina, and CMU.

Third, Tepper’s mission blends analytics and leadership. The program emphasizes “data-driven decisions,” which means that it uses software tools to analyze large amounts of data and make more informed decisions. In developing leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills, students start with an individualized leadership assessment and a customized leadership development plan. Their training then includes a leadership software simulation and one-on-one coaching outside of traditional coursework.

Fourth, a school’s job placement and career services center can be essential to securing a great job, and online students can benefit from these as well as on-campus students. The Masters Career Center provides one-on-one career counseling, corporate presentations, mock interviews, and on-campus recruiting. McCauley explains that Tepper students “have the chance to really feel like they are part of the campus with access to career, leadership, and other resources that might be harder to utilize if the program didn’t have an in-person component.”

While this program has many advantages, it is competitive to apply. Carnegie Mellon’s students are incredibly smart: the median GMAT score is 700, with some students scoring as high as 770, and GMAT waivers are not provided. As one might expect to find within a university that is strong in engineering and computer science, Tepper’s curriculum favors those with quantitative and technical skills. Enrollment requires at least a dozen campus visits, and even for part-time students, the flat-rate tuition is steep: at minimum, $132,000 total.

Nevertheless, Tepper demonstrates a model that sets the standard for a great blended program. Its format combines a cutting-edge academic software platform with bi-monthly in-person weekends. Online students receive plenty of career support, and in a recent Poets & Quants survey, Tepper received outstanding marks from alumni.

Location: Pittsburgh, PA, with satellite campuses in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Moffett Field, CA
Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online blended hybrid with live synchronous classes
Tuition: $33,000 per semester for full-time students or $16,500 per semester for part-time students
Program length: Two to six years

In the fall of 2017, Penn State introduced a newly revised online MBA program. The Smeal College of Business overhauled its program to such an extent that Poets & Quants decided to exempt Smeal from its online rankings until it could survey the first alumni from the new program. That didn’t stop the U.S. News & World Report from ranking Penn State in the top ten best online MBA programs.

So what has changed? First, to allow students to solve problems from a comprehensive perspective, “the program strives to unify business concepts across previously siloed business disciplines,” claims the school’s website. Smeal calls this pedagogical framework ICE—an acronym for integration, collaboration, and engagement—which are the principles that drive the curriculum’s design and implementation.

For example, the school has baked teamwork into every course. Each class includes group projects that simulate real-world business situations so that students can interact with and learn from their peers, which is a crucial element of today’s business world.

Smeal also serves up a core-heavy curriculum, which takes up 80 percent of the degree’s 48-credit requirements, leaving time for three concentration courses and no electives. Like Wharton, Penn State requires managerial economics, and like Stanford, Smeal mandates multiple leadership courses as well.

The program’s course topics are unique and not commonly seen at other business schools. These include managing supply chains in global markets, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, and managing in the digital economy. Several topics among the school’s fourteen different concentrations also seem uncommon, such as business architecture, business sustainability strategy, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, and negotiation and influence.

Although all the courses are asynchronous, the school provides synchronous discussion opportunities. GMAT schools are required but can be waived. The average GMAT score is 573, but only about one-third of entrants provide scores. Career support services and job listings are also available to students.

Location: University Park, PA
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online with live synchronous learning opportunities, a required five-day residency, and an optional global immersion (available starting in 2020)
Tuition: $1,185 per credit or $56,880 for the degree
Program length: At least two years

In 2018, the Financial Times ranked Drexel’s online MBA program number 16 in the world. The program includes 49 credits, which can be completed in two years. Concentrations include marketing, accounting, business analytics, entrepreneurship and innovation management, finance, and supply chain management and logistics.

The program is almost entirely online; students must participate in an initial four-day on-campus residency. Drexel requires GMAT scores but offers waivers subject to these requirements.

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online
Tuition: $63,994
Program length: Two years

Temple is rebuilding and reorganizing itself after the school fired its business school’s dean last year for knowingly submitting years of false data to the U.S. News & World Report.

In any event, Fox offers a flexible 48-credit online MBA program that allows students to take courses at their own pace over six years; students can finish the program within 20 months. Students average 36 years of age, 11 years of experience, and a 3.3 undergraduate GPA. The school requires the GMAT but considers waivers subject to these conditions.

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online
Tuition: $1,245 per credit hour
Program length: 20 months to six years

Hybrid MBA Programs in Pennsylvania

Hybrid programs blend online and on-campus education, networking, and career support. They provide the best of both worlds—a flexible way to complete online coursework with more engaging in-person elements. Experts generally agree that these types of programs are the best format for online MBA programs.

Most online MBA programs offer some sort of on-campus feature, often in the form of a program orientation or end-of-program capstone. What differentiates an online program and a hybrid one is that the latter alternates more frequently between online and in-person.

Hybrid MBA students should expect to partake in in-person activities a handful of times per year. The best type of hybrid program includes scheduled on-site weekends on campus or a satellite campus facilities around the country every seven or eight weeks. Schools that do so include:

Professors to Know in Online MBA Programs in Pennsylvania

  • Kathryn Barraclough, PhD - Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business

    Dr. Kathryn Barraclough heads the MBA program at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University and serves as a distinguished professor of finance. She earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in economics and commerce from the Australian National University.

    Dr. Barraclough is in charge of the program’s strategic direction, curriculum development, and program delivery. Her research on stock options appears in the Journal of Finance, the Review of Financial Studies, and the Journal of Financial Markets. At Vanderbilt University, Dr. Barraclough served as the director of the master’s in finance program and taught courses on financial modeling and the bond and derivatives markets. Previously Dr. Barraclough served as a manager in KPMG’s Canberra, Australia financial advisory services practice.

  • Donna Marie DeCarolis, PhD - Drexel University – Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship

    Dr. Donna DeCarolis serves as the founding dean at Drexel University’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship. She holds an MBA in management from Villanova University and a doctorate in strategic management from Temple University.

    Dean DeCarolis’ vision is to empower all university students with the belief that they can be entrepreneurs. Her entrepreneurship research focuses on innovation management and technology commercialization. Journals like the Journal of Management, Strategic Management Journal, and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice have published her work. Dr. DeCarolis also serves as a business commentator for CBS affiliate KYW in Philadelphia.

  • Anita Williams Woolley, PhD - Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business

    Dr. Anita Woolley serves as an associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology, master of arts in social psychology, and her doctorate in organizational behavior from Harvard University.

    As highlighted by the New York Times and Harvard Business Review, Dr. Woolley is an expert on how collective intelligence impacts team performance. Her research and teaching focus on team collaborative analysis and problem-solving, online collective intelligence and collaboration, and the management of multiple team memberships, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Office, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). She has also published her work in Science, the Academy of Management Review, and the Journal of Organizational Behavior. Professor Woolley serves as a senior editor at the Academy of Management Discoveries, Small Group Research, and Organization Science.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.