Earning an MBA can vastly improve your career and salary prospects. Perhaps you’ve always considered pursuit of an MBA, but weren’t sure when and how to begin. If you thought the traditional MBA was the only way to go, but that didn’t offer the flexibility your life requires, you now have lots of other options.
The best type of MBA for your needs depends on your years of professional experience, your interests and areas of expertise and your current employment and family situation. A single person without children will usually have more time available than someone who is married with kids, but both individuals can find MBA programs to suit their requirements.
Full Time MBA
If you are going to pursue an MBA full time, you probably can’t work – at the least, you can’t work full time. However, if you have the resources and support to take the time off from work, you can complete your MBA within two years.
Part Time MBAs
For many busy professionals, the road to an MBA is part-time. Classes are held on weekends or in the evening. This degree takes longer to complete, but students are not as stressed.
The executive MBA, known as the EMBA, is designed for those with at least five years, and preferably more, of business experience. Formally, it’s called the Executive Master of Business Administration. Students continue working fulltime and either attend classes on weekends or online. Classes are somewhat faster paced than traditional MBAs, although the core curriculum is similar and the degree is usually finished within two years. EMBAs usually feature fewer electives than traditional MBAs. Because networking is so valuable in a graduate business degree, classes are generally arranged so the same students continue taking course together. There’s another advantage to the EMBA, and it’s huge. In most cases, employers foot the bill for the EMBA, not the individual student as is often the case with other types of MBAs. The downside of an EMBA is that unless you’re pursuing your degree online, you must stick with local universities offering the degree as you still must go to work every day.
Early Career MBA
Recent college graduates who know they want an MBA but don’t have the business experience required by many MBA program may opt for the early career MBA. Along with learning, the early career MBA is geared toward career acceleration. Graduates, although lacking a great deal of “hands-on” experience, should receive higher starting salaries than those who earned only an undergraduate business degree. Early career MBA programs often place students in internships with companies so they may receive some of the practical experience they lack. Such programs have also established mentorships to aid students in their areas of interest. Job placement services is also a hallmark of the early career MBA program. The student may enter the program with little business experience, but leave with a degree and a job.
For the very busy person with considerable work and family obligations, an online MBA may prove the only way they can make time in their demanding schedule to earn a degree. Online MBAs are usually less expensive than standard degree programs, but the curriculum is just as rigorous. There’s another plus to online MBAs, and that involves technology. For students, that means not only learning advanced business skills, but also mastering the latest in business technology. It may turn out that the latter is as attractive an aptitude as the MBA itself.
Although the flexibility is incomparable, an online MBA does have a few disadvantages. Interacting with professors and fellow students is more of a challenge, although more interactive programs modify that somewhat. Schools that offer standard and online MBA programs often don’t offer some courses in the latter that they do in the former. Because courses are taken online rather than in person, it is harder for students to form real friendships with others in the program. As for employers, those who received the earliest online MBA degrees may have felt a bit of a stigma attached by recruiters as the on campus degree was considered more “legitimate.” These days, however, online MBA degrees have become so widespread that the stigma has disappeared. The quality of any school, online or on campus, is still a major consideration. It’s just as likely, though, that a potential employer may not even inquire as to whether an MBA was earned online or traditionally. If you are asked how you managed to work while pursuing an MBA, the idea that you did both at the same time will probably work in your favor. If nothing else, it shows that you have proven discipline and time management skills.
For those seeking an online MBA, however, the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages. It is possible to complete an online MBA in two years, although some people may take longer due to work and family commitments.
A hybrid MBA combines a predominantly online format with scheduled in-person meetings, generally once per quarter for several days. It’s a flexible option for fulltime employees, frequent business travelers and working parents. The idea behind the hybrid MBA is that of offering the “best of both worlds,” – the convenience of online learning and the face to face networking and problem solving. The drawback to such an arrangement is that many people can’t take several days off each quarter for traditional classes, and depending on the school, those days may require a bit of travel.
As the name implies, an accelerated MBA means you’ll receive your degree more quickly than in a traditional program. An accelerated MBA program generally lasts 18 months, and differs from a fulltime MBA program in that there are no semester breaks. You’ll likely have to take classes over the summer and perhaps during the school’s winter break.
Professional MBAs are similar to early career MBAs, as they are geared toward recent graduates and those who entered the managerial field just shortly beforehand. This degree is also available as “bundle” for college business majors. Instead of graduating in four years with a business degree, they tack on an additional year and graduate with an MBA.
With a dual MBA, you receive this degree along with another. Generally, the other degree is Juris Doctor, so you are attending law school at the same time you are pursuing your MBA. Other common dual MBA programs involve an MA or a PhD, and may focus on information technology, public health, education, communications and public administration. Expect to work three to four years towards your dual MBA degree. It’s a considerable time commitment, but much less than pursuing these degrees separately.
Joint Degree Programs
While similar to dual degree programs, joint degree programs have one key difference. Credits taken for one course are transferable to the other degree, which means earning a joint degree may take less time – as much as a year – than a dual degree program.
This type of MBA is usually a fulltime program. It is designed to bring students from various international backgrounds and culture together. Such programs generally have a quota system in place to ensure student diversity. The curriculum focuses on the global business environment and it is expected that the type of work students will engage in after graduation.
Rather than a general MBA, many students with a strong interest in a particular industry or field may want to pursue a specialized MBA. If you have a definite career focus in mind, a specialized MBA can help you land a job in that field more readily than if you have a standard MBA. For example, if your goal is to head a company’s human resources department, you have a better chance of obtaining that first managerial hire if your MBA is in human resource management than a general degree.
Beside HR, common specialized MBA degrees include finance, marketing, entrepreneurship and healthcare administration. Some schools offer extremely specialized MBAs, such as media studies; oil, gas and energy; supply chain management and aviation. Companies hiring in this areas look for people with specialized degrees. On the downside, the traditional MBA focuses on learning that is readily switched between industries, while the specificity of a specialized MBA is somewhat more limiting. However, specialized MBAs do teach general and specific management principles.
Online vs On Campus MBAs
One of your biggest decisions when it comes to an MBA program is whether you will pursue your degree online or on-campus. For employees with a demanding job and a family, an online MBA is often the most efficient way to earn a degree. If you decide to pursue a degree on campus, you are limited to those schools nearby if you are working or you must relocate. It is likely you will also pay more for your education. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to your choice of an online or on campus MBA. It’s what makes the most sense for you at this time in your life.