"Will I be able to juggle school with work and life at home?"

Mar 12, 2012
Tags: Choosing the Right School, Distance Learning, Online MBA, School Selection, Work-Life Balance

Beth Flye, Director of Admissions, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flager Business School

At one point or another, prospective MBA students ask themselves  “Will I be able to juggle school with work and life at home?” This question ultimately becomes a major factor in choosing what type of program is right for them or if they are even able to pursue their MBA at all.

In today’s economic and employment climate, professionals are looking to not only accelerate their career through education but work experience as well. Even aside from career advancement, MBA students generally have busy lives as it is – adding a full course load does not make things any easier.

Finding a program that is flexible to themselves is still a challenge, but becoming more and more accessible. Here are a couple options to look at when trying to find a strong balance as you look for the right program for you.

Online MBA/Distance Learning

One of the key sentiments I hear from our students at Kenan-Flager's MBA@UNC is how they’ve found a program that fits their lives rather than the other way around. This says a lot about where online education is heading. Online programs are giving students that ability to balance their current life with an MBA while still getting a top-notch education. Because of programs like the Indiana University Kelley Direct program and Kenan-Flager's MBA@UNC, online MBA programs have quickly evolved in recent years.

The best online programs use video conferencing and social networking technology to create interactive online classes, rather than simply allowing students to watch lecture videos. Some programs also involve periodic residencies on a physical campus, where students meet in person and work closely together. This is an essential aspect to the development of online MBA programs because students do no longer have to sacrifice quality and experience for flexibility.

Part-time (Weekend, Evening programs)

Like online students, those interested in a part-time program look at the advantages of not having to relocate or being able to maintain a full-time job. Part-time MBA programs have equivalent curricula, academic requirements and accreditation to their full-time counterparts. However, classes occur on weekends or evenings outside of normal working hours, and students usually take three years or longer to earn their degrees.

As a result of a part-time program’s flexibility, you have daily opportunities to apply what you learn in class to your own workplace, internalizing academic knowledge while immediately using it to improve your performance at work. Continuing to work while pursuing a degree also offsets the cost of tuition significantly, and, in some cases, a student’s employer will pay for part or all of the MBA program. Because a part-time program does not require you to leave your job, you can also avoid the risk and difficulty of job-hunting after graduation.

When choosing a program that is right for you, these options provide flexibility and as stated before, programs that fit your life, not the other way around. Not only should MBA students have the flexibility to have a solid work-life balance, but they should also have the opportunity to continue to advance their career from both a workplace and education perspective. I’m lucky to be a part of a program that is providing these benefits and am excited to see more and more programs focus on combining flexibility with quality.