When comparing full-time, part-time, accelerated and online MBA programs, what should I consider?

Oct 22, 2010
Tags: B-School, Choosing the Right School, MBA, Online MBA, School Selection, Work-Life Balance

Written by Kate E. Klepper, Associate Dean, Graduate Business Programs College of Business Administration, Northeastern University

To narrow down your search of MBA programs, you need to consider many factors and options like the ones outlined in the title. But before you decide on the style of delivery, you need to think about WHY. Why are you pursuing an MBA? Are you looking to completely transform your career? To move from one functional skill to another? Or to change industries? Are you looking to enter the corporate sector? These questions will help you determine what, besides the excellent classroom experience, a particular school or program has to offer to help you attain your goals. 

Another huge factor is WHO. Who is depending on you and your income and your time? Are you supporting a partner? Kids? Parents? Can you really afford to move and earn virtually no income for the next one to two years? 

If in fact you can afford it, and if you are looking to change your career focus, I would recommend you seriously consider a full-time program. The full-time option will give you the time to explore different functional areas, and take your new career goal on a test drive through a corporate residency or internship. Gaining up to six months of full-time work experience in your chosen field will help you learn about the industry or function you’ve selected and will give you a valuable addition to your resume when it’s time to re-enter the workforce. 

If your career goals are more focused on accelerating your career progression, or if you are not in a position to walk away from a steady income, there are many options for working professionals. You need to consider many aspects of these programs as well when deciding which path is right for you. 

Part-time, accelerated, and online programs typically are designed with working professionals in mind. Part-time programs traditionally offer a great deal of flexibility. Students can take often take classes one night per week, or on Saturdays, which may make continuing in the program less of a challenge. Part-time MBA programs can be a long journey. Taking one or two classes per semester adds time to the pursuit, but remember that you’re gaining valuable knowledge and continuing to develop your career. Accelerated programs might be right for you if you have an undergraduate background in business, or if you have specific training or experience in a particular field and are interested in pursuing an industry-focused MBA. For example, our High-Tech MBA is focused on developing students’ management skills for a work environment that is driven by technology. Students with engineering, science, or other technical degrees, and who are working in technology-driven environments, participate in an intensive, focused program and complete the MBA in just two years, while working full time. 

Online programs are a great way to attain your MBA where it may not have been possible in the past. If you live or work in a remote area and have no access to a university, or if your work involves a lot of travel and you cannot commit to every Tuesday night for a 15-week semester, online might be right fit for you. Students studying in an online program must be self-motivated and focused, but they also have flexibility in that they are not required to be in a specific physical location at a certain time and day. We have students across multiple time zones, in many countries participating in our Online MBA program. Many of our students tell us that there’s no other way they’d be able to complete the MBA if not for online. 

So in the end, you have a lot of options to consider when it comes to HOW you will pursue your MBA. This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, so carefully consider your true needs, motivations, and goals, and I’m confident you’ll find the right program for you. Good luck! 

For another perspective on what to consider when comparing program types, come back on Wednesday, October 27, to hear from Weatherhead School of Management's Kevin D. Malecek...