Part-Time MBA vs Full-Time MBA: What’s the Difference?


A colorful illustration of two part-time MBA students, one male and one female, balancing their work with classes to advance in their fields.

Are you ready to earn your MBA, but not sure if you should take the part-time or full-time path to completion?

First, congratulate yourself on making a sound career decision. Earning an MBA opens doors to new companies and higher-paying work. In a poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education, a large number of professionals with MBAs said their salary doubled with their master’s degree in hand. It’s an investment, of course, in both time and money, but one that should pay off nicely in the long term.

That said, now you need to make another choice, even before landing on a school. Do you want to earn that MBA in a full-time program, or in one that is part-time? The end result will be the same, but how you get there will be very different.

Thinking about a few basic factors can help you get started on making your choice. Consider these three, for starters: What stage of life are you in? What is your financial situation? What kind of timetable are you on?

Keep this information handy—because next up is a deep dive into the pros and cons of each format. To truly decide whether a part-time or full-time MBA is right for you, investigate these three big-picture questions:

What Do You Need from Your MBA?

The nature of a full-time MBA program makes it a good fit for career-changers or those just starting out.

For one thing, a full-time program gives you a built-in cohort for support. That’s especially helpful if you’re switching to a new career and want to knit together a professional network.

On the flip side, you’ll have a pretty heavy course load and potentially less freedom to explore different electives or areas of concentration. You’ll also find you might have to cope with less time for outside work, family responsibilities or a social life. (Being the devoted studier that you are, of course.)

For a busy professional, the features of a part-time format might make for a better match.

Part-time programs are typically designed for professionals who want to stay in their field but are looking to climb the corporate ladder. (This could be true of a full-time program, too, but it’s generally not a central feature.)

Part-time students tend to be more experienced. On top of working a full-time job during the day, they often have family or home commitments to balance with classwork. They need to pursue their degree according to what works best with their lives.

One important note: You don’t have to choose between two extremes here. Quality MBA programs have offered hybrid or “flex” class schedules even before the coronavirus pandemic required students to learn virtually.

Bottom line: You should search for schools that provide flexibility and support no matter how you elect to take your classes.

How Much Does an MBA Cost?

The thought of an MBA degree might give some of you instant sticker shock. The conventional wisdom says that full-time MBA students pay each year’s or semester’s tuition at once, like you did as an undergrad.

But dig deeper and you can discover some real value.

It is true that part-time MBA programs allow you to spread payments out over time. The upfront cost takes less of a bite out of your budget. But scholarship money is available to both full-time and part-time students. Plus, many employers will help cover tuition costs. And, of course, students can look into a number of other financial and loan options to ease the burden.

Part-timers do get a bit of an edge in this respect: They can keep their day jobs as they work their way to a degree.

How long is an MBA Program?

Full-time MBA programs typically last two years, although some accelerated programs can be completed faster. In your first year, you’ll learn management and business fundamentals. The second year is packed with electives and classes in your area of specialization.

Part-time programs allow a little more space and flexibility. It’s not unheard of to enroll in just one or two classes at a time. Some students take up to six years to complete their MBA, though many finish in three to five years.

Elmhurst University offers a cohort program that can be completed in less than a year full-time or in just two years part-time, with 11 areas of specialization to choose from. The University also gives students five years to complete the program, although most will complete it in fewer than two years.

In the end, the MBA program you choose should be the program that works best for you, your family, your budget and your employment situation.

The Elmhurst MBA could be right for you. It is flexible and customizable.  Request more info today by completing the form below!

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