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Choosing the Right MBA Program

by The Graduate Management Admissions Council - The Makers of the GMAT Exam

Are you thinking of getting an MBA? One of the great advantages of pursuing a graduate business degree today is the vast array of program choices available. Whether you're interested in a short, intense experience or a more flexible one, you are sure to find a program that meets your lifestyle, career interests, and academic needs. With so many choices out there, finding the one that best fits your requirements can be a daunting task. If you're wondering where to begin, start by learning about the types of MBA programs available and what each type has to offer.

Two-Year Full-Time MBA Programs

An ideal option for career switchers or career enhancers, two-year full-time MBA programs let you focus on your studies and take advantage of invaluable summer internship opportunities. Still the most traditional MBA option, programs usually last four semesters and are spread out over two academic years with a three- or four-month break for an internship. Core course requirements are generally completed during the first year. A specific specialization and/or electives round out the second year.

The two-year program has distinct advantages and limitations. On the plus side, you'll meet students from diverse backgrounds, which will enhance your classroom experience. An internship between your first and second year will provide a chance to learn and practice new skills and line up post-graduation employment. As a full-time student, you'll also be exposed to campus life and networking activities, such as social and professional clubs, speaker series, and career counseling services.

There are, however, some limitations to be mindful of if you're considering a two-year full-time program. Generally, you should approach this option with well-defined career goals; a lack of focus can limit the value of what you gain from networking and internship opportunities. And perhaps most importantly, you'll need to make sure you can afford spending two years out of the workforce.

One-Year Full-Time MBA Programs

A great fit for career enhancers, one-year full-time MBA programs offer an intense, full-immersion experience and usually have strict prerequisites for work experience and/or academic training. These programs are accelerated and highly specialised programsme, lasting between 11-16 months.

One-year full-time programs are ideal for those who want to advance in their current industry or functional area by earning a degree in a short amount of time. Coursework is usually specialised and applicable to a specific career or industry. However, internship opportunities tend to be limited because there are no extended breaks between semesters. Some employers may prefer the comprehensive structure and coursework of the more traditional two-year MBA program.

Part-Time MBA Programs

Popular among career enhancers for their flexibility, part-time MBA programs are designed for working professionals who are on the job full-time during the day and available to attend classes in the evening or on weekends. Students generally take one to two courses each semester over four or five years to fulfill coursework.

In addition to providing students with the flexibility to complete their degrees without interrupting their careers, part-time programs also afford students the chance to bring work challenges into the classroom and explore solutions. But because students are usually working full-time while earning their degrees, these programs do not typically include internships. Students also may be limited in scholarship, career services, and other campus-related extracurricular opportunities.

Executive MBA Programs

For senior managers or professionals with significant experience, the Executive MBA (EMBA) is a great opportunity to sharpen general management skills through core classes. EMBA programs offer courses in each of the major business disciplines and, often, the shared professional experiences of the students become part of the curriculum. Most students in EMBA programs receive some level of company sponsorship, as enrollment is usually tied to career advancement.

On the plus side, students can earn their degree in two years or less, faster than their part-time MBA counterparts. Programs also provide career-broadening management and leadership training for executives and offer strong networking opportunities. However, EMBA programs are typically quite costly, and require a serious commitment from students and their employers. Programs are intense, so most students add significant hours to their work week and may require time off to attend classes.

Dual MBA Programs

Attractive to anyone early in their career or switching careers, dual degree programs combine a full-time MBA program with another full-time graduate program of study. Think of a nurse seeking a formal education in health care management in order to re-enter the medical field in a leadership role. Dual degrees take three or four years to complete, are generally located at the same school, and often are affiliated through a cooperative relationship. The most popular dual degree programs combine an MBA with law, health care administration, public policy/public administration, engineering, technology, or international studies.

One of the main advantages of the dual degree is speed. Pursuing a dual degree is generally faster than pursuing degrees separately, as some courses fulfill requirements in both programs. Some universities even offer undergraduate/MBA programs that allow students to begin graduate studies while still an undergraduate. In these programs, graduate courses can fulfill remaining undergraduate requirements. However, dual degrees also require an extensive absence from the job market, making it difficult to continue along a career path, maintain current job skills, and professional knowledge.

Distance Learning MBAs

Offering the greatest flexibility, distance learning programs allow instructors and students to interact without being in the same physical space. Programs usually feature any combination of video courses (prerecorded lectures), live web courses (conducted in virtual classrooms), and hybrid courses that combine in-person instruction with video and web conferences.

In addition to geographic flexibility, distance learning MBAs let students schedule their classwork around personal and professional commitments, and spread the cost and time commitment of a degree over a longer period of time. However, choices in distance learning programs are still somewhat limited, and some employers don't view them as favorably as other MBA options. Anyone considering a distance learning program should also be mindful that studying remotely is not for everyone. These programs are not ideal for people who thrive in an interactive learning environment.

Brought to you by the Graduate Management Admission Council®, makers of the GMAT exam

At its core, an MBA provides you with the leadership and analytical skills that are valuable for your career. No matter what program option you choose, you'll gain a competitive edge in the job market, command a higher salary, and enjoy challenging new career opportunities. Learn more about the value of an MBA..


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