The MBA degree has evolved over the years into a multi-faceted graduate degree option that comes in several different flavors. This means that before you apply, you must first decide which flavor suits you best.
The flagship programs at top schools are of course the full time, two-year MBA program. These full time programs mostly all run on similar schedules (with a few subtle differences) including a fall start, a full-time summer internship, and a second year ending with graduation in the Spring. This schedule allows recruiters to plan their hiring accordingly, both for summer interns and for full time employees. Of course there are some schools who offer a J-term, or perhaps split the semesters into two mini-mesters, but all-in-all, the full time, two-year programs remain the most popular. But they are not for everyone.
For students who majored in business in undergrad, there are other programs which don’t take as long and can help accelerate an MBA’s investment of time and tuition dollars.
The one-year MBA is perhaps the best example of this and is increasingly offered by the “good” schools around the world. In particular, one year programs are very common amongst the top European schools. The one year MBA is in fact often referred to as an “accelerated MBA program,” so if this structure appeals to you (think more intense work load, less time between semesters and short if any, summer break), you should be pleased to know that one-year programs are often easier to access from an admissions standpoint. For top programs, however do not be fooled into complacency when it comes time to apply. You should exercise the same caution and care with which you would use to apply to the full time programs. One reason they are easier to get into is that there are fewer applicants applying to these programs, so there is more room in the proverbial inn, so to speak. They still look for high qualification traits, however, so don’t think you can slip in with sub-standard profile characteristics.
There are other options for folks who require more flexibility in their educational timeline.
For these folks, the online MBA (becoming much more popular these days due to the digital revolution and ubiquitous nature of the internet), and the distance learning MBA are good choices. The key difference between the two is that, unlike the online MBA, the distance learning MBA will require students to come to campus in person for at least some portion of the program. As you can imagine, the big complaint with this type of learning environment is the loss of interaction with your cohort. While telepresence technology and free long distance phone service has helped combat this, it’s still not the same as spending two years day and night with classmates as you would have the opportunity to do in a full time program or even a one year program.
For people who need to keep their day jobs while earning an MBA, the most common option is the part-time MBA.
This is where you torture yourself for three years or so while you work during the day and then take classes at night. You have a cohort and classmates, and attend in-person, but many of the top schools do not offer a part time MBA because they find it can be dilutive to the experience of their full time students. There is also the problem of sharing the recruiters with both programs (when a school offers both), and as you can imagine, the full time MBA students become disgruntled when they lose a job interview to a part time student who had been earning good money while they ate Ramen noodles for two years.
The other main category of MBA programs is the EMBA, which were originally designed for –you guessed it—executives.
These programs are similar to part time MBA programs, but the classes are generally held on weekends instead of weeknights, and often require some summer time project work or even international practicums (usually branded as a “Global MBA” at many schools). Interestingly, many top programs who do not offer part time programs will offer an EMBA program. They are very expensive, and are usually a revenue-generating machine for the schools which offer them. While the average experience of EMBA students is usually 10 or more years, this number has fallen recently, so don’t rule yourself out just because you are early in your career especially if you have really interesting work experience or have managed others in the workplace. Like other top programs, a really solid application is the key to admissions.