3 things to know about Carnegie Mellon’s online MBA program

BY Sydney LakeNovember 23, 2021, 2:54 PM
A student walks across The Cut on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, as seen in August 2016.
(Photo by Katherine Frey—The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Carnegie Mellon University is best-known for its science and technology programs, but its business school programs are just as strong. In fact, Fortune ranks the university’s online MBA program as third-best in the country, behind only University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) and Indiana University–Bloomington (Kelley).

Comparing the three, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business has the smallest enrollment, with just 79 students admitted in fall 2021. Headcount alone is no indicator of the caliber of its students, though. 

“We think it’s important for prospective students to understand that this is a relatively small community,” Kelly R. Wilson, Tepper’s executive director of masters admissions, tells Fortune. “Your role as a student in the community is important.”

Tepper students admitted to the online MBA program in fall 2021 had, on average, 6.9 years of work experience, a 684 GMAT score, and an undergraduate GPA of 3.41. A majority of incoming students came from a STEM background like technology, engineering, mathematics, and physical science. Tepper students leverage their industry knowledge and appetite for development to succeed in the MBA program.

“The common thread is that the students who are interested in Tepper are really interested in the value proposition of the combination of leadership and analytics,” Wilson says.

Beyond statistics, Tepper’s online MBA program stands out. Here are three ways that the Carnegie Mellon experience is different.

Students can switch program formats

Most business schools that offer a variety of MBA program formats require distinct applications for each; Tepper doesn’t.

When applying for the Tepper MBA program, a candidate will select a preferred program format: full-time in-person, part-time online, or part-time flex. For example, if a candidate were to apply to the full-time program expecting to attend the school’s Pittsburgh location, but had to move unexpectedly, then the candidate could transfer admission to the online program, Wilson says.

The admissions committee uses the same lens to evaluate all applications to all Tepper MBA program formats. That’s because all program content is the same and is taught by the same faculty. 

“The pedagogy is the same regardless of program delivery format. We have the same standards for admission,” among all MBA programs, Wilson says. “The program itself allows for students to transfer between programs, which is not something that you’ll find to be a typical aspect of an MBA program.”

The online format was attractive to Lou Godmer, a principal software engineering manager at Microsoft, who started the Tepper MBA program this year. Studying online allowed her to keep her full-time job in Seattle while attending classes virtually, but she has already had the opportunity to meet her fellow online MBA students in person.

That’s because Tepper offers online MBA students six in-person opportunities called Access Weekends throughout the duration of the program. During Access Weekends, online MBA students take class in person and have the chance to network with fellow MBA candidates and Tepper faculty.

Tepper is data focused 

Godmer was also drawn to Tepper’s online MBA program because of its emphasis on data and technology. She currently leads a team of engineers working on Microsoft Azure products and says she hopes to break into executive leadership in the tech industry at some point.

“Because I’m in a technology field, it was important to me to have an MBA that was very data science focused,” Godmer tells Fortune. “The Carnegie Mellon program definitely fits that bill.”

Carnegie Mellon’s reputation for STEM expertise also infiltrates its MBA programs. The school developed the concept of management science, and many business schools have implemented it as part of their curriculum. The school’s MBA program is STEM-designated and takes a “deep dive” into data analytics throughout its program.

“In order to solve the business challenges that lie ahead, you’ll need to be able to forecast, predict, and model solutions in the face of uncertainty,” according to Tepper’s curriculum information page. “You’ll need to develop your advanced analytics skills to stand out in today’s marketplace.”

The ability to harness data and leverage it for decision-making power is a hallmark of the Tepper MBA experience, Wilson says.

Community is important 

Acceptance into Tepper’s MBA program is an “invitation” to join the community, Wilson says of the school’s admissions philosophy. In the application’s essay prompt and interview process, candidates have to illustrate what type of community member they’ll be once at Tepper. 

Prospective students must respond to the following essay prompt: “The Tepper community is dynamic and unique. Each community member’s individual journey has shaped them into classmates who are collaborative, supportive, and inclusive. Describe how you have overcome adversity during your journey. What did you learn about yourself and how has that shaped who you are?”

A candidate’s response shows how they’ll act as a community member, Wilson says. Then, the behavioral-style interview also pushes students to dissect leadership roles they’ve held in the past, she adds.

“Just to uncover how they’ve handled those types of situations gives us a sense of how they will contribute to the community, but also how they’ll perform through their experience at Tepper and beyond,” Wilson says

In her short time in the program, Godmer has already experienced this sense of community during the Access Weekend she attended in August. She continues to stay in touch with classmates she met there and has leveraged the network she garnered there to help with a position she’s hiring for at Microsoft. Godmer immediately felt that sense of community during an Access Weekend when school started. “That value is already really paying off,” she says. 

“If someone’s not interested in an environment that’s team-oriented and that is collaborative, this might not be the right fit,” Wilson adds.

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.