Part-Time vs. Full-Time MBA Programs: Pros, Cons, and How to Decide

Read this article for information on part-time MBAs, a way to get this advanced degree without dedicating two full years, and the pros and cons of this degree vs. the full-time, traditional route.

Posted April 9, 2024

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Choosing between part-time MBA programs and full-time MBA programs can significantly impact your career trajectory, lifestyle, and educational experience. In today's competitive business world, earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has become a strategic step for professionals aiming to enhance their career prospects, expand their professional network, and gain a deeper understanding of business management principles.

However, with various options available, deciding whether to pursue a part-time or full-time MBA program requires careful consideration of several factors, including time commitment, financial investment, career goals, and personal circumstances. In this article, we'll look at both programs' pros and cons, walk you through how to decide which one is right for you, and provide a list of the best part-time MBA programs for your consideration.

For those who are new to the MBA journey, it's essential to understand the fundamentals of what an MBA degree entails. If you're curious about what an MBA degree is and how it can benefit your career, check out our comprehensive guide on What is an MBA Degree? Additionally, understanding the different types of MBA degrees available can provide valuable insights into which program aligns best with your career goals and aspirations. Learn more about the various types of MBA degrees in our detailed exploration of The Different Types of MBA Degrees.

Pros of a Part-Time MBA Program

1. More Flexibility

Many potential applicants do not have the ability to give up a full-time job or the time required to manage life and family responsibilities. Through part-time MBA programs, they can earn their MBA degree while maintaining other responsibilities.

Some schools even offer part-time MBA programs for people who do not live nearby. For example, Chicago Booth has a Weekend MBA Program that allows candidates to fly in for courses on the weekends, and return to their jobs during the week.

2. More Affordable

Students who are able to maintain employment while getting their degree may have more financing options available to them. Some companies pay for the continuing education of their employees. These companies will reimburse the entirety of, or part of, tuition fees. This helps cover the cost of their graduate studies while continuing to work can help finance the rest.

If the employer is unable to cover the costs of the MBA, and you are working throughout, you can still use some of your salary to pay for the program. Part-time programs are also often more affordable than full-time ones.

3. Location

As mentioned, some programs offer flex or weekend options where their students do not necessarily have to live in the same area as the university. They can travel to the campus on a weekly or monthly basis to take classes, removing the difficulty of moving for a degree. For MBA candidates with families, this is especially beneficial.

4. Employment

Students who opt to enroll in a part-time MBA program usually do not need to go looking for employment after graduating because they never left their initial employer. This relieves the stress of job hunting and improves promotion opportunities within the company.

Cons of a Part-Time MBA Program

1. Less Academic Involvement

Since the classes are held on a weekly, or even monthly, basis, there is less time for students to interact with teachers and classmates regularly. With online classes, it is also often more difficult to build relationships with professors and network with peers. Full-time MBA candidates will have more time in the classroom working on group projects, case studies, and other academic endeavors designed to prepare them for real, complex business problems.

2. Missed Activities

As part-time MBA programs are held either off-campus or during a limited schedule, students may not be able to participate in all of the activities available to full-time students. This may involve clubs and on-campus events, among others.

3. Added Stress

Due to the nature of the program, part-time MBA students may have to juggle both studying and working and this can lead to additional stress, which has the potential to affect mental and physical health. Interested students should make sure they are in the position to balance multiple intensive commitments to protect their well-being.

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How to Decide if a Part-Time MBA Program is Right for You

To decide whether a part-time or full-time MBA program is the right fit for you, we recommend conducting a thorough assessment of your current situation, career objectives, and personal preferences. Both paths offer unique advantages and pose certain limitations.

Here are some factors to consider. Note, an MBA admissions coach can also be incredibly helpful in supporting you in this decision.

1. Career Goals and Current Employment Status

  • Full-time MBA: Ideal for individuals seeking a significant career change, requiring internships, or aiming for industries that traditionally recruit from full-time programs. It's also suited for those who can afford to leave the workforce for the duration of their studies.
  • Part-time MBA: Best for those who wish to continue working while studying, allowing them to apply new skills in real-time and maintain a steady income. It's perfect for professionals aiming to advance within their current field or company.

2. Time Commitment

  • Full-time MBA: Demands a significant time commitment, often requiring students to forgo full-time employment. Programs typically last 1-2 years, with a rigorous schedule of classes, networking events, and internships.
  • Part-time MBA: Offers greater flexibility, with classes held during evenings or weekends, allowing students to balance work and personal commitments. Programs can take longer to complete, ranging from 2 to 5 years, depending on the course load.

3. Financial Considerations

  • Full-time MBA: Requires a substantial financial investment upfront and the opportunity cost of lost wages. However, scholarships, grants, and student loans are often available.
  • Part-time MBA: While still a significant investment, allows students to continue earning an income, potentially receiving employer sponsorship or tuition reimbursement programs.

