The needs, goals, and lifestyles of prospective business students have changed drastically since the first MBA program was founded in the early 20th century.[i] While a traditional MBA program entails two years of full-time study on-site, several alternatives have recently gained popularity: fast track MBAs, executive MBAs, part-time MBAs, and online MBAs.
Each of these programs offers some combination of benefits over a traditional MBA, such as taking less time to complete, costing less, and flexible scheduling. But it can be a challenge to figure out which option may be right for you. Here are some guidelines to help you.
Which Type of MBA Program Is Right for You?
There are several things to consider when determining which type of MBA program might be best suited for you. The first step is to identify your end goal — why do you want to get an MBA? For example, if you have relatively little experience working in a business setting, it might make more sense for you to enroll in a traditional two-year MBA program because it gives you time to explore different functional areas and decide where your interests lie.[ii] On the other hand, if you have at least five years of business experience and want to advance your career at the company you currently work for, an accelerated MBA may be a better fit.
Another important factor is your lifestyle. If you aren’t able to take time off from your job or need the flexibility to be able to spend more time with your family, a full-time program is probably not a viable option for you.
The Advantages of an Accelerated MBA Program
MBA programs that are accelerated have gained popularity in the U.S. about 10 years ago, but they have been the norm in Europe for decades.[iii] According to a 2009 survey by The Wall Street Journal, 82 percent of students and alumni said they chose an accelerated MBA because it enabled them to re-enter the workforce more quickly.[iv] BusinessWeek.com recently reported that at some business schools, application rates for online accelerated MBA programs have surpassed those for traditional MBAs.[v] The best candidates for this option have either been working in a particular industry for a minimum of five years or obtained an undergraduate degree in business and have been working for at least a couple of years. People who enroll in an accelerated MBA program typically seek to deepen their knowledge, skills, and leadership capabilities in order to advance their career within the same industry and/or company.[vi]
Wondering what makes an MBA program accelerated? Think of it like a condensed, more intensive version of the traditional MBA that can be completed in as little as 16 months. Instructors often skip basic business concepts and jump right into how to put them into practice. Sometimes students are required to do work before starting the program, and some programs even allow you to opt out of certain courses that would be required in a traditional MBA program. Accelerated classes also tend to cover more information and go at a faster pace; likewise, tests are usually more frequent and intense.[vii]
While the faster pace may seem daunting to some, others say it forces them to engage more with their coursework and classmates. One great advantage is that a fast track MBA program allows you to focus on developing a special set of skills to advance your career.[viii] For example, if you’re looking for an industry-focused MBA, you can get an accelerated MBA with a specialization in technology, marketing, or sustainability.[ix]
The best option for working professionals seeking flexibility is an online MBA program that allows them to complete the degree in a short duration of time. Since all lectures, discussions, and coursework take place on an online platform, you can continue to work full-time and do classwork according to your own schedule. At Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, the online Accelerated Master of Business Administration (MBA) program also allows you to customize your degree to your interests and career aspirations. In addition, you are not required to take classes that cover skills you may already have mastered as an experienced business professional, such as:
- MBA616 Principles of Economics and Marketing (3 cr.)
- MBA617 Finance and Accounting Concepts (3 cr.)
- MBA618 Business Statistics (3 cr.)
- MBA619 Graduate School Writing (3 cr.)