Who Should Consider Non-Traditional MBA Options?

Getting an MBA does not necessarily require taking two years off from work.

While for many the traditional 2-year program might be the best bet, there are an increasing number of alternative options you can consider based on your personal circumstances and goals.

All programs teach the same general curriculum, often by some of the same faculty. However, full-time MBA programs tend to have more students who are looking for a career change and are interested in a more intense program with a heavy networking and social component in addition to the academics. Of course, many part-time MBA graduates go on to seek new employment and/or change industries completely.

Additionally, the Executive MBA programs tend to be catered to students with more varied years of experience vs the traditional 3-7 yrs. for most full-time MBA programs.

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Wondering if one of these non-traditional options might be right for you?
Here are some of the factors tipping the scale towards each program:

1) Executive MBA

Executive MBA programs are geared towards higher level executives and members of senior management. Entrepreneurs who run their own businesses can also fit well into EMBA classes. EMBA students tend to have more leadership experience than part-time MBA students, though the experience required varies greatly by school. We send applicants with as little as 5-6 years of experience to some schools, whereas others are looking for 10-12+ years of work experience. At MIT Sloan, for example, applicants have an average of more than 16 years of experience. Successful candidates also often have international leadership expertise, though this is not required for admission.

Students are generally not immediately looking to change roles, though recruiting is certainly possible from the program. Much of the recruiting happens through internal networking (often with fellow EMBA classmates).

2) Part-Time MBA

Part-time MBA programs are geared towards professionals in the early/middle part of their careers who want the experience of an MBA without taking time off work. Students usually fall below 37 years old and are trending younger, with the largest majority falling between 27-32.

By enrolling in a part-time program, students are able to reduce the overall cost of an MBA because two (in most cases) years of salary do not have to be foregone in order to earn the degree.

Programs are either at night, over the weekend, or both and are able to be completed in different amounts of time depending on the school and how busy of a schedule the student wants to have / how many courses one decides to enroll in each year.

This program can take longer and may offer fewer recruiting opportunities, but recruiting still happens both on campus and through individual networks.  One of our first part-time clients went to NYU Stern many years ago and has a leading job at Google today.

A part-time MBA can be financially attractive, especially if a short-term career switch is not your key motivator for pursuing an MBA.

3) One Year MBA

For those students who want to dedicate themselves full-time to their studies but do not need an internship, this can be an attractive option. If you are not switching industries or even roles, the standard recruiting process may not be necessary.

One-year programs provide fewer networking, recruiting and community building opportunities but for those candidates who can’t afford to take two full years out of the workforce, they can be a good choice.

4) Early Admission / Deferral MBA

Harvard, Stanford and Yale offer deferral programs where current undergraduate students can apply during their senior year, with the intention to work after school for a couple years and then enroll in an MBA program. This gives students the chance to lock in a top MBA program before entering the work force. HBS calls the program 2+2 and has students work for two years before studying the MBA. Stanford has a similar two-year deferral, while Yale SOM has Silver Scholars which allows students to start the MBA program immediately upon finishing college. After one year, students enter the workforce for a year and then return to SOM for the third year to finish the MBA.

With later spring deadlines, candidates finish the undergraduate recruiting process and secure full-time job placement (hopefully) before applying. Successful applicants have already demonstrated considerable leadership through internships and extra-curricular activities, either on or off-campus. They also have a strong sense of their career goals (though this often comes only after working together with a consultant on the applications, and keep in mind that the goals can definitely change over time). While these programs are competitive, they are a good option for high achievers looking to get a jump on the MBA application process.

Unsure which is right for you? Personal MBA Coach advises candidates through all types of business school applications and can guide you on which is the best fit for your unique situation. Sometimes, candidates will apply to more than one program time and select the one with the most attractive package. We can talk through whether this may be an ideal strategy for you.

For a more detailed and customized plan, and individualized support with various aspects of the MBA application process such as early planning, school selection, essay editing or interview preparation, visit Personal MBA Coach.

This article has been re-published from Personal MBA Coach’s blog.

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