Part-Time MBA vs Full-Time MBA

The value of earning an MBA degree has never been higher. For students, the financial return on investment is usually quite significant. Just as important, and sometimes overlooked, is the value to the organizations and communities today’s MBA graduates are being trained to deliver. The need for principled leaders who can create and manage viable businesses that meet the needs of individuals and society is on display everywhere we look.

Fortunately, there are also more pathways to earning an MBA than ever. A common question we answer is which MBA is the right fit for me — a Part-Time MBA vs Full-Time MBA. Students who choose to not leave the workforce and want to earn an MBA while working have excellent Part-Time MBA options with some highly competitive business schools. However, as these programs continue to grow in number and prestige, some business schools remain stalwarts of the notion that the Full-Time MBA is unique in its ability to prepare students to become the leaders they aspire to be.

The Part-time MBA vs Full-Time MBA debate is common. Some suggest that a part-time MBA provides flexibility while a full-time MBA lets you focus on your development. Regardless of the program, there are tradeoffs to consider.

Part-time MBA vs Full-Time MBA 

While I believe individuals should enroll in MBA programs that best fit their individual needs, there are a few aspects of Full-Time MBA programs that should be considered as part of the return on the investment of taking time out of the workforce.

Here are five:

  1. Academic Immersion

Students pursue advanced degrees for a wide variety of reasons. One thing most have in common, though, is the overall desire to obtain an excellent education. In Full-Time MBA programs students have the opportunity to give the curriculum their undivided attention. Between classes students huddle with classmates to talk through key concepts, get sanity checks or clarify the points they made or heard during class. Faculty members engage with students during office hours, as well as informal conversations to add depth to what goes on in the classroom. Student teams meet in the evenings and on weekends as part of the normal flow of being immersed in the program all day, every day.

This level of immersion maximizes a student’s opportunities to reinforce and practice new concepts. In many cases, the mastery that comes from academic immersion in Full-Time MBA programs is more than enough to compensate for the opportunity cost of taking two years out of the workforce.

  1. Time to Reset

Whether a student is seeking an entirely new career or a slight pivot, the value of a mental reset is significant. This is not to imply that it’s two years of serenity and meditation (no, that’s not what the “M” stands for). These programs are quite time consuming and can often feel like more work than a full-time job because of the constant learning curves. That said, once students establish daily and weekly routines, they often find opportunities to “take a beat.”

It is common for our alumni to report feeling recharged and refreshed as they prepare to begin their post-MBA careers. We often use the word “transformational” when we describe the potential of our Full-Time MBA program. This is meant holistically, not just for career transformations. The personal growth our students experience often begins the moment they slow down and realize they actually have time to think about what their passions are and how they want to impact society. 

  1. Career Switching

A Full-Time MBA vs Part-time MBA program is especially well suited for career switchers. The success of our graduates who have redirected their careers is well documented, but those outcomes only tell the “what” part of the story. Importantly, the “how” is what makes Full-Time MBA programs valuable to those seeking to reinvent themselves professionally.

The amount of resources Career Management Centers dedicate to preparing Full-Time MBA students for new roles is tremendous. It can even seem overwhelming at first! Structured recruiting, industry-focused career coaches, mock interviews, case interview workshops, coffee chats, on-campus company presentations, off-campus sponsored receptions….and much, much more…are all integrated into the Full-Time MBA experience. For example, Professional Development is a course built into the schedule, not some extra, optional, nice-to-have thing to do in your spare time. So for students who find the idea of career switching daunting, a Full-Time MBA program will provide some comfort.

  1. Depth of Relationships

It is no secret that strong relationships are built on trust. Establishing and building trust takes time. In a Full-Time MBA program, the amount of time spent with classmates and faculty is enormous. And that leads to a level of engagement that becomes one of the most valuable aspects of any program. Businesses are created, partnerships are formed, lifelong friends are made. Students learn about each other in meaningful ways, and they also learn about themselves as mutual trust enables more candor and sometimes challenging opportunities for personal growth.

Students grow into trusted advisors for one another and take that lifelong skill with them wherever they go after business school. Authentic empathy is a byproduct of building these relationships. It is a trait that great leaders need, and one that is best practiced in those unpredictable moments that are plentiful as a full-time student.

  1. Co-Curricular Experiences

Co-curricular experiences may seem like an obvious difference between Part-Time MBA vs Full-Time MBA programs, but it is worth emphasizing because of the importance of these student experiences. Professional and academic clubs play a critical role in preparing students for functional roles in areas such as finance and marketing. Social clubs also allow students to share and explore personal interests that vary as much as individual personalities do. Club leaders are expected to be active, with responsibilities ranging from budgeting to logistics to event marketing and more. Similarly, leaders within the Student Government Association are expected to manage day-to-day activities on behalf or the student body.

The practical benefits of student involvement include more than just resume bullet points, they include developing leaders who understand how bring ideas to life through planning and execution. The heart of every degree program is the curriculum. For Full-Time MBA programs, the soul is the co-curricular experience.

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell is the Full-Time MBA Associate Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Prior to joining Goizueta, Brian spent 20 years in marketing and strategy roles in the pharmaceutical industry where he earned distinguished awards such as Brand of the Year and the Pharmaceutical Global Marketing Award. Brian has an Ed.M. in Higher Education Leadership and Governance from Harvard University and was awarded Harvard’s 2016 Intellectual Contribution and Faculty Tribute award for his research on global partnerships in graduate business education.