Part-time MBAs have become more popular both because they offer the opportunity to remain at ones job while also attending school and because more top-quality schools now offer part-time MBA programs. The typical program involves taking one or two classes per term, thereby prolonging the time it takes to get a degree. Those pursuing an American MBA, who would take two years in a full-time program, will take three years or more in a part-time program.

The people who find these programs attractive are likely to be older, with more experience, and many have financial obligations that prevent them from attending a full-time program. Others are unable or unwilling to leave their current jobs and choose a part-time program as the only realistic means of furthering their business educations.

The structure of a part-time MBA does not differ significantly from that of a full-time MBA. The same core courses are generally required, although they may be taken in a slightly different sequence due to the scheduling difficulties that result from students proceeding through the program at varying speeds. The number of courses that must be completed in order to graduate will almost invariably be the same.
For a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of part-time MBAs, check the end of the Executive MBAs section, which follows.

Compare Part-Time MBA Programs

Advantages of Part-Time MBAs

  • If you can stay in your current field, and continue to work for your current employer, the chances of being able to deduct the cost of the program (from your taxable income) are good.
  • An employer is more likely to pay your tuition if you can keep working while attending the program.
  • You keep getting paid during your studies.
  • You do not have to relocate for your studies.
  • You can often employ what you learn on the job as you learn it. Conversely, you can draw upon your ongoing relevant work experience to enhance your performance in the program.
  • By staying on the job you can eliminate the cost and risk of searching for employment at the end of your program.
  • The students are generally older than those in the full-time program, so they should be reservoirs of information and skill. They also represent a great networking opportunity.

Disadvantages of Part-Time MBAs

  • You will not be able to commit yourself to your studies and to your classmates the way you could if you attended a business school full-time. The result is that you will probably feel you have not mastered as many of your courses as you would have had you been a full-time student.
  • Your job performance may suffer so much, due to the effort you must make for your classes, your unavailability to travel on certain nights, and so on, that you will not increase your responsibilities or salary as you would if you could devote yourself more fully to your job. (Your company, aware of this possibility, may resist your attending the program in the first place.)
  • Your classmates are likely to be from the surrounding area, meaning that you may have few from other countries—and many from just a few companies.
  • Scholarship aid is seldom available (although loans often are).
  • If you receive any sponsorship from your company, you may be precluded from using many career services, especially the opportunity to interview on campus with other companies.
  • When you have completed all or much of your program, your company may not recognize that you have improved your skills and thus may be unwilling to promote you or increase your pay. (On the other hand, the company may fear that you are going to leave it given that you have improved your résumé and your visibility.)
  • Not all employers value part-time MBAs as highly as they value full-time MBAs as they are widely regarded as vastly less rigorous than their big brothers, the full-time programs.
  • Some programs are indeed less substantial than the full-time programs at the same schools, especially if they have a different faculty and dramatically fewer contact hours. Similarly, some have far fewer elective courses available, making it very hard to customize a program to your needs or to become a functional expert.
  • It is hard to participate in the same range of out-of-class activities as full-time MBA students easily manage.
  • Part-time programs take substantially longer to complete than do full-time programs.
  • If you want to transfer into the school’s full-time program, note that this is quite difficult at many schools.
  • It is hard to get to know your fellow students well enough to profit from extensive networking opportunities.

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