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Full-Time or Part-Time MBA?: That is the Question

Full-time or Part-time? One of the most important decisions you will have to make before considering which MBA program to apply to is whether to attend full or part time.

As you make this decision, review a few key reasons for pursuing an MBA:

1. Knowledge—you’ve realized that your anthropology degree has left some key knowledge gaps that need to be filled.

2. Career Switching/Exploring—you want to make a significant change in your career. Perhaps you currently market high tech products and you want to do strategy work for a non-profit, or you’re maxed out on the world of finance and want to jump to consumer packaged goods. Or you’re in the public sector and want to switch to the private sector (like yours truly). Or, as is often the case, you need some time to test the waters to figure out what the right next move is.

3. Checking the Box—in your profession an MBA is needed to advance to the next level. If you like your job and just looking for a credential or are only trying to fill in some knowledge gaps, a part-time or executive program can be an excellent choice. You are able to learn on the job, make money, and not lose touch with your professional network. On the other hand, if you are trying to make a career switch, pursuing a full time MBA can be advantageous because it allows you to build a track record of internships and school leadership positions (e.g., President of the Finance Club) that can serve as strong signals to employers that you are serious about making a change. Additionally, some programs do not offer a part-time or executive option (though most do), so if you are gung ho on having the same degree as Vinod Khosla (Stanford GSB), you’ve got to go full time.

A few factors to consider:

  • Risk tolerance—can you stomach being out of work for two years?
  • Debt tolerance—does your employer help pay for advanced degrees? Are you will to accrue debt for two years in the pursuit of a different/better job?
  • MBA Motivation—why are you pursuing an MBA to begin with? Which of the three factors listed above best describes you?

In sum, there’s not a perfect answer between full and part time programs, but there is a right answer for you.

Although going part-time may seem like the most frugal option, if that path prevents you from making the connections and building the work history necessary to get the job you’ve always wanted, then it isn’t a good use of time.

So, before launching into your search for schools, examine your motivations. It will save you a lot of time later on as you begin applying.


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