Comparing MBA Graduate School Costs Across Full Time, Part Time and Executive Programs

A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, can be earned in a variety of ways through part-time, full-time, or in executive MBA programs. Each type of program has its own pros and cons, as well as a myriad of tuition and fees, depending on the school chosen. The varying types of MBA programs have arisen based on the demands of an evolving workforce and economic climate. Most top schools now offer multiple MBA programs, giving people the opportunity to apply for an MBA program that is best for them. This is based on factors like their current income and job, family constraints, level of experience, their score on the GMAT exam, and potential sponsorship or payment of tuition by the their employer.

Costs across all types of MBA programs vary a great deal, depending on the school and the course of study chosen. However it is likely that whichever program you pursue, you will be paying well in excess of $50,000 for an MBA program. This “Investment in your future” makes it critical to choose the program that is right for you now and into the future.

Types of MBA Programs

The full-time MBA program is generally a two-year commitment as a full time student (i.e. not suited to people who want to keep their day job). Students take on a full load of classes throughout the school year, and may also receive a paid internship between sessions in the field or industry of their major.

There are some schools that offer a one-year or eighteen month full-time MBA program. This option is primarily geared towards individuals who have a strong background in a specific industry such as science or engineering. In America though all the top schools generally have a 2 year minimum program, with shorter MBA’s really only available in overseas locations or as part of an accelerated program.

One primary advantage of attending a full-time MBA program is that you are able to complete your studies in a shorter period of time than with a part-time option. You also get to immerse yourself more into your program because it is your central focus. Certainly, however, a big disadvantage to this choice is the difficulty of attending school – and paying for it – while not earning an income. It also means that you have two years less work experience than your peers who continue working.

Part-time MBA programs are very popular for those who wish to continue working and earning an income while obtaining their advanced business degree. An added incentive to the part-time option is that, since most students are employed, they may receive assistance with some or all of the tuition from their employer. Part of this company sponsorship, however, could obligate you to your current employer for a certain amount of time after you complete the MBA program.

Although the part-time MBA option can be more advantageous financially, it can be very difficult for students to try and juggle school, work, and other outside activities. In addition, part-time programs generally take longer to complete (normally 6 months to a year longer) than the comparable full-time MBA program.

Although part-time MBA programs are sometimes considered easier to get into than the full-time option, employers often look upon part-time MBA students as having exceptional dedication as well as great time management skills. This could help you to move up in your current company more quickly.

Another type of MBA program gaining popularity is the executive MBA, or the EMBA. Executive MBAs are programs designed for working professionals who already have several years of significant experience. Oftentimes, executive MBA students are sponsored by their employers, and many continue to work full time while enrolled in the EMBA program.

Executive MBA programs often have smaller class size, allowing for closer interaction between students and faculty. These EMBA programs are often completed within two years or less, while the student continues to work full-time. The focus for EMBA programs is less on the GMAT score (standardized entrance test for MBA programs) and more on their experience and leadership skills.

Current Trends in MBA Programs

Despite rising costs and a tough economic environment, the number of MBA degree offerings has skyrocketed over the past several years. For example, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of MBA programs have doubled in the last 10 years.

Many feel that the increased enrollment has been directly influenced by the economy. With the recent downturn, many recent undergrads and unemployed workers are heading back to earn their MBAs. Costs of these MBA programs can, however, make it difficult to handle – especially for those without current income. With the average cost of graduate tuition at $40,000, the overall average annual tab can add up to over $54,000 when you factor in fees and other expenses.

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all MBA’s are the same and the quality of the school and alumni (past students) is a key differentiating factor between programs. For example an MBA from Harvard and Stanford is far more valuable than one from Strayer or Phoenix university.

Average MBA Costs of Ten Top Schools

The cost of the top MBA schools can easily add up to over $100,000 in total. This can be seen in the table below which outlines several of the top MBA programs’ approximate tuition, fees, and other related expenses for a single year of a full-time (2 years total) and part-time MBA (generally 3 years) program. The full cost of the Executive MBA program is shown.

Full Time, Part-time and Excecutive MBA program costs
Sources: Bloomberg Business Week, US News and School Websites
(*First year cost; ** Full Program cost)

Remember, though, that many schools may offer financial assistance to students. Some of these options can include student loans, scholarships, and fellowships. In addition, graduate schools will also provide additional resources to students to help with job hunting and other career services. So do your research to find the school/program that best fits your current and future needs making an MBA a worthwhile investment

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4 thoughts on “Comparing MBA Graduate School Costs Across Full Time, Part Time and Executive Programs”

  1. This is an awesome comparison of the different programs! Like you touch on here, my biggest worry about the part time program is that it seems like it’s sometimes looked upon negatively by employers. But I think it shows some major dedication as well. Ultimately, I think if you work your butt off, make some good connections, and do well, I think you can’t go wrong either way. Probably one of the best ways, if your company offers it, is to go part time or full time on their dime, beef up your resume, and get a promotion when you’re done.

  2. Part-time MBA programs are wonderful for the student who needs to work. Because classes are scheduled outside of normal business hours, it is possible to achieve an education or further your career while you work full-time. And, if your employer offers tuition reimbursement, you can get your MBA for free.

  3. You need to really question if an MBA is worth it in this economy? Using MBA jargon, is the NPV of an MBA > 0.

  4. When looking at part-time programs, there are a number of things to consider. Chief among them, because these programs appeal to working professionals, is flexibility. Most programs offer classes outside of the normal work day, either during the evening or on the weekends, but some schools are starting to take flexibility even further.


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