Part-Time MBA Formats |

Part-Time MBA Formats

By QS Contributor

Updated June 16, 2020 Updated June 16, 2020

MBA programs are attractive. They promise career advantages, such as a higher salary, promotion, or new career options – be they with your current employer or elsewhere. The career pages of newspapers and online advertisements are rife with promotions for the Master of Business Administration, suggesting that it is the one degree that will allow you to fulfill all your career dreams. They all offer a deal that can be put like this: pay our tuition fees and we will help you get it back quickly – with even more to come in the future.

Program structure and target groups of MBA programs

Not all MBA programs are the same. Besides differences in content, quality, reputation, network and success rates, one of the key distinctions between MBA programs are their structure and target demographics.

A basic distinction: full time and part time

In general, we can break MBA programs into two main categories: those that CANNOT be studied while working and those than CAN. MBA programs that require all your time and physical presence are called full-time MBA programs. All other MBA programs can be called part-time MBA programs.

Potentially confusingly to prospective MBA students, these part-time MBA programs are not always called ‘part-time’ MBA programs, and indeed, are often quite different. They are put into subgroups, such as executive MBAs (EMBAs), online MBAs, distance MBAs, and blended MBAs, as well as part-time MBAs!

Part-time MBA programs

Those programs that are officially – on the website of the schools, in advertisements and in program brochures – called part-time MBAs are programs that are open for any professional with some years of professional experience and can be studied alongside your job. The structure can be modular, where students learn individually and come together every few weeks to meet with professors and each other. Or the structure might be weekly, with students coming onto campus on a weekly or biweekly basis. This format lends itself to studying at a local provider.

Online or distance MBA programs

Online or distance MBA programs are also part-time MBA programs because they can be studied while working. They are not called part-time MBAs, however, because they follow a different structure. In online MBAs, contact with professors and fellow students is primarily through web applications (though, naturally, the use of such applications is increasingly used across all part-time formats), through which discussions, individual assignments and contact can take place. The advantages of this program type are that you can study in the comfort of your own home, easily fit it around your lifestyle and you are certainly not limited to local providers. Most reputable programs will, however, include an in-person element which usually takes place over an intensive week. Distance MBAs – a format that has largely given way to online MBAs except where internet access is poor – see students receive texts (for example case studies) via snail mail. Residential periods are required for exams or for a kick-off meeting.

Blended MBA programs

Blended MBA programs combine residential periods with online components. They tend to lean towards the latter, with a handful of in-person elements thrown in. Again, blended MBA programs are part-time programs that can be studied alongside a job.

Executive MBA programs (EMBA)

Finally, we have the executive MBA or EMBA. This program type is also an MBA and hence covers the same core courses as a full-time MBA. It is also a part-time MBA, as it can be studied alongside your job – indeed, you are very much required to be in work for an EMBA. Traditionally, these programs are company funded, whereby the company aims to improve its top-level talent and aid its performance. EMBA programs ask for more leadership experience than the other formats mentioned here as part of their entry requirements. Because of this, EMBA students are often older than full-time MBA students. The programs are more expensive and network-oriented, and feature distance learning elements comingled with (often international) in-person elements. 

This article was originally published in January 2016 . It was last updated in June 2020

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