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Mission Admission: Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Part-Time MBA

Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

This time of year, we get an increasing number of questions about part-time MBA programs. So we thought we would take a look at some of the pros and cons of this option.

As for the pros, the one business school candidates cite most frequently is that the part-time MBA has a limited opportunity cost. Unlike the full-time MBA student, the part-time MBA student does not miss out on two years of salary and still has the opportunity to earn raises and promotions while completing his/her studies. Furthermore, firm sponsorship seems to be more prevalent for part-time MBAs, so candidates who have this option can truly come out ahead, with a free education and continued earning throughout. Beyond the financial rationale, many part-time MBA students see an academic advantage; they can learn both in the classroom and at work and can then turn theory into practice (and vice versa) in real time, on an ongoing basis. Of course, a cynic might add that another pro is that part-time MBA programs are generally less selective. So, some candidates who may have had a hard time getting accepted to a traditional two-year program may have a better chance of being admitted to a well-regarded school in its part-time program instead.

As for the cons, many part-time MBA candidates feel that the comparative lack of structure means that networking opportunities within the class are more limited. While one part-time Kellogg student could complete the school’s MBA program in two years, another might complete it in five. As a result, with candidates completing the program at such different paces, students will not likely see each other regularly in the same classes, at the same social events, etc. In addition, in a traditional MBA environment, academics always come first; in a part-time environment, work typically comes first, and academics come second (or even third, after family). In other words, the full-time program generally involves greater intensity with regard to the classroom experience, given that it is the sole focal point of students’ lives. Another thing to consider is that some MBA programs do not offer all of their “star” faculty to part-time students (something that candidates should definitely ask about before enrolling) and offer limited access to on-grounds recruiting.

With this post, we are not trying to offer a definitive “answer” or present a bias for a particular kind of program, but are simply trying to present some objective facts for candidates to consider as they make informed choices for themselves.




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