What MBA program will you go for, full-time or part time MBA? This question more often confronts people planning to go into b school.
For the uninitiated, a full time MBA can either be a two-year or a one-year program of concentrated and focused study, while a part-time MBA is something you can spread over two and a half to five years. Everything else, course content, specialization, format and methods of instruction are basically the same.
Historically, the decision to take full time or part time MBA depends largely on whether you want to continue on a pre-established career path or change careers or industry.
The recent financial crisis, recession and unemployment trends altered history for good. Prospective MBA candidates now are holding on to their current jobs, take part-time MBA and use their network of schoolmates and campus career placement offices as a means of changing careers or industry.
Today, roughly 50% of MBA students are part-timers, 20% are full-time and the rest are in executive MBA, distance learning or other smaller programs.
Who must take what?
Money and time aside, you take:
If you have substantial work experience, say, 6 years or more, and plan to stay with your current industry or employer.
Then enroll in one of the top b schools in your area or region. A part-time MBA graduate is not as esteemed as a full-time MBA. Coming from one of the top b schools will negate this negative perception.
The downside is that it is almost impossible for part-time MBA graduates to shift careers.
If you have just started working, say less than two years, and are still uncertain of your career plans, go full-time.
People in this category, young people, more often than not, shift careers or employment when the opportunity presents itself.
In a nutshell, take part-time if you plan to continue with your current career path, or go full-time if you plan to change careers or employment.
Other things to consider:
Other than the above there is really no right or wrong answer to the choice between part-time of full-time. Everything depends on how much you can live with the realities of both.
Here are a few:
- Course duration:
Part-time programs allow you, as a working professional, to go on working while attending classes after office hours or on weekends.
Students take one or two courses per quarter, making the program last between two and a half to five years.
Full-time MBA is designed for students who are fully committed to a large course load and can devout all their available time to it.
They are rarely employed, their schedules cannot allow that. Because of this, a full-time MBA takes between 12 to 18 months to complete.
Costs for part-time or full-time MBA are generally the same except that part-time MBA students only pay for the course in a given quarter or semester. In other words, they can spread the total cost across a longer period of time.
Full-time MBA students shell out the money covering the entire course up front.
Both can finance their studies through loans. But part-time MBA students can avail of soft loans, subsidies or sponsorship from their employers. Full-time MBA students don’t have much option but to avail of student loans from regular lending institutions. Needless to say, a full-time MBA student will have a heavier debt burden than a part-timer upon graduation.
The upside is that full-time students can avail of scholarships and grants – not normally available to part-timers.
- Student and Campus life:
Amenities available to full-time MBA are basically similar to that of part-time, i.e., clubs, social activities, group discussions, etc., But they vary greatly on the availability of time.
Part-time students have to squeeze their waking hours for work, family, study, extracurricular activities and other commitments.
Full-time students, on the other hand, can immerse themselves with their studies. With no work commitments, and maybe family, they have more time to do more networking through clubs, social organizations and other social activities.
- Career opportunities:
There is no difference between a full-time or part-time MBA as far as career opportunities are concerned. However, summer internship opportunities are available only to full-time students, while part-timers, especially those supported by their employers, will definitely be denied of this opportunity.
So what is best for you, part-time or full-time? The question reminds me of the parable of the wise man and a boy hiding a bird in his hand behind his back. The boy asked the old man if the bird was dead of alive. Without the certainty of wisdom, the old man replied, “Young man, the answer is in your hands.”
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