Full-time, part-time, online: Finding the right MBA for you

Many people start considering an MBA when they realize they’re either on the wrong path in their career or the right path is taking too long. An MBA can help with both of those dilemmas, and more. However, while the education you receive will probably be the same across MBA formats, choosing the right fit for your professional goals and your life can’t be overlooked.

Full-time

The most traditional MBA format is the whole enchilada: You’re returning to school and you’ll almost certainly have to leave your job because of the extracurricular demands on full-time students. On the other hand, you’ll have the opportunity for a summer internship, a critical springboard for most full-time students. Very often, the company and/or the position of your internship leads directly to an offer upon graduation. You will also get to meet with a large number of corporate recruiters at career events, which can be held on campus or as part of national student conventions.

Throughout a full-time program, it needs to be your primary focus. It’s the best fit for students who are looking to change careers and have more flexibility in their lives to pack up and move, then (maybe) do it again a couple years later.

Part-time

Part-time MBA programs are essential for those with busy careers who don’t want to leave their current role. Most offer classes in the evenings and/or on the weekends, designed to fit around work schedules. Typically, classes are two nights a week, but that can vary by school. This model gives you time to work on assignments and team projects while juggling your other responsibilities.

While internships are rare with part-time programs, many schools still offer part-time students great career services, meaning opportunities to network with hiring companies. Another advantage is that some companies recognize the value of employee education and will pay for you to complete your degree in exchange for bringing that newfound expertise back to work.

Part-time programs are great for those with 5-10 years of experience and need to shore up their business knowledge to move forward. Executive MBA programs are also part-time in most cases; as the name indicates, they’re designed — from scheduling to the curriculum — for leaders with more experience.

Online

Online MBA programs have become enormously popular. A variation on the part-time model, the online format is exactly what it sounds like: You engage in discussions online, your exams and assignments are online, and you engage with your professors and classmates online. In many cases, online programs are the most flexible. You can watch lectures while you walk on the treadmill or take the subway in the morning, or if you’re a military student stationed overseas, the clock is no longer working against you.

One note of caution about the online format: There are many online programs that don’t measure up. They’re not offered by accredited business schools, the faculty are not experts in their fields, and they may not have good reputations with hiring firms. In short, it’s a program that’s cutting corners. So do your research about online programs; a good question to start with is: What’s their accreditation? If it’s not an AACSB-accredited school, keep looking.

The bottom line

Earning an MBA is one of the best ways to move your career forward, but how it fits into your life is just as important as what it can do for you down the road. Complete the form on this page to learn more about the highly ranked Full-time, Professional Flex, Online, and Executive MBA options from Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business.