Is a Part-Time MBA Right for You?

Thomas Nugent

Thomas Nugent - BusinessBecause

Thomas Nugent is the Deputy Editor for BusinessBecause.

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Not everyone can put their career on hold and take one or two years out of the workplace to commit to a full-time MBA program. That’s where the part-time MBA comes in.

Part-time MBA programs provide you with the same management expertise and career benefits of a full-time MBA without requiring you to take time off from work or your salary.

To assess whether a part-time MBA is right for you, you’ll need to understand who a part-time MBA is for, the different types of part-time MBA programs, career and salary benefits, and how to apply.

Who is a part-time MBA for?

The flexibility of a part-time MBA means the degree attracts working professionals looking to accelerate their careers and gain the networking benefits of an MBA without taking time out of the workforce

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) mba.com Prospective Students Survey identifies common career goals among part-time MBA candidates.

Of the incoming part-time MBA class of 2021, 53 percent want a raise/salary increase after graduating; 47 percent want to obtain a more senior position; 46 percent aspire to manage people; 42 percent want a promotion; and 40 percent want to obtain an executive level position.

Over half (58%) of candidates who select the part-time MBA as their preferred program are male; 41 percent are female. The majority of part-time MBA candidates are between 24 and 30 years’ old (51%), and 37 percent are over 31.

Depending on the program, part-time MBA students are both early career professionals, with a few years of work experience, as well as more experienced professionals who, due to a lack of prior leadership or business experience, are less well suited to an Executive MBA.

Types of part-time MBA

Part-time MBA students take classes outside of business hours, usually in the evening or at the weekend, typically taking one or two courses per semester and completing the degree in three to five years.

Types of part-time MBA programs include:

Evening MBA

Taking an Evening MBA entails studying on weeknights, on campus, after work—ideal if you live close to your business school. The Chicago Booth Evening MBA, for example, takes place on campus in downtown Chicago, and students have up to five years to complete their MBA. NYU Stern School of Business offers an accelerated two-year option, seeing students complete their degree on weeknights in under 24 months.

Weekend MBA

As a Weekend MBA doesn’t require you to take classes after work during the week, your program options aren’t restricted to your local area. Chicago Booth offers a Weekend MBA, which requires students to take classes for up to five years during evenings on Fridays and Saturdays. Seventy-seven percent of students on the program travel in from outside of Illinois.

Flexible MBA

Some part-time MBA programs offer a flexible format that sees you study part of your degree in person, and the other part online. ESMT Berlin’s part-time MBA offers 14 in-person modules, which take place between Thursday afternoon and Saturday. The curriculum is split 80 percent online and 20 percent in-person.

MIP Politecnico di Milano’s part-time MBA sees students come together on campus one weekend per month, and for two full weeks over the duration of the degree. The online portions of the program are delivered via a digital learning platform the school developed in partnership with Microsoft.

Lockstep vs Self-Paced MBA

What’s the difference between a lockstep and self-paced MBA program?

In a lockstep format part-time MBA, you study as part of an MBA class, forming close bonds and building a strong network. You stick to a learning schedule and follow a set path of core modules before choosing your electives.

A self-paced part-time MBA gives you the option of taking your courses in the order you wish. This means you can pick and choose your educational path to better suit your needs. The caveat being that you won’t take your classes with the same peers every week, so you may miss out slightly on the close network building of a lockstep program.

Part-time MBA courses & curriculum

You’ll study the same courses on a part-time MBA as you would on a full-time program, albeit over a longer period of time.

Core courses typical of MBA programs include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Communication
  • Business Ethics
  • Business Strategy
  • Data Analytics
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Operations

You get a grounding in the core business fundamentals—finance, accounting, operations, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, and strategy—before choosing your electives courses, which allow you to dive deeper into specific business topics or industries.

The part-time Evening & Weekend MBA at Berkeley Haas School of Business has 13 core modules, and up to 119 electives to choose from.

WE Launch, the orientation week at the start of the Berkeley Haas part-time MBA, sees the entire class come together to learn about the case study method of teaching, network, and build a bond through team-building activities.

Later, seminars in international business consider individual countries through the lens of local culture, history, and business environment—students have recently studied Brazil, South Africa, and China.

The part-time MBA at Imperial College Business School follows a similar format—students have a two-day induction with lectures and opportunities to network with their peers. There’s also a Capstone Consulting Experience where they work in teams to solve a real-life business problem for a client—the company can be in the UK or abroad, a multinational, an SME, a startup, an NGO, or government.