4. Networking and Learning Environment

  • Full-time MBA: Offers extensive networking opportunities and access to campus resources, clubs, and extracurricular activities. It fosters a collaborative learning environment with a cohort of peers.
  • Part-time MBA: Provides networking opportunities tailored to working professionals, though they may be less immersive due to the part-time nature. Classes may offer a diverse mix of professionals bringing in real-world experience.

5. Personal Circumstances

Consider personal factors such as family commitments, willingness to relocate, and your learning style. Full-time programs may offer a more immersive experience but require more significant personal sacrifices. Part-time programs offer flexibility but require effective time management skills to balance work, study, and personal life.

Making the Decision

Reflect on these different factors; speak with alumni, career counselors, and admissions representatives to gain insights; and attend information sessions or virtual webinars to get a clear picture of what each offers.

Ultimately, the choice between a part-time and full-time MBA program hinges on your career goals, lifestyle preferences, and financial situation. Both paths can lead to enhanced career opportunities and personal growth; the key is to select the one that aligns most closely with your individual needs and objectives.

The Top 10 Part-Time MBA Programs

If you’re interested in a part-time MBA, it’s good to know your options. Here are the best part-time MBA programs to consider.

1. University of Chicago (Booth)

The part-time MBA program at Chicago Booth comes in two formats. The Evening MBA Program is a good fit for residents of Chicago who are interested in weeknight classes. The Weekend MBA Program meets on Saturdays and enrolls professionals from the Chicago area and all around the country. 70% of the students in the weekend program live outside Illinois and commute to Chicago for their classes. Both programs are designed for curious, high-achieving professionals who plan to continue their careers while earning their MBA degrees.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 23%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 691
  • Avg. GRE Scores:
    • Verbal: 158
    • Quantitative: 160
  • Range of Work Experience: 1-21 years

Discover more here: Part-Time MBA Programs

2. University of California - Berkeley (Haas)

Haas also offers their part-time MBA in the evenings or on the weekends. They also have an online option that allows students to attend class remotely. At Berkeley, they emphasize that you can take what you learn in class each day and apply it immediately to your work for a faster return on investment. The Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Programs produce leaders who use new ideas to deliver innovation of all kinds. This can include strategic, operational, and organizational skills. Haas teaches quantitative and analytic rigor and encourages students to apply skills in critical thinking, communication, and adaptability.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 15%
  • Median GPA: 3.4
  • Median GMAT Score: 691
  • Median Years of Work Experience: 7

Read more here: Evening & Weekend MBA Program

3. Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Kellogg’s top-ranked part-time MBA is designed for leaders who are intelligent and ambitious and want to advance their professional development without needing to put their careers on hold. During their Evening & Weekend MBA, you will learn management skills and build your network in order to realize your highest potential while earning your MBA part-time. They believe that only at Kellogg will you find the broadest choices of global opportunities, an unparalleled approach to leadership development, and a curriculum that will build well-rounded leaders.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Average GPA: N/A
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 680
  • Avg. GRE Scores: N/A
  • Range of Work Experience: 3-9 years

Learn more at Evening & Weekend MBA Program

4. New York University (Stern)

The Part-Time MBA at Stern is designed for working professionals who are looking to use the knowledge and tools of an MBA program to advance their careers. This is a highly flexible program since it can be completed in 2-6 years, allowing for maximum flexibility. They offer four program options: Weeknights, Accelerated Two-Year, Saturday, and Online/Modular. There are 27 different options for specialization.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 68.1%
  • Average GPA: 3.46
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 669
  • Avg. GRE Scores:
    • Verbal: 160
    • Quantitative: 160
  • Range of Work Experience: 1-12 years

Learn more about it at Part-time MBA | Academics

5. University of California - Los Angeles (Anderson)

The UCLA Anderson School of Management offers a “Fully Employed MBA Program” where students who wish to fast-track their degree have the option of acquiring it in 27 months. If you need more time to complete the complete course requirements because of personal or career reasons, you can extend it to up to five years. There are three scheduling options available: all day Saturdays, Tuesday and Thursday Evenings, and a hybrid of on-campus attendance and online study.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 77%
  • Average GPA: 3.38
  • Median GMAT Score: 650
  • Avg. GRE Scores: N/A
  • Avg. Work Experience: 7 years

Learn more at UCLA Anderson School of Management Full Employed MBA

6. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (Ross)

