All About the WGU MBA Program

I earned my Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree through Western Governors University (WGU) in 15-months. This is my review of the WGU Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

I’m going to tell you about my experience in the MBA program, how quickly it can be completed, the materials required and I answer the most common questions below.

I Completed The WGU MBA in 15 Months

Image of me holding my WGU MBA diploma.

The WGU MBA is a competency-based program, it’s up to you how quickly you progress through the program. The two big factors that slowed me down were the holidays and the capstone group project at the end.

I added my picture with my diploma for proof! I was so proud of myself here.

The MBA program consists of 11 courses. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a fair amount of work. I’ve listed all of the 11 Courses and Descriptions for you to review.

Some people online claim to have completed it in a couple of months and others take two years. It took me 15 months. Could I have completed it quicker? Yes.

I had to find a balance between completing the requirements and learning the material while raising 3-boys and working full-time. Stress management was imperative.

How I Planned My WGU MBA

My initial goal was one course per month and I would finish in one year (one year quicker than the suggested pace). I began the course in March 2018 and stayed true to my goal for the first term (6 months).

The second term included Thanksgiving, Christmas, Illness, winter gloom, and needless to say my progress slowed. Especially during the final courses and my capstone project.

Competency-Based MBA Program

WGU is a competency-based program meaning that each course is essentially self-paced. You can test out of courses if you feel you have enough knowledge to pass the tests. I found the exams to be difficult enough to require extensive studying, but I also didn’t have 10 years of business experience or financial accounting experience.

It’s ultimately up to you to learn the material, pass the tests and or associated papers and move onto the next course. It could take you a few weeks or a few months to complete a single course. The ball is in your court and the resources are there to help you progress.

I always knew what I needed to do next in order to progress toward the objective or performance assessment (paper or exam). The course instructors were readily available and my program mentor was in touch weekly should I have any questions.

Self-Paced vs Traditional College Semesters/Quarters

At my brick and mortar undergrad, an instructor would take 16 weeks to teach a couple of topics that I was able to learn in one weekend watching Khan Academy on YouTube. It was borderline obnoxious. While some of my science courses required that long to pick up the topics, others were literally a class that watched Ted Talks twice per week.

WGU far exceeded my previous experience with a brick-and-mortar university, but my goals were also different. I wasn’t looking for a “college experience.” Simply looking for a professional online program.

It’s important to take a look at all of your options to achieve the same level of degree. I’m a firm believer in taking the low-cost alternative if it leads to the same end goal.

After attending community college (in-person and online), military-technical school, a state university branch campus (in-person), and WGU (online) I’m in a good position to review the differences of each option.

Hours Spent Per Week

I spent on average about 15 hours per week on my WGU MBA. This was mostly spent on the weekends and some weekday nights. The majority of my time spent on the MBA program was researching, writing, and revising papers.

The rest of the time was spent studying for the proctored exams.

Some weeks I spent upwards of 20 hours and others I spent much less. I was pacing myself to complete one course per month. Some months I completed two and some courses took me two months to complete (especially around the holidays).

What Materials Were Required?

Books

Physical books are not used. WGU uses eBooks or etext for books. To be honest, I didn’t use the eText much. I enjoyed the case studies but found the text to be pretty dry. The eText is provided from the course fees. There wasn’t a separate expense for the eBooks.

Webcam

The webcam was provided in a care package I received after enrollment. I received a very low-resolution USB webcam and a coffee mug. My wife just applied (November) and was told they no longer provide the webcams. Most computers come with webcams and if not, they’re fairly inexpensive. The webcams are used for the proctored exams.

Computer

Being an online program, you will need a computer and internet access. There’s no way around this. I actually bought a desktop PC like this one. It has a built-in webcam and is strong enough for some of my other hobbies. If you plan on working from the couch or outside the home, I recommend a laptop.

Peace and Quiet

Having 3 boys in the house, a dog and a cat, I found it hard to get some quiet time for the proctored exams. They outsource this service to India and it was pretty strict. I read stories of people being kicked out of their exam for someone walking behind the camera. WGU takes the exams very seriously in order to maintain the integrity of its program.

WGU MBA Tests and Homework

The MBA program has one or two main tasks that must be completed depending on the course. Some courses require an exam to be passed and or a paper to be passed.

There wasn’t homework in the traditional sense, but there were several papers that required extensive writing and revisions.

The exams are outsourced to India, but the experience wasn’t awful. I always had a lady proctor and they were very pleasant to speak with. One proctor spoke very broken English and I found myself growing frustrated about her instructions. Once they verify your identity and you’re in the exam, it’s as simple as taking the exam and telling them when you’re completed.

