An MBA is a popular choice for professionals who want to get ahead in the business world, whether they’re looking to climb the corporate ladder or find success in entrepreneurship. Earning an MBA can show you the ropes of running your own business, or increase your salary in the corporate world by as much as 80 percent.
But these days, the traditional, two-year, full-time, on-campus MBA isn’t the only option. Today’s MBA students are seeking programs tailored to their individual needs. Some want to get the degree over with as fast as possible. Others want a program that takes into account their extensive management experience. Still others prefer an online experience that impinges upon their daily life and career as little as possible. Let’s take a look at the options, so you can decide what type of MBA is best for you.
How long does it take to get an MBA? That depends. Accelerated MBA programs condense the traditional two-year curriculum into a one-year program. These programs are ideal for students who already have a strong, relevant academic background. For example, if you earned your undergraduate degree in business administration or finance, you probably don’t need many prerequisites or year-one core courses. You’re probably already pretty well-versed in the concepts students learn in traditional, two-year MBA programs.
Most accelerated MBA programs won’t completely skip core courses. Instead, they’ll condense them into a few months of intense coursework in order to prepare students to join a cohort of traditional MBA students in the second year of their studies. For example, students at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College start taking classes in May, and squeeze all their core courses into the summer months. Then, they take two semesters of second-year courses alongside traditional MBA students.
Executive MBA programs are designed to appeal to the needs of mid-career professionals who want to accelerate their careers. Most require applicants to have about ten years of work experience, including prior management experience, and some significant accomplishments on their resumes.
Students are expected to stay in their jobs while completing the executive MBA program, and most will need company support to do so, because they may need to attend on-campus residencies or go to campus for classes. However, students may receive tuition reimbursement, and will definitely be able to apply what they’re learning in the classroom on the job.
Online MBA programs offer the most flexibility for adult students who want to earn an advanced degree without putting their career on hold or uprooting their lives. An on-campus graduate degree requires students to move to be close to their new university, which can involve selling or renting out an owned house, renting a new apartment, sorting out transportation, and even leaving the work force for one to two years. All of this is hard enough when you’re single; if you have a spouse and some kids, it can quickly become impossible.
If you’re worried about the logistics of getting to a campus every day for classes, or if you want to keep working full-time and stay in your community, an online MBA might be right for you. Many reputable universities offer online MBA programs that convey the same degrees earned by students in on-campus classes. You’ll be able to review course material on your own schedule, and may even have some flexibility in pacing the degree – most allow students to complete all required coursework over five to six years, instead of just one or two. Best of all, you can probably get your employer to pay for it.
For many prospective MBA students, a traditional program, which involves taking classes full-time for two years, is still the most promising choice. While there might be more convenient or faster ways to get the academic credits, many prospective students still want the traditional MBA experience. They want to bond with classmates and professors in person, spend time studying in the university library, and attend local networking events and job fairs. If you’re still fairly young and in the early stages of your career, able to tear up stakes and move to a university town, and don’t mind leaving the work force for a couple of years, this type of MBA might be for you.
With so many different types of MBA programs out there, it’s important to weigh your options carefully before putting in your applications. When you choose the right kind of program, you’ll be more likely to get everything you need out of your MBA experience, and your career will thank you for it.