An online business course is a class or series of classes you take virtually to increase your business acumen. Depending on the course you take, it will include written and video content, quizzes and exams, assignments and projects, opportunities to collaborate with fellow students, and support from the instructor.
However, an online business course is very different from a traditional MBA program.
Courses are often much shorter in duration and far less expensive than a full degree program. They may also have a narrower focus, zeroing in on a specific business discipline, like marketing or finance.
While completing these courses won’t result in a degree, you may receive a certificate. You’ll also acquire valuable knowledge and increased confidence that you can apply to your career or business. The best part: This can all happen from the comfort of your couch!
We carefully reviewed 10 online business courses, assessing their curriculum, method of delivery, level of student support, price, and more. Keep reading to find out the ones we think are best.
The 6 Best Online Business Classes for 2021
- Best Overall: MBA Core Curriculum by MicroMasters
- Best for Flexible Pricing: Digital Marketing Specialist Certificate by Simplilearn
- Best Value Option: Fundamentals of Digital Marketing by Google Digital Garage
- Best for Live Instruction: altMBA by Seth Godin
- Best for Finance: Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers by the American Management Association
- Best for Marketing: Digital Marketing Certification from the American Marketing Association
Best Overall: MBA Core Curriculum
Why We Chose It: We named the MBA Core Curriculum course from MicroMasters as the best overall online business course because it features a robust curriculum, offers both live and self-paced learning, and is competitively priced.
Can be free if no certificate is issued
7 graduate-level classes
Can be applied towards full MBA
1-year time commitment
Students from Iran, Cuba, or the Crimea region of Ukraine are ineligible to participate
No payment plan options are available
The MBA Core Curriculum program is our pick for the best overall online business course because it helps you develop your business skills at a fair price. The course is offered through edX.org, an MIT and Harvard University non-profit founded to increase access to education. Classes are taught by faculty from the University of Maryland, College Park and the University System of Maryland. As a student of this program, you’ll take the following graduate-level classes:
- Marketing Management
- Leadership and Influence
- Financial Accounting
- Digital Transformation in Business
- Data Analysis for Decision Making
- Global Business Strategy
- Corporate Finance
The course is fully online. Some of the classes are instructor-led on a set schedule, while there are others you can take at your own pace. You can get help directly from faculty during the instructor-led classes or you can submit a support ticket or consult edX’s online Help Center.
The course offers two different pricing options, depending on your goals. If you’d like a certificate of completion, you’ll pay $2,608, although as of December 2020, the cost is $2,347.20 for the full seven-course program. But, if the credential doesn’t matter to you, you can take each class for free.
If you’re thinking about pursuing an MBA at some point, the certificate is a better deal—if you’re accepted into the Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA program, the certificate will count for 25% of the required credits, saving you money and time on the program.
If you take the full seven-class course, be prepared for a one-year commitment. Each class runs for seven weeks, and you can expect to spend 8–10 hours per week studying.
Best for Flexible Pricing: Digital Marketing Specialist Certificate
Why We Chose It: The Digital Marketing Specialist Certificate by Simplilearn takes the best for our flexible pricing category because they offer a helpful payment plan and you might also be able to get a discount.
Low monthly payment available (subject to credit approval)
High level of human support
Includes a voucher to cover the cost of the Online Marketing Certified Professional (OMCP) exam
Program is complex
1-year time commitment
We gave Simplilearn’s Digital Marketing Specialist Certificate course top rank in this category because the company offers a payment plan, subject to credit approval, through their payment processing partner, Affirm. Also, while the full price for the course is $1,499, you might be able to get a hefty discount if you download the course syllabus and check your email. (We did this and were offered $600 off the course price.)
The course provides a rich curriculum for those looking to become digital marketing experts. The course follows a six-step path, which includes these classes:
- Mastering SEO, Content Marketing, PPC, and Digital Analytics
- Mastering Social Media, Mobile Marketing, and Digital Strategy
- Advanced Web Analytics
- Advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Advanced Pay Per Click (PPC) Certification Program
- Advanced Social Media
The program also boasts a series of optional electives to dive even deeper into mobile, email, and content marketing, website conversion rate optimization, and more. All told, the program provides over 250 hours of training, which gets delivered in multiple formats.
