Full-Time or Part-Time: Which MBA is Right For You?

If you are like me and believe that the MBA is one of the most, if not the most, valuable advanced degrees you can earn, then the question becomes “should I go to a full-time (“FT”) MBA or a part-time (“PT”) MBA program?” Great question!

As a former admissions director at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs, I relish the opportunity to talk about pursuing the degree FT or PT. The words “part-time” in the past conjured up perceptions of a lesser and less rigorous MBA program. However, in my experience those days are gone and PT MBA programs can be just as rigorous and fulfilling as FT MBA programs – and should not be overlooked in the decision making process. Also note that PT Programs may include a variety of programs (i.e. evening, weekend and executive programs).

There are countless ways to look at the decision and below are the main thinking points that an applicant should consider:
  • This may seem obvious but not all MBA programs have a PT option. No to Harvard, Stanford but yes to Booth, Kellogg, Duke and many more. Do your research. It is also fine to apply to both FT programs and PT programs. Many times an applicant’s work and life situation changes within the time of applying. You have heard it before…options are good!
  • Are the classes taught in PT programs the same as those taught in the FT program? How are the faculty the same and different? Is the degree conferred the same from both programs? Ideally, you would want many of the answers to be yes. You pursuing a PT program is no less of an accomplishment and commitment than pursuing a FT program. However, that does depend on the school so best to ask that question of a current student, alum, or even a representative from the admissions office. Often, that kind of information can also be found on the program’s website so be sure to look there.
  • Do I have a job that I love? Am I with a company that I want to stay with long-term and advance myself? If the answer is yes, then exploring PT MBA programs could be a great option for you. If the answer is no and you have clear post-MBA career goals (including both the job function and industry) then exploring a FT MBA program could be the way to go. If you are fortunate enough to have tuition reimbursement from your employer then that could add to the appeal of the PT MBA option (with the exception of select firms, namely consulting firms, that “sponsor” students to pursue FT MBAs).
  • Are there social opportunities available for PT in the same way as they are to FT students? You would be hard pressed to find a PT MBA program that did not make a serious effort to provide social and leadership opportunities for its students. Dig deep into both FT and PT MBA programs for their options regarding student groups, leadership seminars, study abroad options and spouse and partner events.
  • Can a PT MBA student take FT MBA classes and visa versa? It varies by program so this is a necessary question to not only ask admissions directors but also to ask a school’s alumni base.
  • Similar to a FT program, can I complete a PT MBA in or close to two years? This depends on the structure and the flexibility of the PT program. When looking into PT programs, ask questions related to the length of time needed to complete the degree and the ways to speed up and slow down the completion of the degree depending on your work/life needs.
  • Are scholarships available for PT students? I am hearing more and more about PT MBA programs that are offering unique scholarships. Even if the scholarship is not listed on the website, take the time to specifically ask the admissions directors and current students. The scholarship could be in the works!
  • Are the study abroad opportunities the same for both FT and PT programs? I encourage asking current students this question. As gaining global exposure and experience is key these days to all MBA students, most programs have many options for studying abroad. PT programs have dramatically increased the options for PT students in this area.
  • How are the career service offerings the same and different for PT and FT students? Great question to ask and the questions actually start with you! What do you envision needing from an MBA Career Service Team? What do you need help with moving to the next phase of your career? Are you in the industry, job function and location that you want to be in post-MBA? If not, how can the Career Service Team in either the FT or PT program you are targeting help you? There is no one career service structure and offering for all FT and PT programs. This topic is very specific to each school.
  • From the admissions criteria standpoint, what similarities and differences are there in the FT and PT application process? i.e. Is the average GMAT score the same and if not, why not? Are the average years of work experience the same or not?It is common to see the average GMAT higher for FT programs than PT programs because FT programs recruit applicants from all over the country and the world and therefore receive more applications with a more diverse set of GMAT scores. On the other hand, PT programs typically recruit students from the local area and therefore receive fewer applications than a FT program. This, however, in no way means that PT programs are easier to get into.A s PT programs recruit full-time working professionals, the average years of work experience is typically higher than FT programs who are recruiting those applicants who are closer to their undergraduate graduation date.
I hope these questions are helpful to you as you decide which MBA route to go! That decision is ultimately a personal one and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, if you’re still in doubt, reaching out to alums or current students from both PT and FT programs and learning about their decision-making process can always help you with yours. Just remember that schools are looking for stellar applicants and you finding the right fit of an MBA program is just as important for you as it is for the school finding the right MBA students.
Good luck!
If you’re currently weighing which path is right for you, we’re happy to provide our advice on your individual situation. Contact us today for a free consultation. We promise you won’t regret it!

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