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Something that students can take away from any online MBA program is the flexibility they receive that allows them to earn their degree at their own pace. Everyone has different lifestyles and responsibilities, and having the opportunity to choose a master’s program that caters to your daily schedule is important. As a result, colleges and universities across the country offer varying types of MBA programs, from part-time to traditional to accelerated. In a traditional program, individuals commit 2 years of full-time studying in order to earn their degree. Most students enroll in three or four courses each semester, and spend almost 20 hours every week reviewing online lectures and completing assigned coursework. However, for those who work from nine to five, tackling a heavy course load all at once is not conceivable. By spreading out your coursework, you will be sure to grasp the ideas and concepts that are presented to you, as opposed to trying to cram an immense amount of information into your brain all at once. Conversely, for students who have the time and ability to take on an ample amount of coursework, an accelerated program will not leave you waiting around for your next assignment. Having this choice lets you take control of your education and be taught in a way that suits you best.

Work Full Time? Then Study Part Time.

For those who are full-time business professionals, have a family, are constantly involved in other obligations, or all of the above, a part-time program allows them to fully customize their education. Students can complete the program from anywhere between 2.5 to 5 years – it all depends on how many credit hours you are able to take on per semester. By taking on less than a full load each term, you will have the ability to manage your other daily responsibilities. This option also allows you to spread out the payment of your education over a longer period of time, giving you the chance to preserve a steady income while you attend school.

For those that are fortunate enough to be offered tuition reimbursement by their employer, choosing a part-time program can become even more affordable. For example, at Quinnipiac University, students who are eligible for tuition assistance from their employer are able to defer two-thirds of their tuition charges until five weeks after the last day of their semester, allowing time for tuition reimbursement checks to be issued by their employer.

This type of online MBA program is generally designed for those who already have a job and at least two to three years of working experience. Part-time programs are viewed as method for career-enhancement – developing you into a more effective employee capable of taking on an executive or supervisor role. Due to the fact that part-time programs have only become popular more recently, not every college or university offers this option. According to Businessweek, at least 21.4% of part-time MBA graduates in 2007 reported an average salary increase of over 22.9%. For some institutions, more than three quarters of part-time graduates reported an average salary increase of almost 40%.

Want Your Degree Faster? Go Accelerated.

Students who prefer the rigorous schedule of an accelerated program are typically those who have an extensive background in business, and are looking to build upon the working experience they have previously acquired. As a result, the coursework for this type of program begins at a more advanced level than that of a traditional online master’s program. With the elimination of introductory content, schools are able to create these accelerated programs that can be completed in less than two years because students immediately dive into the more advanced coursework and are taking less credits overall.

However, an accelerated program still requires you to work through traditional summer and winter vacations in order to condense a traditional two-year program. For example, Cornell University offers its students the chance to earn their MBA in one year. This fast pace keeps anyone constantly involved in the learning process, and allows them to re-enter the job market more quickly.

Beyond spending less time out of the workforce, an accelerated program is more affordable because of the fewer resources involved. For instance, at Thunderbird business school, students in the accelerated MBA program are taking 14.5 less credit hours than those enrolled in the traditional two-year program. At $1,299 per credit hour, students are saving approximately $18,835 overall.

Yet, an accelerated program does have its drawbacks. The fast pace is not suited for everyone, especially those who may require more time to fully grasp all of the information being presented. Working at such a swift rate results in these eager learners spending an entire year doing little more than working, studying, eating, and, if there is any time left over, sleeping. In addition, with everything being so tight and compact, students have less time to network or receive career assistance. This timeframe also eliminates the opportunity for company contacts to be made through internships or consulting projects. This can be disadvantage for those who are looking to change careers and build new contacts. However, this should not be too surprising considering that the students in this program are expected to have extensive business experience and therefore may not be as dependent on networking as new undergraduates.

With these options to choose from, colleges and universities have increased the level of flexibility that accompanies online learning. Students are now able to find the perfect program that fits their needs and schedule. Of course, no matter which type of program a student chooses, they will be expected to demonstrate the commitment and self-discipline needed to earn their MBA.