Much of the course is self-directed and you’ll have lifetime access to the materials. During the first year, however, you can take advantage of several monthly instructor-led training opportunities and once monthly mentoring sessions with global experts. And, if you have any trouble accessing, navigating, or participating in the course, you can contact the support team or use Simplilearn’s live chat feature on their website.
You’ll receive a certificate of completion for each class you finish. Then, once you’ve completed the full course, you’ll receive the Digital Marketing Specialist Certificate. If you want to take things a step further, the price of attendance includes a voucher to pursue the Online Marketing Certified Professional (OMCP) credential.
Best Value Option: Fundamentals of Digital Marketing
Modules are created by Google trainers
Completion results in a recognized certificate
No live interaction
May be tricky to get support
Has a Google bias
Google Digital Garage’s Fundamentals of Digital Marketing wins this category easily for providing a solid, useful curriculum without a cost. If you’re just dipping your toes into digital marketing, this course is a great place to start. You’ll learn about topics such as:
- Creating an online presence
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Interpreting and using web data
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
The course is entirely self-led, and you can start at any time. It features 26 modules of videos and short quizzes created by Google trainers. You’ll enjoy roughly 40 hours of material.
The program is accredited by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe and The Open University. Once you’ve finished all of the modules and passed a 40-question exam, you’ll receive a certificate of completion.
The main drawback is that it may be hard to get support if you have any technical concerns. For any inquiries, you must use an online feedback form.
Best for Live Instruction: altMBA
Project and community-based learning
A payment plan is offered
Support from coaches is readily available
14+ hours of meetings per week (for four weeks)
Program is pricey
No credential is earned
Meeting for 56 hours throughout the program (three times per week for four weeks), the altMBA by Seth Godin is our choice for best live instruction. As a student, you’ll work closely with your assigned coaches and cohort. Your coaches will facilitate learning and offer support when needed and, while you’ll have to complete some individual projects, much of the course’s work will be done in groups within your cohort.
The course isn’t structured like a typical academic program. It’s a hands-on workshop that delves deep into decision making, critical thinking, marketing, innovation, and management. To successfully make it through the curriculum, you must complete 13 projects.
If experiential learning is your thing, this course could be an excellent way to deepen your knowledge. The application process is tough, though, and not all who apply are accepted. Those that do get accepted into the program are usually mid-career and eager to embrace this different style of learning.
The altMBA is pricey, coming in at $4,450. But there is a payment plan available through Affirm, so you can spread the cost over three, six, or 12 months if you qualify. If you’re a leader of a non-profit organization, scholarship opportunities exist. Your tuition covers everything, and course-related materials will be mailed to you in advance.
Although you won’t receive any sort of certification, you will receive access to the altMBA alumni network and resources.
Best for Finance: Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers
Why We Chose It: We selected the Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers course by the American Management Association (AMA) as the best finance option due to its rigorous curriculum, live instruction, and convenient delivery.
Full, well-developed syllabus
Certificate of completion is awarded
Earn your credential in 12 hours
Somewhat pricey, especially for non-members
No payment plans are available
The AMA’s Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers is our top pick for this category because it provides a robust financial education in an engaging way and in a relatively short time. If you’re a leader who doesn’t have a background in finance, this course was designed for you. You’ll learn how to do things like:
- Interpret financial reports
- Create a budget
- Make wise financial decisions
- Utilize accounting processes and principles as well as financial concepts
- Communicate how what you do contributes to your firm’s bottom line
The course is delivered live via video chat. In just four three-hour sessions, you’ll earn your certificate of completion. If you have a question or concern during the sessions, your instructor will assist you. If you experience an issue outside of that time, you can get support via phone, email, or webchat.
