Written by Kevin D. Malecek, Director, Part-Time MBA Program, Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management
When weighing the different formats of business education, you need first to examine yourself, your interests, and your needs. Are you going to be able to satisfy your demands for income and lifestyle if you are a full-time student? Can you allocate the amount of time necessary during your professional life for a part-time program? Do you have the time management skills and self-motivation necessary for an online program? Do you have other concerns like family, location, and academic background that may play into your decision? Before looking at specific programs, you need to have answers to questions about yourself and what you want.
As a future business student, you need to examine the various attributes of programs to determine their applicability and benefit to your future. A business education is a serious investment of time and money—students attend business school because they want a return on their investment during or soon after they undertake their education.
Once you have narrowed down and decided upon the personal factors that play in your decision-making process, examine aspects of programs that make sense for your future professional aspirations. For instance, if you are interested in corporate finance, do the schools you are looking at have reputable finance departments? If you are interested in a future involving sustainable enterprise, do the schools you are looking at have a track record in the practice of sustainable business?
After you have ascertained schools that fulfill your professional interests, match up the formats of their programs to the formats that may fit your lifestyle and personal desires—you are sure to find something that will fit the way you personally do business. If you find areas that interest you, the formats will follow.
If you are weighing different program formats at a specific university, find out if the academic benefits in a full-time program (faculty, course topics, elective options) extend to accelerated, part-time, and possible online options. When looking at several different programs across schools, make a grid of the formats of each program and each school so that you can examine the strengths of different schools, and also the formats of their programs.
Besides the academic components you will get in a graduate program, the other half of the degree's value is the professional network you will create with other students, faculty members, and other colleagues. While in a full-time or accelerated program, the value of networking is underscored and the opportunities widely available, you should carefully weigh the options for networking and getting to know your classmates in part-time and online programs.
My advice: Know yourself—your strengths, your values, and your limitations—before you start narrowing your program format options.
There are so many options for attending b-school out there in terms of program format, academic strengths, and networking that you are sure to find something that aligns with your professional and also personal desires. Best of luck in your search!