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How to Decide Between Part-Time MBA and Full-Time MBA Programs

Of all the things you need to decide before your first day of school, whether you’re going to pursue part-time or full-time MBA programs is one of the easiest.

Still, the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. While many MBA students commit to going to business school full-time, we know the life you’ve built since receiving your bachelor’s degree can be hard to walk away from... so before you quit your job and dive in head first, be sure to weigh your options.

There are distinct differences between part-time and full-time MBA programs as they cater to different lifestyles and help accomplish specific goals. In order to help you determine which program is the best for you, we’ve put together some key things you must consider. 

Ready to find out which route you should take? Answer the following 10 questions to determine your perfect MBA program!

10 Questions to Ask to Decide Between Part-Time and Full-Time MBA Programs

1. Am I looking to change careers or benefit my existing career?

This is a big one. Before you apply to MBA programs, it’s essential that you know your personal motivations for going to business school. If your main objective is to change your career completely, a full-time program is going to best help you accomplish that goal. On the other hand, if you are looking to give your existing career a facelift by getting a promotion or pay raise within the same company or industry, a part-time program may be your best bet. 

2. Can I afford to take two years off of work?

We’re sure you’re already aware of this but in case you forgot: most full-time MBA programs take two to three years, meaning you won’t be able to maintain your nine-to-five work schedule while in school. While there are options for those looking for loans and financial aid, it’s important to calculate the ROI on your education before taking the plunge and passing up on two years of income. Part-time programs are ideal for those who want to keep their jobs while in school as the classes take place during evenings and weekends.

3. Will my employer pay for my MBA?

If you are currently working for an organization that is willing to invest in you by paying for your business school, you’ll most likely be going the part-time route. But before you leap to accept their offer, prepare to sign an agreement with your employer on how many years you’ll dedicate to their company after you graduate. Free degrees don’t typically come with no strings attached!

4. Do I need scholarships or financial aid?

Because employers are sometimes willing to pay for part-time MBAs, the majority of scholarship and financial aid money is available to those going to business school full-time. While this does help lessen the blow of having to take 2+ years off of work, there are no guarantees that you will qualify. Before you make your decision on which program to attend, do some research on different scholarship and financial aid options for your target programs in order to get an idea of how much aid you may be able to receive.

5. Is it important for me to get involved in clubs and activities?

Full-time MBA students receive a full immersion experience. They live on or close to campus, spend their days mingling with their cohorts, and dedicate many of their nights and weekends to clubs and activities. Not only does this allow for more comradery within the program, it allows for more networking opportunities and time to attend MBA-related events. While establishing a network is important for all MBA students, it’s vital for those looking to make a career change. If you are looking to further your existing career, being involved in clubs and activities may not be as important in the long run.

6. Would I benefit from a more relaxed payment schedule?

Whether you are attending business school full-time or part-time, it’s still going to be expensive. However, many part-time programs offer pay-as-you-go options, meaning you may only have to cough up money for a couple courses each semester. By stretching out the cost of your education over time, a part-time MBA may be more affordable for those without a ton of savings up front.

7. Are my stats good enough to get into my full-time target programs?

If you have your heart set on a particular school but are afraid your GMAT scores and GPA aren’t quite good enough, consider applying to their part-time program. Part-time programs offer the same courses with the same professors as full-time programs but tend to be a little less competitive. 

8. Are my work and home close to campus?

If your goal is to continue working while going back to school part-time, it’s important to consider the proximity of your work and home to campus. If your target program is too far away for an easy commute, you may want to consider going full-time and moving closer to campus. In general, any program that requires a relocation won’t be conducive for those looking to continue working while in school. The best part-time programs are those located in larger cities where work and school are close together.

9. Do I have friends or family that need a lot of my time?

If you are a parent or have other major personal responsibilities, this is something to keep in mind as you decide which program is best for you. Many people assume that part-time programs are more conducive to a busy family schedule but, in reality, a full-time program may make more sense. Balancing school/home life is significantly easier than balancing school/work/home life. By taking class on weekdays you’ll have more time available on nights and weekends for your personal responsibilities.

10. Will I benefit from a summer internship?

If you have dreams of scoring the perfect summer internship that will act as a launching pad for your future career, go for your MBA full-time. Part-time MBAs have less to offer in the way of internships as the majority of part-time MBA students keep their jobs through the summer… which brings us back to question #1. If your goal is to more forward in your existing career, you’ll have less need for a summer internship. If you’re looking to make a career change, an internship could be the gateway to your future.

By answering all of these questions, you should have a clearer idea of which MBA program is best for you. Remember that both part-time and full-time programs offer the same education… It’s just up to you to decide which works better with your lifestyle and long-term goals. Choose which route you’d like to take, move forward confidently, and never apply alone!

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