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A part-time MBA program offers added scheduling flexibility to learners. These programs require fewer credits per term than a full-time MBA, letting students with personal or professional responsibilities complete their degree at a relaxed pace.
Prospective MBA students may also choose part-time programs if they are in the process of gaining work experience or want to spread the cost of tuition over a longer period.
Some studies note that students generally expect part-time MBA programs to be less stringent in their acceptance rates compared to full-time programs.
Like full-time MBAs, learners can enroll in part-time online MBAs or on-campus programs based on their learning needs and preferences. Coursework is similar for both, but part-time students may have a year or two longer to complete their program and a few more elective choices.
The following guide compares part-time vs. full-time MBA programs to help you explore your options.
Why Choose a Part-Time MBA Program
The 2018 Alumni Perspectives Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council found that just over 18% of respondents enrolled in part-time MBA programs.
Below, we answer important questions about part-time business programs, such as "How do today's programs differ from past programs?" and "How long does a part-time MBA take to complete?"
Brief History of Part-Time MBA Programs
The rise of community colleges led to more flexibility in college programs. After the Great Depression, community colleges became innovators in higher education.
These two-year institutions ramped up their offerings to include learners who often got left behind. Smaller operations offered new course formats and schedules, including distance learning and summer courses, allowing virtually everyone to pursue an education.
Part-time MBA programs were born out of a need for affordable tuition and more control over scheduling. These programs let students work full-time while pursuing an education to bolster their careers.
Initially, schools offered few MBA choices, especially for part-time learners. An executive MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 1943 may have been one of the first part-time master of business programs. The university designed the program for business professionals who wanted to advance their careers without interfering with their work schedules.
Today's Part-Time MBA Programs
Schools offering modern part-time MBAs provide students with specialization options in addition to general business programs. Part-time programs target learners of all experience levels, unlike versions that cater to executives. Many of today's programs serve students who have not held leadership positions.
Part-time MBAs have also become more widely available as higher learning institutions have shifted from traditional in-person delivery to more diverse learning formats. Many schools with MBA programs allow students to choose part-time or full-time attendance.
A part-time master of business administration applicant can expect a less competitive admissions process than a traditional MBA. Some schools are not as strict about standardized test scores for part-time students. Additionally, part-time programs generally accept more students than full-time MBAs.
Part-time enrollees complete fewer credits per semester. This credit load results in a smaller time commitment for daily work. The tradeoff is that program completion takes longer than on a full-time schedule.
A part-time master of business administration applicant can expect a less competitive admissions process than a traditional MBA.
Fortunately, part-time students can often benefit from the same campus resources as full-time MBA degree-seekers, such as career assistance, guidance counseling, and extracurricular activities.
Benefits of a Part-Time Online MBA Degree
While not all online MBAs offer part-time programs, many of them do. A part-time online MBA gives students even more flexibility to complete their coursework. Working professionals can make time for assignments around their regular work schedules without taking time away for in-person classes and commutes.
Learners may also appreciate the convenience of using mobile devices to study while on work breaks.
A part-time online MBA also offers the following benefits:
- Networking Opportunities: Online learners can often access the same networking opportunities as on-campus students. Virtual events, workshops, and seminars allow peers, alumni, and professionals to connect and build relationships.
- Technology Skill Development: Virtual courses require enrollees to use digital tools to view and complete coursework. Online MBA enrollees gain experience with word processing and spreadsheet programs that they will likely use in their professional careers.
- Potential Employer Reimbursement: Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for in-person and online part-time programs. Students can receive reimbursement for some or all tuition costs.
- Real-Life Application: Like in-person learners, part-time online students can apply learned concepts to their coursework, projects, and careers. Online MBA part-time programs include projects, capstones, and portfolio work to expand each degree-seeker's understanding of topics.
Pursuing a Degree During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to the higher learning community, especially in face-to-face classrooms. Many schools closed their doors in favor of virtual learning. The learning environment and resources students became accustomed to were altered or no longer available.
The pandemic has also affected students financially. In the spring 2021 semester, 34% of students said that their financial situation had declined since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a Center for Community College Student Engagement survey.
The survey also notes that social distancing has become an obstacle for students, with 59% of on-campus learners avoiding events and situations where maintaining a safe distance is not possible.
An online, part-time program may offer solutions to common pandemic-related issues. For instance, students learning online do not need to worry about social distancing. They can also continue to work, improving their finances while pursuing an education online.
Comparing Part-Time and Full-Time MBA Programs
Students will encounter key similarities and differences between part-time and full-time MBAs. Consider enrollment requirements and completion timelines when deciding on the best program.
Below, discover how a part-time MBA differs from a full-time program in three key areas:
A full-time MBA takes 1-2 years to complete. However, part-time students can choose how many classes they take each semester. Reducing the number of courses results in a longer program completion time, with many schools capping completion time at 5-6 years.
Institutions tend to offer part-time classes during days, evenings, and weekends, while full-time classes are primarily available throughout the week. Full-time learners may also need to attend scheduled lab or practicum hours, but part-time programs might include virtual labs and weekend intensives to fit busier schedules.
