Part Time vs. Full Time MBA: Choosing What Works Best for You


Thanks to business schools’ attention to the ever changing needs of aspiring MBA students, business school applicants are now given a wide variety of MBA programs from which to choose. Each program is tailored to suit the lifestyle, schedule, and budget of executives and professionals who aspire to further their studies in business administration. Now that there are so many options, you'll have to debate part time vs full time MBA programs.

Here is some information to help you figure out which program is best for you:

Traditional Full-Time MBA:

The traditional MBA, commonly known as full-time MBA, is the most common of MBA programs. These programs, which last two years, include a regular class schedule, ongoing interaction with classmates and faculty and an internship between the first and second year of study.

The traditional MBA programs require a student to engage with the program on a full time basis. That means giving up your full time position and relocating to an area in proximity to the school you will be attending. The average age of students who enter a full time program is between 27 and 28 years of age and has had 2-4 years full time work experience, though the right time to apply to business school is differs for everyone. Students progress through the program as a cohort, meaning they generally begin together and graduate at the same time, solidifying relationship building among the class.

Full time MBA classes are offered during daytime hours, usually from Monday to Thursday, and lasts 21 months with the summer months being used to complete an internship. While in this program, you will need to choose a business school program to focus on - Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Non-Profit, etc - to make steps toward your eventual career. In addition to the core curriculum, students are required to take a number of elective courses to fulfill their degree requirements.

Included in the full-time program are:

  • Scheduled lectures by distinguished business and industry leaders
  • Access to a number of student run clubs and activities,
  • Access to career development services
  • Access to educational programs for networking, building relationships, interviewing
  • Other non-academic activities directed toward enabling the student on their career trajectory.

Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA)

Fully Employed MBA, or FEMBA, is designed for working professionals who want to earn an MBA while maintaining a full-time job. These programs are also referred to as “part-time”. This structure for an MBA education is ideal for professionals who cannot afford to sacrifice years of employment to enroll in business school.

In FEMBA, classes usually meet twice a week, usually in the evening. You are free to choose the class schedule that works best for you. Programs are modelled to last 33 months, but often students can take up to five years to complete.

Many programs are offering “part-time hybrid” programs where professors maximize the use of classroom time by using technology and the internet to deliver lectures and use class time more efficiently for discussion. This compensates for the less frequent class meetings. You will be sent online modules and be asked to frequently communicate through email. With sparing classroom meetings, your discipline in accomplishing assigned tasked will surely be tested.

Students must complete a required number of credits to graduate, the mandatory core curriculum and additional courses of their choosing.

Disadvantages of FEMBA:

When debating part time vs full time MBA programs, it's important to think about potential disadvantages.

  • There may be a limited number of advanced course offerings
  • Faculty may not be part of the full-time faculty,
  • Little time to participate in student groups and other club activities,
  • Experiential and group collaboration may be difficult due to conflicting work schedules and
  • Career services are limited.
  • Students are not part of a cohort - the students move through the program based upon their time constraints and when the courses they need are available.

This program is best suited for the professional who has an established career record and needs the MBA to ascend to the senior levels in their chosen field.

The top three FEMBA programs as ranked by Bloomberg Business Week are Carnegie Mellon, Southern Methodist University, and Haas School of Business. The average age of the students is 30. The average GMAT score is 635 - 700. The average work experience is 7 years.

Executive MBA

Similar to the FEMBA, an Executive MBA or EMBA, is intended for professionals who want to gain an MBA while continuing to work. EMBA is best suited for experienced managers or entrepreneurs who have on average more experience and are at a higher level in their organization and aim to aspire to a CEO position in the next 5 - 10 years of work.

In general, EMBA classes are conducted twice a month, on campus and meet Friday-Saturday. This format provides a very close proximity to the full-time program - students are on campus, they move as a cohort, and have a set curriculum. Students build strong relationships with their fellow students, are able to participate in some of the on-campus activities and student groups and have a meaningful collegial experience. The cost of these programs is high considering most students have to bear the cost to commute from their home city to campus every other weekend and program fees often include such “extras” as meals, lodging and course materials. These programs are typically between 18 - 22 months in duration with no summer break.

As noted recently by the Poets & Quants EMBA Forum, the leading EMBA schools are The Wharton School, Booth School of Business, and Kellogg School of Management. The average age of students is 36, with a range from 26 to over 60 and a mean work experience of 13 years.

Bottom line:

You need to properly weigh and examine the pros and cons when debating part time vs full time MBA programs. Many schools, in an effort to accommodate the needs of their prospective students, are offering hybrid programs of the types listed here. If an MBA degree is your ultimate objective is, then you should be able to find a good one that fits your needs.

Still confused about your decision?InGenius Prep’s business school admissions experts can provide you with expert advice that will help you make the wisest decision.

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