Part-time MBA jobs & salary prospects

Studying a part-time MBA could be your ticket to one of the three common career aspirations for MBA candidates: changing industry, function, or geography.

From the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management’s part-time MBA class of 2020, 84 percent of graduates made a significant job change—34 percent changed company, 39 percent changed function, 19 percent changed industry, and 11 percent changed geography.

Companies that hire the most MBAs include household names like Amazon, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and the Big Three management consulting firms.

You can also expect to boost your salary after graduating. Grads from the same Carslon class increased their salary on average by 30 percent, from the start of the program to four months after graduating. The average salary was almost US$115,000.

At UCLA Anderson School of Management, grads from the school’s Fully Employed MBA increased their salaries by 23-to-34 percent during the program, and by a huge 137 percent six-to-eight years after their degree.

Part-time MBA career paths and career outcomes are varied; some students get promoted within their organization while others pivot into a new industry or role.

Interactive Tool: Estimate Your Post-MBA Salary

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Brittany Schuck accelerated her career within the healthcare industry while studying the part-time MBA at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Shortly after enrolling she landed a job at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

“My MBA kickstarted that and really helped me look at the bigger picture not only for my teams but for the organization as a whole,” she says.

Peter Melrose used his part-time MBA at the University of Hong Kong to switch industries, from engineering to consulting.

“In addition to a wider network, experience in handling difficult situations, and learning new skills, I now find myself more engaged at work. I question why things are the way they are, rather than simply accepting the status quo,” he says.

Part-time MBA cost & ROI

Tuition fees for part-time MBA programs are similar or slightly lower than their full-time MBA equivalents.

Chicago Booth’s full-time and part-time MBA programs both cost just under US$150,000. ESMT Berlin’s part-time MBA program will set you back just over US$46,000, with the full-time MBA costing just over US$53,000.

When it comes to return on investment (ROI), the key difference is that there’s no opportunity cost with a part-time MBA: you can earn a salary while you study. At the same time, you get the same networking and career benefits of a full-time MBA program.

You can also offset the cost of tuition via employer sponsorship and scholarships—the majority of MBA students receive some form of financial aid. This, combined with the salary benefits of a part-time MBA, means you’ll likely recoup your investment shortly after graduating from the program. 

"The value of a part-time MBA is that it allows students to apply the learning from their degree to their current career and see the results in real time," asserts Kira Vorre, program director for the MBA suite at Imperial College Business School.

Part-time MBA admissions | How to apply

Where do you start with your part-time MBA application?

In terms of part-time MBA admissions requirements, most schools require an undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification and a minimum level of work experience.

To complete your part-time MBA application, you’ll need to submit:

If your application is successful, you’ll be invited for an interview before a final decision is made.

The Ultimate Business School Application Checklist

Use our business school application checklist and timeline to nail the admissions process and access useful mba.com resources right when you need them. 

 

Chicago Booth assesses part-time MBA applicants by considering life experience and individual fit, work experience, and academic aptitude.

To stand out, the Booth admissions team say they look for “a well-rounded candidate who is collaborative in nature, intellectually curious, and interested in becoming an active part of the Booth community.

“Other distinguishing traits are the desire to push beyond one’s comfort zone, become more self-aware, and invest in the success of fellow classmates.”

Is a part-time MBA worth it? That depends on your personal goals and what you’re looking to get out of the program. If you are motivated and committed to an MBA, you’ll soon benefit from career and salary growth you’ll achieve after graduation.

If you’re a professional looking to enhance your career and earning potential, but want the flexibility to do so over a number of years while you continue to work, then a part-time MBA is for you.

Get your free MBA Application Guide for Working Professionals for expert tips on the admissions process.

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Thomas Nugent

Thomas Nugent - BusinessBecause

Thomas Nugent is the Deputy Editor for BusinessBecause, with responsibilities supporting the Editor with content and SEO strategy, alongside editorial team development.

Thomas is an experienced writer who has written articles covering business education, management, careers, and the future of work.

He launched and edits the BusinessBecause Insights series, which explores the latest research and trends from the business school classroom, drawing on the expertise of world-leading professors to inspire and inform current and future leaders. The Insights series has covered things like the sharing economy, working from home during COVID-19, the future of the office, NFTs, and ESG investing.

Thomas earned an MA in English from the University of Aberdeen before completing an MSc in Journalism at Robert Gordon University. He joined BusinessBecause in October 2017.

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