While you’re sure to learn a lot from this course, it does cost a pretty penny. If you’re a member of the AMA, you can enroll for $2,095. If you’re not, the price jumps to $2,345. Unfortunately, no payment plans are offered. However, the AMA does occasionally run discount promotions, so check the website for those.
Best for Marketing: Digital Marketing Certification
Why We Chose It: The Digital Marketing Certification course from the American Marketing Association (AMA) is the best online business course for marketing because it offers a breadth of information, live student support, and dual certifications.
Dual certifications are earned
Live student support is available
Payment plan option
24-week time limit to access material
Somewhat pricey even with a discount
We named the AMA’s Digital Marketing Certification program as the top marketing online business course because it gives new digital marketers the skills they need, backed by two well-respected credentials. A joint venture between the AMA and the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), the course will teach you:
- Digital marketing strategy
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Website optimization
- Google Analytics
- Display, video, and Google ads
After passing the final exam, you’ll receive two industry certifications: the PCM Digital Marketing from the AMA and Certified Digital Marketing Professional from the DMI.
The course is completely self-led. You’ll have 24 weeks to digest 30 hours of video content. If you get stuck, you’ll have access to a support team, which includes live tutors.
Although the program is somewhat expensive (the regular price is $1,955), you get a lot for your dollar. Plus, you can split the cost into three equal payments. The first payment is due when you enroll. The other payments are due at 30-day intervals.
There’s a ton of variation out there when it comes to online business courses, which can make it tough to pick the best one. However, based on variables like pricing, reputation, class offerings, and accessibility, MBA Core Curriculum by MicroMasters is our choice for the best online business class.
However, each class offers something different so before you choose, weigh the pros and cons along with your learning goals, preferences, and budget.
|Best Online Business Classes|
|Course Name||Why We Chose It||Price||Duration|
|MBA Core Curriculum||Thorough curriculum and the opportunity to earn credits towards your MBA||$2,347.20||1 year|
|Digital Marketing Specialist Certificate||Convenient payment plan and potential discounts||$1,499||1 year|
|Fundamentals of Digital Marketing||Free learning materials to jumpstart your career||Free||40 hours|
|altMBA||Live, project-based learning with great built-in support||$4,450||4 weeks|
|Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers||Ideal for any leader without a finance background||$2,095 for AMA members; $2,345 for non members||12 hours|
|Digital Marketing Certification||Results in two well-respected industry certifications||$1,955||24 weeks|
What Are Online Business Classes?
Online business courses are virtual classes to learn new or hone existing business-related skills. Since the classes are online, you can participate from anywhere. Some courses are asynchronous and completely self-led, so you can complete them on your own time. However, some courses are instructor-led, which means you’ll have to log in and participate on a set schedule.
Are Online Business Classes Worth It?
Online business courses can be worth it if you take the right ones and apply what you’ve learned. For best results, establish a learning goal (e.g., improve digital marketing skills) and do your research before committing to a course. Then, create and carry out a plan to implement your new knowledge.
What Are the Most Useful Business Course Topics?
The most useful business course topics depend on your career and learning goals. A comprehensive business course may be best if you want a well-rounded education. But, if you need to learn about a specific discipline, such as finance or marketing, then a course in that area would be most beneficial.
What Do Online Business Classes Cost?
Online business courses range in price. Some courses are free, while others cost up to several thousand dollars (or more). The cost can depend on the instructors, the course length, whether you’ll earn a certificate or not, and if the classes can transfer to a degree program.
Make sure to research payment plans, scholarships, or other options to offset the cost. You might find an expensive class is more affordable than you previously thought.
How We Chose the Best Online Business Classes
We carefully vetted 10 online business courses before making our top picks. We considered the breadth and contents of the curriculum, how the program gets delivered, what certifications (if any) are awarded, the level of student support, and the price. We also chose companies that are well-known and established for providing business-related education and support to their students.
All of our top choices offer a comprehensive curriculum and are designed to help professionals advance in their careers.