Part-Time vs. Full-Time MBA: An Overview

Earning a Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA) is an important step in climbing the corporate ladder. Whether you seek a promotion at a financial firm or aim to become an entrepreneur with your own startup, an MBA can help you achieve those goals. Graduates from MBA programs typically earn higher salaries, and, as a result, the top business schools are highly competitive.

In general, there are two routes a prospective student can take when pursuing an MBA: a full-time or a part-time program. Although both options will lead to a degree, there are tradeoffs that should be taken into consideration when choosing between the two.

Key Takeaways

  • There are tradeoffs to consider when choosing between a part-time and full-time MBA.
  • There are two main part-time MBA programs—the executive MBA and the part-time MBA.
  • Executive MBA programs are often smaller than full-time programs and cost more.

Part-Time MBA

There are two main types of part-time MBA programs. The executive MBA (EMBA) is designed for students with years of work experience in executive or leadership roles—typically, these students are between 32 and 42-years-old. EMBA programs focus on networking, and there is generally little interaction between EMBA and other MBA students. These programs are often smaller than full-time programs and carry a heftier sticker price, as employers are expected to foot some or all of the student’s tuition bill.

The other option is the part-time MBA, which is geared towards employees who work full-time and don’t yet hold leadership positions. These students tend to be 24 to 35-years-old and take classes after work, either in the evenings or on weekends. Part-timers usually share the same faculty and can take many of the same courses as their full-time counterparts. However, few scholarships are given to part-time students, so they must rely on personal savings, loans, and or employer sponsorship to pay for tuition.

Part-time MBA programs are often seen as less competitive than full-time programs and can take longer than two or three years to complete. The main challenge for part-timers is balancing work and school, many times at the expense of social or family time. Business schools located in large cities with financial hubs tend to attract part-time MBA candidates more easily, as school tends to be close in work.

Students needing MBA scholarships or fellowships can benefit from full-time enrollment.

Full-Time MBA

If you enter an MBA program as a full-time student, you won't make much money for two to three years as you won’t be able to hold a full-time job while enrolled. These programs are thus most popular with younger students who have recently obtained their bachelor's degree. Full-time MBA programs are structured for 23- to 30-year-olds who can afford to leave the workforce for a while. There is also the expectation that students will live on or near campus and regularly attend classes. The workload in a full-time MBA program is greater and the class schedule more demanding than in a part-time program.

Full-time students account for over 90 percent of all MBA scholarships and fellowships, so those seeking financial aid or reduced tuition will benefit from full-time enrollment. Additionally, a university's business school reputation depends on its ranking as a full-time MBA program, so more investment and selectivity is focused on full-time programs.

Key Differences

Receiving an MBA can help you advance your career and earn promotions or pay raises due to the level of achievement and knowledge such a degree confers. Deciding between a full-time or a part-time MBA program is a matter of weighing the costs and benefits each option has to offer.

Full-time MBAs are ideal for new graduates who can afford to delay working, but they can expect to land better paying and higher-ranking jobs than those without an MBA. Working individuals who are eager to enhance their existing career path might choose a part-time MBA program in order to remain employed while studying. For those in managerial or leadership roles, the executive MBA might be a more suitable part-time option.