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Can I Get an MBA as a Working Parent?

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Trying to juggle work and parenting is already a balancing act, but what if you want to get an MBA as a working parent?

An MBA can help new moms and dads upskill and gain the connections needed to re-enter the workforce after parental leave. And if you’re already a working parent, it can help you explore new opportunities or find a more flexible career path.

For busy parents, the idea of adding study to an already hectic schedule might sound intimidating, but the good news is that being a new mom or dad doesn’t have to hold you back from getting an MBA.

Consider an online MBA

For many working parents, studying online is a great solution. Online MBA programs can be completed from virtually anywhere and give students a lot of control over their study schedule.

Online programs offer all the group work and networking opportunities of an on-campus program, without the need to relocate or give up your job. There are plenty of high-quality and affordable online MBAs to consider, many of which let you choose between streaming lectures live or watching them in your own time.

🙋‍♀️ Read more: 5 Ways MBA Women Support One Another

Maaike Van Craen is one working mom who chose to study online, opting for the Vlerick Business School distance-learning program. At Vlerick, online students spend between two and five years completing their MBA, taking breaks as needed.

This was ideal for Maaike, who paused the program twice when her children were born. Without this flexibility, she doubts she could have completed the MBA, and thinks other working parents should also look for options that let you take your time.

“Give yourself time to complete your MBA,” she advises. “Luckily, with the Vlerick Online MBA, you can take short pauses and breaks. Use this to your advantage and take time away when it becomes too difficult—you must take breaks to re-energize.”

Find flexibility

Online study isn’t for everyone, and luckily there are plenty of other flexible and part-time MBA options for new moms and dads who want an on-campus experience.

Plenty of other business schools offer programs with a part-time or flexible structure, including well-known US schools from Chicago Booth to UCLA Anderson.

Other schools, like the California University of Pennsylvania and Lubin School of Business, run hybrid MBA programs that let students split their time between the virtual and in-person classroom.

Marjan van Urk found out she was pregnant the same day she was accepted to the Executive MBA program at Amsterdam’s Nyenrode Business University.

Instead of postponing her studies, she took advantage of the program’s part-time structure to study and raise her family at the same time—all while keeping her business development job.

💼 Read more: Is an Executive MBA Program Right for You?

The EMBA consists of week-long modules that occur throughout the year, which means students don’t have to give up their jobs or relocate, but still receive an in-person experience.

Marjan’s son was born half-way through the 18-month program, and she was even able to take him on a study trip to South Africa.

“In the end my husband and son joined me, and I was able to go back to the hotel and see them during breaks,” she explains.

Build your support network

Whatever MBA you choose, finding the balance between parenthood, work, and study is a challenge. Before you set out on your journey, building a strong support network can be a big help.

Some schools actively support new moms and dads on campus too, through initiatives like support groups, lactation rooms, and parent-focused social events. One school leading the way in this department is Georgetown McDonough.

According to Kerry Pace, associate dean of MBA programs at McDonough and mother to a young child herself, this child-friendly environment has been well received by all students.

“I’ve seen caretakers bring young babies to their mom at McDonough to feed while in class, and participated in baby showers thrown for expectant parents by their cohort,” she recalls.

“While it is definitely challenging to have children while in school, the flexibility and support new parents receive here makes parenthood manageable.”

💡 Read more: 5 Ways a Business School Network Will Help Your Career

In the Vlerick MBA, Maaike has found connections with other parents in the program extremely valuable.

“Lots of people are in a similar boat to you, and it’s important to discuss and get tips from others,” she says.

School staff can also be a good resource if you need additional help. “They are here to support you and make your life easier,” she adds.

Marjan says that having the right support is crucial for aspiring MBAs with young children.

“If you want to study an MBA as a parent, make sure you have support from the people around you,” she advises. “Be honest with them about your situation and your needs.”

This honesty paid off for Marjan. When she explained her situation to Nyenrode, the school was able to make her life easier by offering a cottage on-campus, where she could stay with her husband and son during week-long modules.

Although completing an MBA as a working mom or dad is an intense experience, for Marjan it was more than worth it. The MBA gave her a firm grounding in business, while juggling parenthood, work, and study helped her become more adaptable.

“Go for it,” she advises other parents. “What you learn from becoming a parent is you can’t plan for everything.”

Find the right program for your needs

Our free guide, Finding Your Best Fit Program: A Guide for Working Professionals, gives you the expert tips and guidance you need to confidently narrow your options and identify the programs that make the most sense for your needs, preferences, and career goals.

Get exclusive, insider advice on:

  • The key questions you need to ask yourself to ensure optimal preference-to-fit alignment
  • The best tools to use to understand what your options are
  • How to build out your program list and what mix of programs should be on it
  • Best practices for connecting with schools and getting your questions answered
  • Developing specific, tailored responses to “why this program?”