Full Time MBA Vs Part Time MBA

Road to future

First Steps

Deciding you need and want an MBA is the first step. From there, you’ll have to determine whether pursuing the degree full time best serves your purpose, or whether attending MBA courses part time is a better fit with your goals. Other factors to consider are part time vs full time MBA salary, as well as the respective admissions process for each.

Full Time MBA

Let’s look at the full time program first. If a high rank and a name brand sit at the top of your list of program must-haves, a full time MBA might be your best bet. These programs are the attention-grabbing starlets of the MBA world. The greater perceived value of a full time program is one of the more prominent disadvantages of a part time MBA. As an applicant to full time programs, you aim high and hope to get into the most competitive, most highly ranked program you can. When you matriculate, you’ll leave your salaried position and spend 1-2 years as a student.

MBA NetworkingFull time programs often use a cohort structure in which a large class of students gets much smaller—you could have most of your classes with the same group of peers and make close connections, i.e. the MBA network, that supplies so much of the MBA’s ROI. You’ll have time to make friends, form critical business relationships, and join all of the extracurricular clubs and teams you couldn’t as a busy professional.

Full time programs are your best bet if you hope to make a career transition as well. If you plan to move from finance to consulting, for example, you would leave your career in finance, spend time building a strong base of business fundamentals as you immerse yourself in the MBA community, complete a critical internship in your desired field, and make the transition into your new field with the full support of the program’s career services. Also, if you’re an international student or if you’d have to move to attend the program of your dreams, then a full time MBA just makes sense.

The drawbacks to pursuing an MBA full time include a two-part hit to your wallet: first, you opt out of a salaried position, and then you spend a hefty sum of money on your graduate degree. Furthermore, other goals, particularly personal goals like buying a home or getting married, might have to go on the back-burner while you commit to the rigorous academics and active community involvement that characterize the full time MBA.

Post-2008, many Millennials are reluctant to step away from a successful career and take on the significant financial commitment of a full time MBA program. Unsurprisingly, in 2011, the AACSB, the chief accrediting agency for MBA programs, reported that 56% of MBA students attended part time. That number has continued to rise, and the popularity and variety of part time programs, which include online MBAs and EMBAs, has ballooned.

Part Time MBA

What makes part time MBA programs so great? You can remain in the workforce while pursuing the degree, which keeps your career in a state of progression and keeps a salary coming in; there are simply fewer opportunity costs. Part time MBA students can pursue a more flexible course of study as well, adjusting the amount and type of classes taken from semester to semester.

Work FlexibilityTypically, a student on this track takes 1-2 classes per semester for 2.5-5 years. Part time programs’ flexibility gives students the room to attend to personal goals that full time programs do not. They also allow the student to control costs if he or she is responsible for those costs, which is often not the case. Many employers will support a portion if not the total cost of their top performers’ part time MBAs.

Some potential drawbacks of the part-time program worth considering include its flexibility, ironically enough! These programs require a great deal of self-motivation and, as a result, part time programs have a considerably higher dropout rate than their full time counterparts.

An additional consideration involves post-MBA placement. For the most part, a part time MBA keeps someone in the same region geographically and in the same industry professionally. While this may raise the question: is a part time MBA worth it? – for many degree seekers, these limitations don’t matter—their goals don’t involve the large-scale transition that a large number of full time MBA applicants seek. But, for a few, remaining tied to the industry and region in which they earned their MBA may be something to consider.

In addition, part time students often don’t have the same unlimited access to and support from the career services office at their MBA program. The reasoning behind this limitation is that the part time student is already invested in a career path and in a local network; giving them equal access to on-campus recruitment and job placement negates a great deal of the payoff awaiting full time MBA students at the end of their two year tenure. Additionally, while some part-timers may find that they’ve received the elevation in salary and responsibility their degree demands, others have reported that the lack of definitive break for their degree has made ascending the corporate ladder more challenging than they anticipated.

MBA decision: Full time MBA vs part time MBAThe pros and cons of the full time and part time MBA program structures make a definitive recommendation of one over the other impossible. On a case-by-case basis, however, it should be easy to see which program structure best fits your needs and which one to choose.




For more guidance on your MBA decisions, make sure to check out the following articles:

  1. Why Get an MBA?
  2. When to Get an MBA?
  3. Can a Regional MBA Program Help You Reach Your Goals?


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