There are multiple ways to get an MBA: quit your job and go full-time for one or two years; or pursue the degree through a format that lets you keeping working, like a part-time or executive MBA program. But how do you choose? The answer to this is actually much simpler than most people think. It all comes down to your short-term career goals.
The case for part-time MBA
If you like your job and the path you are on, part-time is the way to go. With part-time you don’t sacrifice two years out of the work force, you still earn a paycheck to offset your tuition bills, and you might even be able to get some financial support from your company. If you’re going part-time, you are learning skills you can use immediately on the job, perhaps accelerating your trajectory, increasing your earning potential, and preparing yourself to go farther in leadership roles in the long-term.
Although it’s possible to change your career path while you’re working and going to school, it’s very difficult to do successfully. It’s not that the resources aren’t there for part-time students at most programs, it’s more the fact that, as a human being, you have a finite amount of time and energy and a full-time job, part-time school, and job hunting combined can run you into the ground. I’ve seen part-time students make incredible career transitions, but they were also super humans who never slept.
The case for full-time MBA
If you want to make a significant job transition (i.e. breaking into a new and competitive industry/company where your resume needs a big boost to get noticed; dramatically changing your job function, for which you need complex new skills; or changing both your industry and function), a full-time program is the best option. Going full-time enables you to dedicate yourself to the job search, preparation, networking, and interviewing that is necessary to make a big transition. It’s going to be hard and exhausting work; it’s literally career boot camp. You also have the opportunity in most programs to have at least one significant internship. This provides you with both experience for your resume and the chance to see if you do in fact like the day-to-day reality of the role, that particular company, etc.
This is the most straightforward way to look at picking a program type. I know the tuition without an income scenario is hard for some to imagine. But think of it this way, with either option you are going to be paying a lot in time and money, so you should set yourself up to best achieve the outcome you want. You only have this opportunity to use once.
I also know there are many individual, special cases with complicated factors that make this decision less clear cut. If that is the case, I recommend you have a conversation with an admissions professional to carefully weigh your options.
Having earned her MBA from NYU Stern, Sarah served as an MBA admissions officer for nearly a decade at NYU. She has a deep knowledge of top-ranked MBA programs and what’s required of applicants who hope to earn admission.