MBA 101: Is It Right For Me? Part I

Bird's eye view of someone studying for a MBA degree

When thinking about pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree there is a lot to consider. Should you go full or part time? Online or on campus? Should you select a general program or one with a concentration? This blog breaks it all down for you and highlights the key factors to keep in mind as you determine whether an MBA is right for you. 

Format

There are three program formats for prospective MBA students to consider: full-time, part-time, and executive. 

Full-time MBAs typically take two years to complete. Classes are primarily held during the day. This option does not tend to be a good fit for working professionals in that it does not support full-time employment. This is more for those who can afford to leave the workforce for the length of the program. A benefit of these programs is that you may receive more financial aid. According to Poets & Quants, 90% of all scholarships and fellowships are awarded to those pursuing this type of MBA. Full-time programs can also provide greater networking and recruiting opportunities.

Part-time programs, sometimes referred to as professional or fully-employed MBAs, provide flexibility that full-time options do not and can take approximately 2 to 4 years to complete. Students take fewer courses, 1 to 2 at a time, allowing for a balance of coursework, as well as professional and personal responsibilities. Part-time enrollment may be more manageable in terms of tuition costs in that you will be charged smaller amounts over a longer duration. Additionally, if you remain employed while completing an MBA program be sure to check with your employer to see if you may be eligible for tuition assistance.

Executive, or EMBAs, are geared toward mid-career professionals who have significant managerial experience. These programs allow students to keep their full-time jobs and attend classes on Fridays and weekends. For the most part, EMBAs are completed in two years, but some schools offer accelerated options. They are designed so that you move through the program with the same group of students (cohort). This format results in a prescribed curriculum without many, if any, elective courses. These programs can be quite pricey and not all employers’ reimbursement policies cover executive education.

Modality

On-campus programs offer courses during the day, evenings, and sometimes weekends. By attending classes on campus, you will have face-to-face interactions with your instructors and classmates. This option provides structure for students who benefit from set meeting times and deadlines. School selection is limited to your local area and the distance you are willing to travel. 

Online opportunities tend to offer more flexibility. There are two types of online classes: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous does not require you to log in to the virtual classroom at a specified time. You do so at your convenience, although you need to ensure you meet assignment deadlines set by the professor. In synchronous classes, students commit to prescribed class times and sign onto their learning platform on a set schedule. During class sessions, you may watch videos, slideshow presentations, and participate in class discussions. Should you decide to pursue an online MBA, you will also have more school options in that you are not restricted by location although some require participation in residency or immersion experience where you are required to travel to campus. 

Lastly, a hybrid or blended format combines face-to-face classroom instruction with online activities. This approach balances traditional in-person meetings and online course delivery. Hybrid allows you to structure your degree around your personal life and academic schedule more so than an on-campus program. They combine the convenience of distance learning and the value of in-person networking and collaboration. 

Some hybrids are structured so that a course is held both online and on-campus throughout the semester or term. For example, you might meet on campus every third week and the rest of the time online. Others offer courses both online and in-person, so you can choose which format works best for you. Perhaps you are not too confident in your quantitative skills and need to take Finance. In this instance, you could elect to take the course live and in person. With this option, just know that not all classes may be offered in both formats. Some may be limited to one modality.  

General vs. Specialized

An MBA is designed to give you knowledge in the areas of business, leadership, and management. Some programs allow you to delve deeper into a particular focus area referred to as concentrations, specializations, or emphases. This can benefit you if you are looking for a more targeted experience. 

There are pros and cons to both the general and specialized MBA. The general MBA does not typically require a specific educational and professional background whereas specialized opportunities might. It serves to diversify your skillset while a concentration may restrict you to one area. 

However, concentrations can benefit you. If you have a specific career path in mind it can give you a head start, which is not necessarily the case with the general MBA as it does not direct you to specific industries or professions.  

If your desired profession or industry has a strong outlook and offers growth prospects, then a specialized MBA may be the right fit for you. On the other hand, a general MBA may be the better option for those with an established career seeking greater flexibility. 

There are numerous concentrations from which to choose. Some of the most popular include accounting, analytics, finance, healthcare, human resources, information technology, marketing, and strategy.  

These are only a few factors to keep in mind when considering an MBA. Please come back next week for Part II of this series where my colleague Melissa Kessler will discuss accreditation, prestige, rankings, and cost.

Written by: Julie Skolds

June 9, 2021

About the Author

Julie Skolds

Julie joined Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions in 2017. She has over 15 years of experience in higher education, specializing in transfer student advising and evaluation. She holds a Master’s in Educational Administration.