MBA programs have evolved over the years and now have available various versions to meet the different needs of students.
The most prevalent MBA options are as follows: full-time two-year MBA, accelerated one-year to eighteen-month MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA.
Although this blog focuses primarily on the full-time two-year MBA program in the
United States, I will discuss some other options in this section
to give you a sense of what each program offers and the type of
student for whom it is a good fit. MBA programs tend to have strict transfer policies, so do not count on being able to switch
from a part-time MBA program to a full-time MBA program at
a top business school. To avoid disappointment, you should do
your research early to ascertain the program that is the best fit
before enrolling in business school.
Two-Year MBA Program
The two-year MBA program is extremely popular in the United States. The full-time MBA program is ideal for career changers for two reasons: (1) It offers greater opportunity to step back and reflect on their experiences and goals, and (2) It provides them with greater flexibility to take many classes in the new career they are pursuing. This option also offers students the opportunity to pursue an internship the summer after their first year to assess whether the new career is a good fit. The curriculum of two-year MBA programs provides students with the opportunity to gain a broad exposure to the different business areas as well as a chance to develop a specialization. The MBA programs vary in how much curriculum flexibility they offer to the students. A program like Chicago Graduate School of Business (GSB) is one of the most flexible, allowing students the greatest freedom to opt out of classes and to design their own schedules. HBS, on the other hand, has one of the more rigid curricula, requiring students to take a core set of classes their first year.
Applicants who pursue the full-time two-year MBA program find that it is the most expensive MBA option given the price tag and the lack of income for two years. Some firms
offer sponsorship for their star employees to pursue a full-time
MBA program. Find out what your company’s policy is for
sponsorship by speaking with your manager and by talking to
individuals you know who have gone to business school and
returned to the firm. The expectation is usually that you would
return to your firm if you receive financial support from your firm. For some individuals, this golden handcuff may be too
high a price to pay, and they may pass on the employee spon-
sorship if they already know that they prefer to work at a
different firm or industry.
If you are a career changer who plans to work in strategy
consulting or in investment banking, then you should definitely
pursue a full-time two-year MBA program. The availability of
a summer internship will provide you with entrée into banking
or consulting, which will make you more marketable to the
banks and consulting companies.
Accelerated MBA Program
The accelerated MBA program typically lasts for one full year
or eighteen months and can start in the summer or winter. This
type of program usually does not offer an opportunity to work
in the summer because students take a full load of courses then.
This program is usually a fit for someone who is already in his
or her industry of choice but who needs to build up specific
business skills. Also, entrepreneurs who plan to return to a
family business will find this option attractive because of its
Part-Time MBA Program
The part-time MBA program is a popular choice for individ-
uals who want to remain in their job while developing their
business skills. Many firms are supportive of employees who
wish to pursue a part-time business degree because they are
able to retain them. Some even offer the option to sponsor the
applicant with some stipulation on the number of years the
employee must remain at the firm. Each firm varies in terms of
their policy on eligibility and sponsorship. You may even have
to take the GMAT and score at a certain level for your
employer to sponsor your application. It is important to find
out if your firm offers tuition reimbursement and the terms
associated with it.
The part-time MBA option is not convenient for career
changers for different reasons. The most prominent is the
inability to “test out” a new career during the summer internship.
The part-time MBA curriculum is similar to the two-year
MBA program, but the difference is that the students take
fewer classes at a given time and classes are taught in the
evenings and weekends. Companies looking to aggressively
retain their best talent are forming formal relationships with
business schools for their top employees. Lehman is one such
example. It has established a formal part-time MBA program
with New York University (NYU) for its star employees. This
customized program has been designed to fit the employees’
schedule and ensures that little disruption takes place while
they pursue the MBA.
Executive MBA Program
Of all the MBA program types, the executive MBA has the
most variation available (a combination of weekends, evenings,
onsite engagements where students congregate on campus, and
online study). Many top institutions offer an Executive MBA
program while others offer certifications and other short-term
executive education training. An example of the latter is
Harvard Business School’s executive programs that last for a
few days to several weeks that focus on developing the managerial skills of seasoned professionals.
Executive MBAs often provide exceptional employees with
sponsorship. Even if your firm does not have a formal sponsor-
ship policy, it is worth speaking to your manager to explore
whether your firm would be able to sponsor you. Besides the
financial sponsorship, it is also important to get your firm’s
support because most executive MBA programs require
students to leave their jobs to be on campus for periods of time.
Deciding whether an Executive MBA (EMBA) is the right
option for you will depend on where you are in your career and why you want the MBA. If you are relatively early in your career, the EMBA is not typically a good fit since it is designed for individuals who are further along in their career and have professional responsibilities and management experience that is substantive. It is no surprise then that the majority of students in the Executive MBA programs are over thirty and have a decade of professional experience. The EMBA is also ideal if you are looking for credentials, deepened industry knowledge, and expanded skill sets as opposed to making a major career change. Career changers are better served in a two-year, full-time MBA program.