What's the Difference Between a Part-Time vs. Full-Time MBA?
- A part-time MBA program offers more flexibility for working students.
- Students who enroll in a full-time MBA program tend to have more academic options.
- The average MBA student has 5-6 years of professional experience.
Earning a master of business administration (MBA) can open new career opportunities, lead to higher salaries, and allow you to specialize in a specific business area. Additionally, PayScale reports that MBA graduates earn an average salary of almost $90,000 per year.
As the economy has struggled amid the pandemic, many students have considered the benefits of returning to school and earning an MBA. In a recent survey, almost 80% of online MBA, master of finance, and master's in management programs reported receiving an increased number of applications compared to the previous year. Students seeking an MBA can choose from many degree paths, with most schools offering full-time and part-time options.
What Is an MBA?
An MBA program covers advanced business administration concepts, such as strategic planning, business analytics, and accounting. Students can also tailor their degree to their career path by choosing concentrations in crucial business functions. Concentration options include human resources, marketing, and leadership. Earning an MBA can prepare you for leadership positions and boost your salary.
You don’t need an undergraduate degree in business to qualify for an MBA program, but you should have a solid foundation in statistics and economics.
You don't need an undergraduate degree in business to qualify for an MBA program, but you should have a solid foundation in statistics and economics. Many schools require you to submit GMAT or GRE scores, though applicants with several years of professional experience may qualify for test waivers.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time MBA Programs
Schools have responded to the popularity of MBA programs by providing additional options for flexibility and customization. In addition to traditional, full-time programs, many schools offer part-time, weekend, and online programs that allow more students to realize their educational goals. The details of each program can vary, as discussed below.
Who Typically Enrolls?
The typical MBA student brings about 5-6 years of professional experience to the classroom, and learners tend to be in their late 20s; however, these trends vary somewhat depending on the program type.
Students seeking full-time programs often have less professional experience. Some of these learners may enroll in graduate school immediately after earning their bachelor's degree.
Part-time students often have ample professional business experience. Many students pursue an MBA as part of a career change after earning an undergraduate degree in another field. Experienced professionals may also seek an MBA to move into management positions within their field.
Most MBA degrees require 36-40 credits. Business courses, electives, and capstone experiences offer participants the chance to explore new topics and build new skills.
Full-time students typically graduate in 1-2 years. Additionally, some schools offer fast-track programs in which students complete some of their MBA requirements while still enrolled as an undergraduate. Learners may take summers off or use that time to complete an internship.
Part-time students often take 1-2 classes each term. Some schools may offer academic credit for professional experience. Part-time students may need three or more years to complete their degree, depending on their course load.
Most schools offer a standard business core that all MBA students complete. Learners can expect to take courses like operations management, data analytics, and managerial accounting.
Full-time students may enjoy more options when it comes to choosing electives and concentrations. They can also use school breaks to take part in experiential learning. The academic calendar often follows a traditional 15-week semester, though some schools offer shorter accelerated terms.
Part-time programs, including executive MBAs, may include night and weekend classes. Some schools organize students into cohorts, in which learners move through the curriculum together in lock-step. Part-time students may not have as many options for concentrations or electives.
MBA programs tend to be expensive, with many universities charging more than $50,000 annually. Additionally, some of the top business schools in the U.S. cost more than $100,000 per year. As such, an MBA represents a significant financial investment.
Full-time students who can access term-based tuition rates typically pay less for their education. Alternatively, part-time students usually pay per credit, which can cost more. Full-time students also tend to enjoy more financial aid options. There may be fewer scholarships for part-time students.
Part-time students, however, can continue to work while they take classes. Many employers also offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs that can help defray those costs. It can be quite difficult for full-time students to juggle class requirements with a full-time job.
Should You Enroll in a Part-Time or Full-Time MBA Program?
Both full-time and part-time MBA programs offer rigorous and relevant career preparation. Determining which program best meets your needs depends on your educational background, work experience, and availability.
Full-time and part-time MBA programs both offer rigorous and relevant career preparation.
Part-time MBA programs cater to students already working in their field. Classrooms are often filled with experienced business professionals, allowing for ample networking and collaboration opportunities; however, it can take 1-2 years longer to graduate compared to a part-time pathway.
If you recently earned your bachelor's or you can afford to leave the workforce for 1-2 years, a full-time MBA program can provide a more immersive educational experience and increased options for specialization. If you have yet to establish yourself in the industry, you can also benefit from internship and mentorship opportunities.
The chart below can help you evaluate which path best suits your unique situation.
- Most programs offer flexible enrollment options, such as night, weekend, and online asynchronous courses
- You can continue to work while earning your degree
- The business-focused curriculum allows you to put your new skills to work right away
- Your professional experience can qualify you for GMAT waivers or graduate-level credit
- Your employer may offer tuition reimbursement to help pay for your degree
- Some programs limit electives or concentrations available to part-time students
- When balancing school and work, you'll have less time for family or personal pursuits
- Paying per credit can result in higher overall costs
- One- and two-year programs allow for faster degree completion
- You often pay by the semester, which can offer a discount over per-credit charges
- Full-time programs may offer more options for electives and concentrations
- You can take advantage of internships during the summer to gain work experience and starting building a professional network
- Some scholarship programs may reserve awards for full-time students only
- The admissions process is more extensive, and most schools require GMAT scores
- You probably can't work full time while enrolled as a full-time student
- You and your classmates may have less work experience to draw from in the classroom
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