Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Part-Time vs. Full-Time MBA: What's the Difference?

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 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, some trade-offs 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—the average age of students is 38 with 14 years of work experience. 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 25 to 33-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 18 to 24 months 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 18 to 24 months 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 are more likely than part-time students to qualify for scholarships and fellowships. Additionally, a university's business school reputation depends on its ranking as a full-time MBA program. As a result, 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 wanting to enhance their existing career paths might choose a part-time MBA program to remain employed while studying, and to benefit from the networking opportunities presented by being in class with other working professionals. For those in managerial or leadership roles, the executive MBA might be a more suitable part-time option.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Harvard Business Review. "Is an MBA Degree Really Worth It?"

  2. Executive MBA Council. "2019 Executive MBA Council Survey Results Show More People Are Applying for Executive MBA Programs," Page 1.

  3. Northwestern, Kellogg School of Business. "Class Profile."