Michigan Ross’ Part-Time MBA program is for students who would prefer to attend classes over weekends. You will be able to pursue your specific interests and build out your network by taking advantage of the many on-campus opportunities for MBA students, from student clubs to case competitions, to the Sanger Leadership Crisis Challenge. They advertise their curriculum as action-based and you will get the opportunity to put business concepts into practice. As a part-time MBA student, you are able to take part in their Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) or their C-Level Thinking course where you will address a real business challenge.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Average GPA: 3.4
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 687
  • Avg. GRE Scores:
    • Verbal: 159
    • Quantitative: 160
  • Avg. Work Experience: 6.8 years

Check out more info at Michigan Ross’ Weekend MBA

7. Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

The Tepper School of Business offers two formats for their part-time MBA: an accelerated program and a flexible program. The Part-Time Accelerated Program is for undergraduate business graduates who want to earn their MBA through a two-year, online hybrid format. They offer Access Weekends, which are immersive opportunities to connect with classmates, take classes, and participate in professional development activities. The Part-Time Flex Program is designed for Pittsburgh's working professionals. They will attend Access Weekends as well but via online classes held two evenings a week. Each class will also include additional offline content that you can complete at your own pace. After completing the core courses, you are able to tailor-fit your MBA with on-campus or online electives.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 60%
  • Average GPA: 3.38
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 679
  • Avg. GRE Score: 314
  • Avg. Work Experience: 6.7 years

Learn more at Tepper School of Business' Online Hybrid MBA

8. University of Texas - Austin (McCombs)

The McCombs School of Business at UT Austin offers two part-time formats: the Evening and Weekend MBA. The Weekend MBA can be taken in two locations: Dallas and Houston. The evening MBA is for those in Austin who can attend on-campus classes at night. In both programs, you will enjoy the hallmarks of a UT Austin education, including their renowned faculty, cutting-edge research, and a dynamic alumni community. You will earn your degree in 28 months without career interruption. The Evening MBA starts in January with classes held every Monday and Tuesday night at the Austin campus. The weekend MBA starts in August with classes held on alternating weekends.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Average GPA: 3.36
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 654
  • Avg. GRE Score: 312
  • Avg. Work Experience: 8 years

Check more details at Evening MBA, Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, and Weekend MBA at Houston.

9. University of Southern California (Marshall)

The part-time program at USC Marshall is also designed for working professionals over a timeline of 33 months. Students receive an exceptional education from the university’s leading faculty, have access to top-notch career services, and are able to join their extensive alumni network. They have a robust core curriculum with a wide range of specialized coursework. During the first year, students select one of three schedules: Monday and Wednesday evenings (6:00 pm – 9:00 pm), Tuesday and Thursday evenings (6:00 pm – 9:00 pm), or every Saturday (9:00 am – 3:00 pm).

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Average GPA: 3.31
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 640
  • Avg. GRE Scores: N/A
  • Avg. Work Experience: 5.9 years

Visit Part-Time MBA | USC Marshall to learn more.

10. Indiana University (Kelley)

The Kelley School of Business offers an evening MBA program where students will have access to the full curriculum and classroom experiences with a blend of structure and flexibility. This allows their students to gain a high-quality education that leaves room for work and personal commitments. Admitted applicants can complete a general administration degree or choose one of the five majors: finance, management, entrepreneurship, marketing, or supply chain management.

Admissions Info

  • Acceptance Rate: 74.4%
  • Average GPA: 3.25
  • Avg. GMAT Score: 618
  • Avg. GRE Scores: N/A
  • Avg. Work Experience: 6.8 years

See more details at Evening MBA: Kelley School of Business.

FAQ

Q: Can part-time students get the same quality education as full-time MBA students?

  • A: Yes, many reputable business schools offer part-time MBA programs that provide the same rigorous curriculum and instruction as their full-time counterparts. Part-time students often have access to the same faculty, resources, and networking opportunities as full-time students.

Q: Are online MBA programs considered as valuable as traditional, full-time MBA programs?

  • A: Online MBA programs offered by accredited business schools are increasingly recognized as valuable alternatives to traditional full-time programs. They offer flexibility for working professionals and often cover the same curriculum with interactive online platforms and real-world applications.

Q: How do part-time MBA programs accommodate the schedules of working professionals?

  • A: Part-time MBA programs typically offer evening, weekend, or online classes to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. These flexible options allow students to continue working while pursuing their degree.

Q: What are the advantages of attending a top business school for a part-time MBA program?

  • A: Attending a top business school for a part-time MBA program offers several advantages, including access to renowned faculty, extensive alumni networks, career services, and prestigious brand recognition that can enhance career prospects and networking opportunities.

Coach Recommendations

Applying to any kind of MBA program can be a stressful process. Leland is here to help students at all points of their MBA journey. Our coaches are uniquely positioned to help you succeed in deciding your top schools, applying, and preparing for enrollment. See some of our top coaches for part-time MBAs below and browse all of your options here.

Final Note

Here are a few other articles you may find helpful as you research and apply to MBA programs:

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