The papers were straight forward and a rubric was always included. I found that you need to write directly to the rubric. If you satisfy all of the sections and write a fairly coherent paper, then they are more likely to pass it.

My undergraduate degree was in a hard science field (biology/chemistry/biochem) and I wrote dozens of scientific papers that were very strongly graded. Writing for WGU was a cakewalk in comparison.

My WGU Program Mentors

In addition to the course instructors, WGU assigns you a program mentor. During my 15 months, I had 2 program mentors. I had the first one for about 2 months before being assigned a new mentor. She was fantastic!

At first, we spoke over the phone every week, then about halfway through the MBA we spoke every other week. I always looked forward to chatting with her.

The program mentor was there to keep me on track, progressing and making sure all of my questions were answered. She genuinely cared to help and was willing to push me as much as I wanted to be pushed. We set goals together and she was very good at keeping me on track to those goals.

Our calls usually lasted 5-10 minutes and half of it was rapport building (weather, family, weekend plans). I considered myself a great student and rarely had questions or concerns for her. So it was pretty simple.

This was a high point of the program for me. Someone I could bounce ideas off and help me prepare for the upcoming courses by understanding more about the course.

Is the WGU MBA Accredited?

This is the number one question that should be considered. I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the school and program for legitimacy.

During part of my undergraduate degree, I worked in the admissions office for the brick and mortar university I attended.

You would not believe the number of prospective students that tried to transfer credits from “for-profit” type schools.

If the program your considering is not accredited, then look elsewhere.

WGU is ACBSP accredited for the College of Business and all the degrees involved. They are not just a business school, here is the full list of accreditations for the many degrees offered at WGU.

In addition to the WGU College of Business being accredited, the school itself is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), one of the major accrediting commissions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (see below).

The WGU MBA is Recognized and Respected

In my experience and by speaking to many people first hand on their experience I can say that yes, an MBA from WGU is recognized. If you are looking to land a competitive position within a metropolitan area at a Fortune 500 company, you may want to consider a brick-and-mortar university that carries some prestige and networking potential.

I want to stress that it’s up to you to review the school, its programs, and the potential benefit of completing any degree.

The WGU MBA is a perfect degree for the average person looking at broadening their knowledge and professional education in the business administration field. It does not only check the box with HR, but it will help you stand out among the crowd.

It signals to your employer what your intentions are with your career. It shows your willingness to put in the effort to improve yourself outside of work.

When my managers found out I graduated with my MBA degree, no one cared to ask where it was from nor did I expect them to. They were very happy for me, publicly recognized the achievement and we have had several conversations about where I see myself at the company in the future.

I was recognized for a job promotion the month I graduated and the MBA came up a few times in the interview process. I am proud of the degree I completed and I’m one of the few employees in our 300 person company to put forth that effort.

I have felt very much respected and recognized for completing my MBA through WGU.

Work Experience Required for an MBA Degree

The amount of work experience required to get an MBA degree varies. Some programs require very little or no experience, others require several years of work experience.

WGU didn’t ask a lot about my related work experience, they really wanted to get to know my goals and my why for applying. I don’t believe that work experience is a prerequisite to earning an MBA.

What Did I Learn at WGU?

The reality is, education raises the ceiling on what you can learn and real-life experience fills in space from where you are now, to the professional you can become.

Being 28 and raising a family of 3 boys, I don’t have the ability or desire to shadow a big city businessman and have them mentor me. What I had was the opportunity to increase my knowledge of business, finance, decision making, strategic thinking, etc… and raise the ceiling of my potential while using my career to fill in that space with experience.

Education is far less valuable without relevant experience and experience is less effective than it could be without proper education.

Compared to my undergraduate degree program, I feel like I graduated from WGU with more tangible, specific knowledge than I did from my brick-and-mortar experience.

6 Areas I Improved:

  • Being a more effective leader

  • Analyzing financials and creating reports

  • Holding relevant business conversations with my superiors

  • Making business decisions within a team

  • Running a better business

  • Holding multiple perspectives and see things from other departmental viewpoints

How Much Does a WGU MBA Cost?

Per the WGU website, tuition costs $3,945 per 6-month term. I believe the pace of the MBA is two years (4, 6-month terms). The cost of an MBA at WGU would cost about $15,780 in total. Obviously, there are ways to mitigate the cost:

  1. Complete the degree in less than 2 years

  2. Grants/Scholarships

  3. Ask your employer about tuition assistance

  4. Cash flow it

You would need to essentially pay $657 per month to cover the cost of tuition if it took you 2 full years. If you completed the WGU MBA in 3 terms, you would only need $11,835. I compared the cost of the brick & mortar university I attended vs WGU.

