Full-Time MBA versus Part-Time MBA versus Executive MBA

When you are considering your options for earning your MBA, you have three primary types of programs to choose from: full-time, part-time, and executive. So what distinguishes each of these MBA program types from the others?

Full-Time MBA, Part-Time MBA, or Executive MBA?

Generally speaking, full-time MBA programs are two-year, location-based, fix-cohort programs. This means you will study on one campus for two years and graduate with the class you started the program with. Every student lives the same experience, so you build strong bonds with your classmates, almost all of whom are in their mid to late 20s, and all of whom left their full-time jobs and incomes to invest themselves in their business school pursuits. A full-time MBA program is all-encompassing. Students are all in, so to speak.

Part-time MBA programs, on the other hand, are not as structured as full-time programs are. Instead of a fixed two-year commitment, part-time MBA students earn their degree in three, four, five, or even six years. Because many students in part-time programs pace their studies differently, they do not become as closely bonded with their fellow students during or after the program; they are not necessarily going to graduate alongside the same students they started the program with. Part-time MBA students keep their jobs while they pursue the degree, so they do not lose any years of income, which often allows them to see a higher immediate ROI for their decision. With respect to candidates, part-time MBA programs and full-time programs attract a similar demographic, but the experience is clearly quite different.

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs cater to a different demographic…executives! These students are generally further along in their careers, often having 10–15 years of work experience and a track record of making strategic decisions and managing people. This means that EMBA students are typically a bit older than full-time or part-time MBA students. EMBA students keep their jobs and usually attend classes in weeklong bursts and on alternating weekends. So, the format essentially involves part-time study, but students have a cohort experience in which they start and finish the program with the same class. Like full-time MBA programs, EMBA programs foster strong interpersonal bonds among students and help them build a network. Finally, EMBA programs tend to involve a significant amount of global travel throughout the program, so you are more likely to have this automatically included in your experience, which most students really enjoy!

Location Fixed Fixed Fluid (relative)
Commitment 2 years 2–6 years 1–2 years
Fixed Cohort Yes No Yes
Employed During Program No Yes Yes
Stage of Career 4–6 years 4–8 years 10–15 years
Management Experience Preferred Preferred Mandatory
Career Changers Yes/No Yes/No No

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