Part-time learners may also have a lower time commitment for their studies each week than full-time enrollees, which can offer more flexibility for working students.
Colleges and universities often grant full-time and part-time MBA students access to the same curriculum. However, course schedules vary between the two types of programs.
Students often take 5-6 courses per semester in full-time MBAs. In contrast, part-time programs may limit learners to 1-2 classes per semester. Some part-time programs may offer more flexibility for students to add an extra class or two during semesters in which they have more availability.
Some schools also allow students to personalize their part-time programs by including electives after completing the core curriculum. Full-time learners may not have as many choices based on their concentration requirements.
Part-time MBA programs generally have higher acceptance rates than full-time programs. For part-time applicants, schools may be more lenient with standardized test scores and work experience.
We compare a few enrollment requirements in the chart below.
Usually required, but programs may accept lower scores
Usually required, but scores may be more competitive
Usually required, but programs may accept lower scores
Usually required, but scores may be more competitive
Programs expect an applicant to have at least 1-2 years of work experience and currently have a job.
Each candidate often needs at least two years of work experience.
The ROI of a Part-Time MBA
Return on investment (ROI) measures how much you can expect to earn from your part-time MBA versus how much you spent on it. This metric can help you determine whether a part-time program's costs are worth its potential outcomes.
Students often pay the same tuition rates for part-time programs as full-time enrollees. According to Investopedia, it's not uncommon for full-time learners to accumulate $60,000 or more in educational debt in 1-2 years.
However, part-time enrollees can spread their costs out by taking 1-2 classes at a time rather than a full course load. Additionally, they can continue working while pursuing their degrees, which can help to offset tuition costs and allow them to pay off loans more quickly.
Part-time MBA graduates can pursue more advanced job opportunities with higher salaries to enhance their ROI. According to ZipRecruiter, MBA graduates earn an annual average of $82,720.
Degree-holders can also connect with their schools' alumni networks to pursue connections with professionals and career development opportunities.
How Much Does a Part-Time MBA Cost?
Part-time program costs vary significantly among schools. For example, Boston University's evening MBA costs approximately $30,270 per year with an estimated timeframe of 3-4 years to complete. Meanwhile, Case Western Reserve University charges about $75,000 for its entire 48-credit program.
Per-credit fees average about $1,000-$2,000 for many part-time programs. However, learners may only need to pay for 1-2 classes per term, making it easier to spread out program costs. Unfortunately, some schools do not offer as many scholarship opportunities for part-time enrollees.
Compared to out-of-state learners, some online learners may benefit from reduced online tuition rates. They can also save money on housing and commuting.
In addition to tuition rates, MBA students pay for books, course fees, course materials, and other costs associated with their degrees. Also, consider the resident vs. non-residents rates when determining a program's affordability.
The following chart compares average tuition costs for part-time MBAs.
How Can You Pay for a Part-Time MBA?
Part-time students can access several financial aid options to pay for their education.
Federal financial aid includes grants and loans. Learners do not need to pay back grants, but they will need to pay back loans plus interest. Federal student loans offer students flexible payment options, like pay-as-you-earn programs that increase monthly payments as graduates earn more from their jobs.
Schools and organizations offer scholarships for eligible students to reduce their program costs. Part-time enrollees may also qualify for employer tuition assistance, in which their employers pay for some or all of their qualifying education.
How Do I Find a Part-Time Online MBA Program?
Many of today's colleges and universities with full-time online MBAs also offer part-time online programs. Browse institutions' websites to learn whether they have part-time options, such as evening or executive MBAs.
Prospective students can also use online college search engines, such as CollegeBoard's BigFuture or the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator. These tools can find college programs based on location, education level, and major.
Degree-seekers should consider the following factors as they narrow their choices:
- MBA Ranking: The best part-time MBA programs may be included in MBA rankings based on their costs, program quality, and other factors.
- Accreditation: Regional accreditation is essential for program recognition and credit transferability.
- Internship Opportunities: Internships can increase students' work experience while teaching on-the-job skills.
- Alumni Network: A strong alumni network sets learners up for success through career development and networking opportunities.
Common Questions About Part-Time MBA Programs
How long does it take to complete a part-time MBA program?
Many part-time students complete their degrees within 3-4 years, taking up to two classes per term. Some schools require completion of a part-time program within 5-6 years.
How much does it cost to do a part-time MBA program?
Part-time students pay similar tuition rates as full-time MBA students. However, part-time enrollees can make paying for their education more affordable by taking fewer classes per term.
Is a part-time MBA hard to do while working?
A part-time MBA requires students to commit to several hours of schoolwork each week in addition to their work schedules. Learners should consider if they have the time and motivation to dedicate to their MBA.
Is a part-time MBA worth it?
A part-time MBA allows full-time workers to pursue business degrees while maintaining their employment. Students looking for an accessible way to further their education may prefer the convenience of part-time programs.
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