Full-time, part-time, online, executive, global, 1-year, 2-year – If you’re considering an MBA, you have more options on how to obtain your degree than ever before. Each type of program comes with its own advantages, limitations, requirements, and timelines, so you’ll need to consider where you are in your career and what you want an MBA to help you accomplish in order to assess the best type of program.
Full-time, 2-year programs
This is the traditional program you’re likely familiar with. Business schools typically divide full-time courses into four semesters, which students complete over two years with an internship between the first and second year.
Who’s it for:
Generally full-time programs attract 20- and 30-something professionals with three or more years of work experience who are looking to advance their career, switch industries or broaden their skills, or gain the know-how to start their own business. Though most programs prefer applicants with at least a few years of work experience (and some programs require it) others will accept applicants straight out of undergrad.
Pros and cons:
Because students pursuing a full-time degree are not balancing the demands of work and school and are located in the same location, students reap the benefits of collaboration, extracurricular organizations, speakers, campus life activities, and career services, which aren’t possible or limited in other types of programs. Students also have the ability to customize their education through electives, concentrations, and specialized tracks.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to a full-time programs is the cost coupled with the opportunity cost of spending two years out of the workforce. Full-time programs are both a large financial and time commitment. Many professionals want to continue their education without stopping their career or don’t have the flexibility to relocate.
Commonly abbreviated as an EMBA, this type of program is designed for mid-career professionals looking to expand their skills while continuing their career. Classes meet outside of normal working hours, usually Fridays and Saturdays on alternate weekends over the course of two years or less.
Who’s it for:
As the name suggests, executive MBAs are for professionals already established in their careers. Often EMBA professionals are sponsored by their companies and the degree is tied to a pending promotion, though this isn’t always the case nor a requirement for admission.
Pros and Cons:
EMBA students bring years of business experience to classroom discussions, and similar to full-time programs, students benefit from an immersive experience with one-on-one access to faculty, and campus activities and resources.
EMBA programs are extremely demanding as students must meet the demands of a business school curriculum often while working full-time the rest of the week. Though students complete their degrees faster, they face high tuition costs if they’re not receiving financial support from their company, and since classes meet in person, on-campus, applicants may need to relocate to attend their desired program.
Part-time MBAs breakdown the 2-year course of a full-time degree into more manageable time commitments. This accommodates students who wish to continue working as they obtain their degree. Accordingly, it takes longer to complete a part-time MBA, usually three to four years, as students take one or two courses a semester. Classes are held on campus after standard business hours.
Who it’s for:
This type of program is geared towards working professionals who seek more flexibility in obtaining their degree. Because a part-time degree takes longer to obtain, this program is suited for those want to advance professionally without pausing their current career, but still receive the benefits of in-person education. Part-time degrees may also be financially supported by employers.
Pros and cons:
Similar to EMBA students, since part-time students remain in the working force while pursuing their degree, they can bring real-world experience and even the current business problems their company faces to the classroom.
Part-time students, however, miss out on many of the other advantages of a full-time program, such as career services and extracurricular activities. Since networking and interaction with faculty and fellow students are also limited compared to in a full-time degree, a part-time degree may not be the best choice for professionals looking to change industries.
Online or distance programs allow students to complete their degree from home by viewing lectures, completing assignments, and meeting with faculty and other students online. The pace of completion is largely determined by the student.
Who it’s for:
Online MBAs are great for professionals who can’t relocate for a program and who wish to continue their careers while earning their degree or have other responsibilities that make less flexible programs difficult.
Pros and cons:
Again, flexibility is the primary benefit of an online MBA. Not only do online programs allow students to complete coursework at their convenience, they allow students to spread out the cost and commitment of their degree.
Online programs, however, offer the least amount of interaction with classmates and faculty. Similarly, networking and career services are severely limited and extracurricular opportunities are nonexistent. It’s also less common for employers to provide financial support for an online program compared to a part-time or executive program.
The above are the most common types of MBA programs, but there are also other ways to pursue advanced degrees in business. Worth noting are Global MBA programs, certificates, which do not confer an MBA degree but offer expertise in business areas, and dual degrees.