MBA programs are not one-size-fits-all. Business schools offer a variety of formats and areas of study that can be tailored to fit your career goals. So how does a prospective MBA student choose which type of program to enroll in? Here’s a brief overview of four major factors to consider, along with options typically offered by business schools:
1. Time Commitment
Are you planning to quit your job and earn your MBA as quickly as possible? Or would you rather spread school out over a few years to give yourself the opportunity to continue working?
Full-time MBA programs typically run two years but are sometimes condensed to 12 or 16 months. At most schools, the first year is intensive and devoted to the core curriculum, which gives students a broad overview of the major areas of business. The second year is typically spent taking electives in your chosen area of specialization. This is also the time to network and begin searching for a job.
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Part-time MBA programs typically take three or more years to complete. Classes meet in the evenings to allow students to work full-time. This is a great solution for students who want to keep a currently held position, have family obligations, or are on a tight budget. Part-time MBA students often have access to the same faculty, resources, and courses as their full-time counterparts, with more schedule flexibility. Some employers also offer tuition reimbursement to employees working toward an MBA. However, on-campus recruiting may not be accessible to part-time students at some schools.
Online MBA programs offer the option of following a personalized schedule from home. Some are taught completely online, while hybrid or blended programs combine traditional classroom interaction with distance learning instruction. Distance learning students may also have a great deal of flexibility with course pacing and scheduling; some programs require students to complete assignments and exams by certain deadlines, without scheduled classes, while some require you to be online and logged in at set times. Keep in mind that networking and recruiting opportunities are severely limited for online MBA candidates.
Accelerated MBA programs are typically designed for students who already have a strong background in business (for example, an undergraduate degree in business, along with relevant work experience) and take between 10 and 16 months to complete, depending on the school. Some are offered online.
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2. Level of Experience
Some programs are designed for students with little work experience, while some are designed for seasoned business professionals. Most full-time and part-time programs require at least two or three years of post-undergraduate professional experience.
Early Career MBA programs are designed for students with two or fewer years of experience. The emphasis is on building a strong foundation through hands-on projects, internships, and career services. Some schools also offer combined programs that allow undergraduates to transition seamlessly into an MBA program after earning a bachelor’s degree.
Executive MBA programs usually require at least eight years of professional experience at the management level. EMBA programs generally meet on weekends to accommodate students’ busy work schedules, and take two to three years to complete. Students are able to put new skills learned in class to immediate use in the workplace, with the added advantage of the collective professional experience of class members. Many students are sponsored by their employers.
3. Career Goals
Choosing an MBA program may also depend on what you hope to gain after business school. Do you want to beef up your potential within the same field you’ve been working in? Or are you looking to start over with a career change?
Graduate certificate programs provide training in an area of specialization. A certificate is not a full-blown MBA degree, but it can provide very tailored, specialized expertise in important business fields without the commitment of two or more years in the classroom.
Dual and joint-degree programs allow you to combine an MBA with another graduate degree in fields as diverse as law, medicine, engineering, education, public policy, and international studies, just to name a few. Earning two degrees requires a sizeable investment in time and money, but may also open doors to outstanding opportunities for students with very specific career goals, including leadership roles within non-business settings.
Different business schools also have strong reputations in traditional MBA specializations such as marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, international business, and more.
Students in part-time, executive, and certificate programs may receive tuition reimbursement from their employers, in exchange for remaining with the company for a number of years after graduation. Some scholarship money may also be available for full-time students.
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