How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA?

Earning an MBA generally takes 1-4 years. Learn how your program, enrollment status, and concentration will shape how long an MBA takes.

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by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published August 13, 2022

Reviewed by Krystal Covington

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How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA?
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An MBA prepares graduates for lucrative business careers. An MBA is one of the most common types of master's degrees, but the sheer volume of programs means that there's a lot of variety in an MBA program's format and length. Traditional MBA programs typically take two years. With a part-time option, students generally spend 2-4 years earning their MBA. Accelerated MBA programs take as little as one year.

Whether you're earning an MBA online or on campus, you'll need a minimum of 30 credits. Most MBA programs require 36-40 credits, and concentrations can add to the credit requirements and timeline. When choosing an MBA program, make sure to consider the program length. While an accelerated option might sound like the best option, it often comes with a more strenuous workload.

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Ready to start your journey?

How Long Will My MBA Take?

Program length plays a major role in your learning experience, so prospective students should carefully consider their options before applying to business school.

First, your enrollment status shapes the program length. Most business schools offer part-time and full-time MBA programs. A full-time program typically takes two years, while part-time programs can take anywhere from 2-4 years, depending on the program.

Second, the delivery method can impact program length. Generally, online MBA programs follow similar credit requirements and completion times as in-person programs. However, some online programs use different schedules or course options, like asynchronous courses, that can change the time commitment.

Third, transfer credits and degree options can change the estimated timeline. Like undergraduate degree-completion programs, many MBA programs accept transfer credit, which can cut time from the degree. In contrast, a dual degree such as an MBA and a master's in public health or a JD-MBA will add time.

Finally, an MBA concentration can add credits to the graduation requirements, prolonging a program. When researching business schools, make sure to ask about completion times for different program options.

MBA Degree Length by Type
MBA Program Type Credits Required Average Completion Time
Full-Time In-Person 36-40 credits 2 years
Full-Time Online 36-40 credits 2 years
Part-Time In-Person 36-40 credits 3 years
Part-Time Online 36-40 credits 3 years
Accelerated 30-36 credits 12-18 months
Executive MBA 36-60 credits 2 years
Dual Degree 45-80 credits 2-3 years

What MBA Program Length Is Right for Me?

Choosing an MBA program length will affect the pace of your degree. Working professionals may prefer a part-time option. Those who want to enter the job market as quickly as possible may prefer an accelerated option.

Weigh your time commitment against the benefits of different program lengths. Make sure to research the effect of program length on the cost of an MBA. Shorter programs may come with a lower price tag.

Pros and Cons of an Accelerated MBA Program

Pros

  • Graduate and enter the job market faster.
  • Apply your professional experience to complete coursework faster.
  • Accelerated programs with lower credit requirements may cost less.
  • Complete similar courses to a traditional MBA in less time.

Cons

  • Accelerated programs offer few or no specialization options.
  • In an accelerated program, your internship options may be limited.
  • The time commitment typically means MBA students cannot work while earning their degree.
  • The accelerated pace can cause burnout.

How Can I Finish My MBA More Quickly?

The length of an MBA program depends on several factors, but there are ways to shorten your program length.

First, consider accelerated MBA programs. At some business schools, you can earn an MBA in as little as 12 months. Second, plan ahead. Create a course schedule with an academic advisor that reduces your time to graduation. That might mean taking extra courses during the term or adding summer classes.

Finally, continue to improve your study habits so you can earn credits toward your MBA without retaking classes. Reach out to your program to ask about options to finish an MBA sooner.

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Lengths

What is the fastest way to get an MBA?

An accelerated MBA offers the fastest route to an MBA degree. Also called a one-year MBA, accelerated programs take as little as 12 months. Most accelerated MBA programs take 12-18 months. This program length saves students time compared to a traditional MBA, which usually takes two years for full-time students.

In an accelerated MBA program, students take core business classes in management, finance, and marketing. Unlike traditional programs, an accelerated MBA typically does not offer tracks. Instead, it operates like a general MBA. For students who want to specialize their MBA, an accelerated program might not be the best option.

Does it matter where you get your MBA?

Yes, it matters where you get your MBA. First, many employers only look for job candidates who earn their MBA at an accredited business school. In competitive positions, the business school's reputation can impact your chances of being hired.

A good way to find out which schools have a great reputation in your preferred industry is to review online profiles of employees with titles you would like to have and note the schools and programs they attended. Often, you'll find a trend you can follow to support your decision-making.

The program also impacts the student experience. Business schools offer different program options and tracks. A student interested in technology management may benefit from attending a business school with strong tech classes. The business school can also shape your internship and networking opportunities. As a result, prospective students should carefully research business schools before applying to MBA programs.

How much does an MBA cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of graduate tuition and fees in 2020-2021 was $19,749 per year. But the cost varies widely depending on the program. Some of the top-ranked business schools charge over $80,000 per year in tuition. In addition to tuition, MBA students must also consider the cost of books, supplies, and fees.

It's easy to see why so many MBA students take out loans to cover their costs. However, you can lower the cost of an MBA by choosing a more affordable program and researching financial aid options. Business scholarships, grants, and employee tuition programs can help professionals pay for an MBA.

How can I get an MBA for free?

With some business schools charging close to six figures for an MBA degree, is it possible to get an MBA for free? If you're looking for a free or low-cost MBA, you can look into companies that pay for MBAs and employee tuition remission policies. For example, some companies will pay a set amount per year toward tuition. And employees at colleges can often take classes at the school for free.

In addition to these routes, consider scholarships and grants. Finally, research affordable MBA programs. While earning an MBA can mean taking on student debt, it's also possible to fully cover the cost of an MBA.

How many credits is an MBA program?

Most MBA programs, whether offered online or on campus, require 36-40 credits. Full-time students complete the requirements in about two years, while part-time students may take 2-4 years.

Several factors can change program credit requirements. Accelerated MBA programs sometimes require as little as 30 credits, while adding an MBA concentration can increase the credit requirements. For example, at many business schools students must take concentration classes on top of core MBA courses, meaning they must earn more credits. In addition, an executive MBA or dual master's program generally requires more credits.

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