I’ve seen posts online about people getting it done in 6 months. I wouldn’t recommend this as your going to have lesser experience in my opinion.

I actually got paid to go to college. While completing my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees my tuition was 100% covered and I received a monthly check each month for nearly 6-years.

Is the MBA at WGU Worth the Cost?

Worst case scenario, you can take out a student loan (gasp). IF and only IF you are likely to receive a raise or better job offer after completing the MBA.

If you’re like me, I’m not eager to leave my company nor do I foresee an immediate raise as a result of completing my MBA, then it doesn’t make sense to take a loan out for this.

For example, my wife is a teacher. If she completes an MBA, she just has to show the transcripts and she will make $7,000 more per year. On the spot. This, in my opinion, makes it a worthwhile investment if she had to take a small loan to complete the schooling.

Loans should not be taken to live on campus, purchase anything other than books or tuition and they should have a favorable interest rate (sub 5%).

Is an MBA as Valuable as it Used to Be?

I believe there are far more MBAs out there today than ever before. I also believe that relevant experience in conjunction with an MBA is where the true value is. Value is subjective and varies from person to person.

It really depends on where you get your MBA and what your goal is for it. For example, my MBA was through WGU an accredited online university. It was a fraction of the cost and helped me achieve a promotion at my current workplace.

I missed out on networking opportunities and that’s fine with me as I am married with kids and am not trying to bounce around a bunch of startups.

Before I began the program, I asked around a bit and found that nobody cared where the degree came from and relevant experience was more important. But, I’m also not working in a major metro area or silicon valley.

An MBA from a respected college of business is always going to have value in my opinion. Is it worth the price tag to go to Stanford or Harvard? Probably, because of networking potential and the rigorous nature of the coursework. Do you need that to manage a mid-sized company in rural America, nope? Do you need it to manage large companies in Seattle, San Fran, NYC, etc..? It helps.

My manager has an MBA from our state university college of business and was more pumped than I was when I completed my online MBA. 

Value is in the eyes of the beholder. If you don’t go into massive debt and the MBA helps get you a promotion into management, that’s valuable to me. If you go $100k into debt and don’t work at a large firm with great pay and benefits then that would not be valuable to me.

Is Western Governors University Easy?

My experience with the MBA program at WGU was that it was not easy. Some courses were easier than others and that’s completely subjective. I spent some time on Reddit looking at course reviews and found that some courses the community thought were difficult turned out to be easy for me and the inverse was true as well.

Tests have always been difficult for me as my study habits have never been very strong. I am however a competent academic writer as a result of my hard science undergraduate degree.

I felt very comfortable writing the papers and less confident in taking the proctored exams. However, sometimes figuring out what the grader is looking for in your paper can be difficult and frustrating. It felt less like writing a comprehensive paper and more like checking the rubric boxes.

Overall the degree was challenging enough to stress me out and at times second, guess my decision to tackle it while working full-time and raising 3 kids. I’m so glad I stuck it out, but it definitely was not a cakewalk for me.

I Recommend WGU to Others

The reason I decided to go to WGU was because of friends and family that had such a great experience with the university. Based on my experience and her friends and family, my wife Kayla will be attending WGU in the spring of 2020 to earn her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction at WGU.

It checks all the boxes for us. It’s affordable, accredited, respected by employers, supporting, relevant and self-paced.

Other WGU Degrees

WGU offers more than just an accredited MBA program. They also have programs in business, teaching, information technology, and health professions. See the full breadth of offerings from WGU here.

We’re also cash flowing a Master’s degree for my wife as well. She’s working on her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction through WGU.

WGU Masters Programs for Business

Western Governors University doesn’t just offer the MBA program. They have several others to choose from within the college of business.

Each of these master’s programs has something unique to offer and you may share your capstone project with someone from one of these programs.

I had 3 MBA students and one MBA in Healthcare Management in my capstone project.

College of Business

  • Master of Business Administration

  • MBA Information Technology Management

  • MBA in Healthcare Management

  • Master of Health Leadership(from the College of Health Professions)

  • Management and Leadership – M.S.

  • Accounting – M.S.

  • Data Analytics – M.S.(from the College of Information Technology)

What’s Stopping You?

WGU may not be the perfect fit for everyone looking for an MBA program, but it was perfect for me and my family. I want to just take a second to encourage you in whatever decision you make.

I want you to know and understand that I am one of the last people anyone close to me would have expected to go to college let alone graduate with my MBA and 2 other degrees.

Your future is yours and the only thing between you and your MBA is action. I believe in you and believe just by searching this topic that you have it within you to complete a degree at Western Governors University.

Just think, in 12-24 months from today, you could have an MBA degree from an accredited, respected, institution. What an amazing world we live in.