Which Type of MBA Program is Right for Me?

Which Type of MBA Program is Right for Me?

Endless options exist to pursue your MBA. Every year, MBA Catalyst consults with potential MBA students who have questions about which type of program they should attend — part-time, full-time, executive or online. While we specialize in helping students attend full-time programs, we have experience with understanding how the programs work in the marketplace.


Part-time programs generally range in length from one year to three years and students typically attend evenings and weekends on a local campus. One of the major benefits is that these programs can often have reduced cost for students as employers will offer tuition reimbursement for some of the expenses. If you enjoy working at your current employer or on a fast-track and know you want to stay at your employer for the mid- to long-term, a part-time program would benefit you the most. Part-time programs may be best for you if you have a requirement where your personal commitments require you to be at home.

However, if you are considering switching careers, especially if you want to switch into a traditional MBA career such as investment banking or consulting, carefully do all of your research before attending a part-time program. Generally employers that recruit MBAs, such as the aforementioned, focus on full-time students only. Additionally, if you participated in tuition reimbursement, your employer might require two or more years of additional employment after the last payment or you owe your employer all payments made on your behalf. Additionally, there is no opportunity for summer internship which is crucial if you want to switch careers.


Full-time programs are typically one or two years in length and require students to live on or near the campus. Full-time programs are absolutely the best for someone looking to switch careers. Hundreds of employers actively recruit full-time MBA students through methods such as interviewing on campus or via national conferences. Full-time programs also offer significant opportunities to network with your classmates. If you are interested in joint-programs such as an MPH/MBA or MPP/MBA, then full-time offers the easiest opportunity. Lastly, most of the top-ranked programs in the world offer only a full-time and executive MBA. There are a few that offer a part-time program, but by and large if you want to go to a top school you have to go full-time.

Full-time programs, however, can be costly with tuition and fees easily topping in the six figures. Additionally, full-time programs require you to leave your current job to attend and you will be living on savings and other financial means including loans. A full-time program will likely mean relocating your family while attending a full-time program on campus.

Since full-time programs are on campus, you may have to uproot your family while you attend.


Executive programs are unique in that they are typically for mid-level managers with at least 10 years of work experience. Many people wrongly think that if they have been in the workforce for 10 years that automatically makes them eligible. However, the title says executive and that is just what these programs are looking for in terms of candidates. If you have had a series of progressive promotions and/or responsibilities for at least 10 years and you are looking to become an executive, then you would be the right person for this program. Executive programs typically last one to two years with some combination of meeting virtually and then several-in person meetings lasting from a long weekend to a week. A few executive programs are even full-time on campus. This type of program is almost certainly not for people looking to switch their career or company. In many cases, the person’s company nominates them and pays all of their fees since this program can be quite expensive.


MBA programs that are online only range in length from one to three years and students meet in virtual classrooms entirely online. In a few cases, there may be some limited interaction in person. The greatest benefit these programs offer is flexibility. Because the classes meet all hours, you can easily schedule your classes for a schedule that suits you. When considering an online program, pay attention to the school’s reputation in the industry where you want to work. While no company outright bans online schools, it may be harder to explain things like team-work in an interview. In addition, research the total cost of attendance as there have been many stories in the news recently of for-profit schools that may leave students saddled with the heavy debt loads and low job options compared to their peers.

The Final Choice

Before you decide what type of program to attend, it may be necessary to create a career road map and perform an honest examination of your career goals and personal situation. While money is a significant factor in choice, the data shows the benefits of attending a full-time program offers the best payback, but may not fit your professional goals.

Schedule your free one-hour consultation with MBA Catalyst today and let us help you determine which program option is best for you.

Damali Rhett is a Senior Consultant with MBA Catalyst. She has numerous experience helping clients with both their MBA application preparation as well as with career advisory. Damali spent many years in management consulting advising clients on strategy and process. Damali has also helped dozens of people achieve their career goals through her insight coaching approaching. She is able to offer both an empathetic ear, and a pragmatic approach. She lives in Washington, DC and loves to bake her infamous chocolate chip cookies.

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