How to Find the Right MBA Program
Are you considering going back to school to earn a Master in Business Administration (MBA)? If so, there are a lot of program options for you to explore to make sure you choose the right one for you! When making this decision, you should consider your career goals, the admissions requirements, costs, and your time commitments. Let’s take a look at full-time and part-time MBA programs.
The full-time MBA programs tend to attract younger students who recently earned their undergraduate degree and can often more easily afford to leave the full-time workforce for a few years. The majority of full-time MBA students are under the age of 30. These programs are often more selective because a university’s business school reputation depends on their full-time MBA program ranking. The workload is more intense, with a full-time class schedule and students typically live on or near campus. The majority of programs in the U.S. are two years for full-time students with the summer off in-between the first and second year for students to secure a paid internship.
If you're interested in attending a full-time MBA program but concerned about the cost, keep in mind that full-time MBA students receive over 90% of all MBA scholarships and fellowships. Also, you may be able to pursue a teaching assistant position to earn additional income while attending school.
Part-time MBA programs
If you're not sure you want to go back to graduate school full-time, you should consider a part-time MBA program. These programs allow students to continue to work full-time while pursuing an MBA. There are two types of part-time programs available: executive MBA (EMBA) or a part-time MBA. The part-time MBA is also called the working professionals MBA at some universities. As the name suggests, EMBA students tend to have more work experience and in executive or senior leadership roles at their companies. For this reason, these students tend to be older than full-time MBA students.
EMBA programs are more expensive and students’ employers usually pay all or almost all of the costs. These programs require students to attend classes on the weekend, which provides the opportunity for students to participate in EMBA programs outside of the city they live in. EMBA programs often waive the GMAT or GRE test for applicants. They focus more on work experience than aptitude tests for admission.
Many students decide to pursue a part-time MBA for financial reasons. In these programs, you continue to work in your full-time job while going to school. Employers may have a tuition reimbursement program and pay for all or a percentage of your education. You should do your research to find out if your employer has tuition reimbursement programs. Many employers will require that their employee receive a specific grade in order to receive tuition reimbursement.
Table 1. - See below to compare what you can expect from the different types of programs.
|Program Type||Full-time MBA||Part-time MBA||Executive MBA|
|Program Duration||1-2 years||3+ years||2 years|
|Schedule||day/evening on weekdays||Mostly weekday evenings||Weekends|
|Average Student Age||~23-30||~24-35||~32-42|
|Average size of cohort||223 students||143 students||71 students|
|Professional Experience||0-3+ years||0-3+ years||Executives with 8+ years|
|Admissions requirements||Higher average GMAT score||Lower average GMAT score||Focus on experience over test score|
Benefits to Part-Time MBA Programs
- Reduced risk of unemployment -
While pursuing a part-time degree, you have flexibility on when you change positions. When you attend school full-time, you have a risk of being unemployed at the end of the two years or accepting a job opportunity you weren’t interested in to avoid unemployment. With significantly increased debt, this can be intimidating.
- Reduced cost -
Part-time MBA programs can be less expensive for students if their employers provide tuition reimbursement. However, keep in mind some companies will require you to stay a set number of years after completing your MBA or you’ll have to reimburse them for their tuition contributions.
These programs can also be cheaper because you continue to work and earn your salary for the years you attend school.
Benefits to Full-Time MBA Programs
- Focus is graduate school -
When you attend a full-time MBA program, you can focus on graduate school only without worrying about working at the same time. This gives you more time to join clubs, get involved, attend career fairs, and explore all the future career possibilities. Since earning an MBA is a significant investment, you want to fully take advantage of all the opportunities.
- Ability to participate in a summer internship -
A great aspect of a full-time program is being able to intern the summer between your first and second year. Many graduate students secure their post-graduation jobs at the end of their summer internships. It’s also a great chance to try out a new career and company and see how it fits.
- Available Scholarships -
The majority of scholarships are awarded to full-time MBA students, which provides an easy way to offset some of the costs with not working and paying tuition.
Online MBA Programs
Over the last several years, the number of online MBA programs available has increased. This is significantly less expensive than other MBA programs but is also deemed less selective. If you're hoping to advance in your current career and lack flexibility with your schedule, this could be the right fit for you. When looking at online programs, be sure to see what type of opportunities are offered for networking with your professors and classmates since a significant advantage of earning an MBA is the network you join. If you're like to start a new career or change fields, you may want to consider a full-time program to expedite your timeline.
Overall, an MBA is a great way to acquire new skills and advance your career regardless of the type of MBA you receive. The decision on what type of MBA program to attend is an individualized decision to make. Depending on your career goals, and personal costs and benefits, one option may be a better fit for you.