For every person, there will be a different priorities—and for every reason, there's likely to be a different program which best meets this requirement.
The two main options for MBA applicants is between a full-time (one or two-year MBA) and a part-time MBA.
Here's the main differences between the two types, and how best to make the right choice:
Full-time vs part-time—key differences
In a full-time program, the benefit is largely in the face-to-face, campus experience.
With university life at your fingertips, you can take classes, join clubs, spend lots of time at social events, and launch and/or attend events to learn about different careers or industries. Often, business school can be a place where people make lifelong friends, or even meet future partners.
Many programs offer students a summer internship, and chance to explore career options and get real life experience. In the second year, the recruiting process takes center stage with events and interviews lasting several months.
In a part-time program, you take classes at night and on weekends, alongside a full-time job. Most programs offer students one or two classes each semester.
There isn't usually an internship option, and while the clubs and events coordinated by the full-time program are open to part-timers, they are less of a focus. Critically, the employment and recruiting process is less of a focus—but part-time students do have access to recruiting events.
Listen to our podcast: One-Year Vs Two-Year MBA: How Do You Decide?
Am I the right fit for a part-time program?
The part-time vs full-time decision has some basic elements to it that make it clear which is a better fit in many cases. A part-time MBA is a perfect fit for applicants who:
- Want to keep working and earning as they obtain an MBA
- Are focused on learning how to apply business theories to the real-world in real-time
- Want to build a network, but don’t consider that the primary reason to pursue an MBA
- Happen to live in a city with well-regarded part-time MBA programs available
- Time is a big factor too. The typical part-time MBA student will often have big time commitments—often a full-time job or a family.
Check out: What Kind Of MBA Candidate Are You?
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For some, it’s clear which program is best. But what if you are on the fence? One factor worth considering is how the classroom experience might differ.
I attended a full-time program at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University while married and living off campus. I took many classes with part-time students. I noticed some key differences in the classroom dynamics:
Part-time students are busy professionals. They approach the classroom from a more practical perspective, asking questions that link directly to their day jobs. They are more efficient with group projects and assignments. They want to meet, allocate the work, and meet again when each person has done their part.
They may also already be in managerial roles—if you are focused on networking, this is a plus.
Full-time students are sometimes in student mode. They are less efficient during group work because they don’t have the pressure of a project at work and a family at home waiting for them. In fact, they may not have class the next day.
Another factor is the flexibility of a part-time program. Imagine you want to explore starting a business. You have a good, but flexible full-time job that doesn’t take all your time.
A part-time program allows you to ramp your class load up or down depending on how busy you are. You can finish in two-to-three years if you want to, while taking MBA classes relevant to both your day job and the business idea.
Crucially, the part-time MBA is designed for a particular type of time-poor applicant, while also provides a classroom experience and flexibility that could make it attractive to a broader applicant pool.
About the Author
Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, which helps students build customized study plans and focuses on a mix of core concepts and skills development. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.