How to pick between full time, part time, online, and executive MBA programs!

By - Dec 16, 08:02 AM Comments [0]

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For some applicants, the decision is black and white. For others, the grey areas are significant. And others don't really know the difference to begin with. So the great question is, how do you pick between full time, part time, and executive MBA programs? There are a lot of things to think about such as your goals, budget, age, needs, and options. That's what makes this decision such a personal one - there is no ONE answer. No RIGHT answer. It simply has to make sense for you. Because an MBA is a significant investment and you don't want to make a decision that leads you down the road path. You only do this once - so it's worth doing correctly!

So what we thought would be useful is a quick overview of the types of programs followed by a short "profile" of a type of applicant that might find this option right for them. That doesn't mean that's the ONLY profile. It's illustrative. So don't freak out if you don't match one of them - talk to us - [sign up for a free consultation] and let's figure out the right path forward together!

The Full Time MBA (Average age of program 25-30)

Ah, the creme de la creme of MBA programs with a price tag to match. It's a 1 - 2 year investment that takes you out of the job market and then, hopefully, throws you back in with a huge splash. That's the hope, at least! So what's the good and bad?

The Good

Amazing opportunity to branch out, rebrand yourself, explore different things, immerse yourself in the MBA bubble, and shift/accelerate your career. You make a whole new set of friends who are all on the same journey. You also get amazing career opportunities and for some fields such as high finance or consulting, this is one of the best ways to make that shift. It's also probably the last time in your life that you'll take a year or two to just grow and develop!

The Bad

First off, the price tag is massive. Tuition + cost of living + opportunity cost = $$$,$$$. That can be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of folks. You also take time off from your career. The (valid) argument is that even though you're taking time off that doesn't mean you're falling behind but still, time off is time off. Also, there is a risk here. If you go with the goal of switching into a specific career and you can't make it happen, you've failed on the single most criteria you had for yourself. You'll land on your feet, but if you go to bschool to become a banker and don't...well, that'll be rough.


Joe is a management consultant. He works at a top tier firm and, after three years on the road, he's ready to try something new. He really wants to give banking a shot but he also wants to see what else is out there. He's willing to invest in the process and, let's be honest, he wants a little time off too. His firm is sponsoring him but if he's successful in his switch, the cost will fall to him. A full time MBA is a great way for him to get what he wants professionally and personally. He'll also need that summer internship to make the switch.

The Part Time MBA (Average age of program 27 - 33)

What if you're happy where you are or aren't looking for a complete career etch-a-sketch? Or what if you have a family and simply can't afford the loss of income? Or maybe your employer will help fund the degree. For a lot of people, this is a really good option!

The Good

Firstly, this option fits life, in general, much better. You don't have to press pause. It also provides access to the academics and curriculum component of the MBA that is such an important aspect of the experience. So if your goal is career acceleration or to pick up a new set of skills without the time off and price tag of the full time MBA, this is the option for you!

The Bad

There are three main downsides to the part time MBA. For one, it is exhausting. You work all day, you go to school at night / on the weekend, and you still have the rest of life to deal with. Secondly, you are limited by the options available to you. For those lucky enough to live close to a highly ranked program, that isn't an issue. But for the rest, unless you're willing to fly to Chicago or California every week, you'll have to find a program near you. And sometimes those options aren't ideal. Lastly, your focus will be on academics. There isn't as much time for social activities or a focus on community involvement. Sure, there are things to do, but that isn't the focus.


Priya is a project manager at a leading technology company in the Chicago area but her career is starting to plateau. She has a background in engineering and simply lacks the business skills she needs to make the next jump. She is also married with a young child so heading off for a full time MBA simply isn't an option. Her employer has a pretty generous tuition reimbursement program and she wants to take advantage of it. She has two great options in her area with Kellogg and Booth. A part time MBA would meet her personal requirements while giving her the business education she needs to push her career forward.

The Online / Distance MBA (Average age of program varies)

This option is pretty similar to the part time program except that the majority of your MBA takes place at a distance (obviously). Many programs, such as the University of Florida, are incorporating in-person components too in an effort to ensure students meet and interact. But overall, this program is on your terms, is really flexible, and might not even require a GMAT. It'll take about as long as a part time program too.


Ashley is an engineering graduate from a top ranked undergrad institution and is still early in her career. She wants to pursue her MBA but doesn't want to go the full time route for personal reasons. She also doesn't have access to top ranked part time options where she lives. But there is a great online MBA program with an in-person component in the state next to hers. She's also getting employer support so this option makes a lot of financial sense too!

The Executive MBA (Average age of program 35 - 40)

The option with one the highest ROIs, the EMBA is quickly gaining popularity as more and more professionals later in their career begin to see the value in higher education. But there's no career changing here. You need relevant experience and a fair amount of it. By the way, don't let the name fool you - you don't need to be an executive to participate! Even though the price can sometimes be a bit steep, the value is definitely there. And you get access to a network of senior executives / managers which can be powerful!


Cheng is a manager with a global infrastructure solutions company and his company's leadership wants to see him grow within the company. They have spoken to him about pursuing his EMBA and are willing to support the initiative financially. Cheng wants an MBA worth the time, money, and effort which a top ranked EMBA can provide. The network he will develop will also help him in his future roles within his company!

So there you have it - four great options to pursue your MBA. Ready to get started? Let's go > [check out how we can help]. Don't know which option is right for you? [Sign up for a free consultation] and let's figure it out together.

Good luck!

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