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The 20 Best MBA Alternatives

While some students want to obtain an MBA for the actual degree, the tried-and-true teaching methods and curricula, many students are just after the skills and a well-rounded education applicable to their business and management careers. If you fall into the second group, there are tons of resources online through which you can gain many–if not all–of the skills granted by an MBA for a fraction of the cost (and sometimes even free). From Mini-MBAs to MOOCs, check out 20 of the best alternatives to MBAs out there below!

Mini MBAs

Often require less than 100 hours of total class time, and get you up to date on business essentials for a fraction of the investment in a traditional MBA.

  • The UNC Business Essentials program is a 100% online self-paced business certificate program covering six modules: introduction to business, financial accounting, economics and financing, marketing, business operations, and business communications. Tutors are available 24/7 in an interactive discussion board, and the course is provided by top tier professors from UNC.
  • My B Skool, the largest online business education platform in India offers afree mini-MBA program that is designed to introduce students to practical business fundamentals in an intensive yet flexible format. Classes are fully interactive and collaborative. For a $182 fee, Indian non-Nationals and Indians residing outside of India may also recieve certified training.
  • McGill University’s Executive Institute offers a mini-MBA series with each mini-MBA component standing alone (though you may complete all three for additional experience). The component parts include an Executive Development Course, an Advanced Management Course, and an Integrated Management Training Course. All provide certifications.
  • The University of Buffalo offers a certificate-providingMini-MBA that aims to establish an understanding of the most important functions of business and management and cover important topics in business decision making in an application centered way. The program is self-paced and online, covering 6 topics with 17 modules each.
  • DePaul University’s Strategic Management Certificate Program
  • is a ten-week program potentially preparing students for ASP certification. The program is aligned with the Association of Strategic Planning’s “lead-think-plan-act” body of knowledge. Classes are led by instructors online in a synchronous environment.

  • University of St. Thomas offers an online mini MBA with a focus on sound business acumen, strategic thinking, leadership, and integrity. Course components include case studies, lectures, and Z-Class business simulations, all available on your own schedule.
  • Rutgers University offers 5 online mini MBAs including specializations in Bio-Pharma Innovations, Business Essentials, Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Social Media Marketing. Each course lasts for 12 weeks and includes 10 modules as well as a final exam and capstone project.
  • The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business offers a three-courseExecutive Certificate in Business Administration that covers many of the fundamental topics covered in a traditional MBA. Courses last eight weeks each and come with a number of support features including live chat with classmates and professors, 24/7 access to course materials, office hours, group study, and no required login times.
  • UT Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management offers a self-pacedCertificate of Management program, that while not as in-depth as an MBA, is mirrored after the format, and shortened to some of the most essential topics to improving as a manager. Courses are presented in video format with highly interactive learning tools and experiments.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are often created by some of the nation’s top universities and businesses and offered for free, or offer certifications for a nominal fee.

  • University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business has recently teamed up with Coursera to offer the Wharton Foundation Series online for free (or for credit for a fee). The series covers foundational MBA topics, including Financial Accounting, Operations Management, Marketing, and Corporate Finance. Courses take between 6 and 10 weeks to complete, and have start dates around every 12 weeks.
  • Laurie Pickard detailed her quest to take courses equivalent to top MBA program components from MOOCs at her blog The No Pay MBA. You can check out her progress (she’s currently in the 4th semester) as well as replicate her steps through her curriculum page if you’re interested in constructing a similar MBA-equivalent program through MOOCs.
  • If you’re looking for a learning option that’s on the scale of a targetted class or two, onlineMBApage has compiled a list of 100+ Free Online Business Courses or Certificates at MOOCs. The list covers all the major MOOC providers, and nearly every course on the list may be taken for free, or for certification for an additional fee.


In recent years entrepreneurship has been added to many MBA curriculums, but starting your own business doesn’t have to take two years in school and $100,000+ in tuition.

  • UCLA extension offers a 11 course Online Series in Entrepreneurship comprised of 5 core courses and 6 electives and available for a much lower rate than traditional college or graduate level credits.
  • If you’re looking for a free alternative to an Entrepreneurship certification program, check out Study.com’s resource on7 Universities with Free Online Business Entrepreneurship Courses. The free courses listed run the gamut of topics similarly to an entire entrepreneurship program and are all from either top tier universities, the IRS, or the small business administration.

Certification-Based Programs

For years certifications have been a great way of working your way up in a corporation, or just brushing up/learning new skills in a manner that’s compatible with a busy work schedule.

  • The Keller Graduate School of Business of DeVry University offers a variety of graduate certification courses in topics related to MBA coursework, including accounting, business administration, business intelligence and analytics management, customer experience management, entrepreneurship, and a number of other topics.
  • The American Management Association offers everything from tutorials, webinars, podcasts, in-person training, to online certifications in 24 management-related subjects. Check out this leader in continuing management education’s offerings here.
  • Skilledup.com curates a ton of online courses from many of the major providers into the careers and skills to which they’re applicable. If you’re interested in some of the most important skills for advancing in business and management, and the current courses that pertain to those skills, check out their lineup here.
  • MyOwnBusiness.com offers two programs on starting a business and expanding a program that may be attended for free or for a nominal fee (if students would like a certificate). Courses are self-paced and include interviews with business leaders quizzes, synopses, and graded quizzes. Check them out here.
  • Other Resources

    There are a ton of ways to learn about business. From YouTube to your local library. Here are a few other sources of business wisdom.

  • The Financial Management Training Center offers 20 free downloadable courses for those who want to explore financial management in greater detail. Formal online training in risk management and corporate finance, short courses, webinars, and workshops are available here.
  • MIT’s OpenCourseWare is the largest provider of free online course materials in the world. Even though courses may vary in regards to completeness, they’re still a great place to start a search for learning about a given topic. Check out the Sloan School of Management’s offerings here.
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