What types of MBA programs are available, and how do I choose?

Grad School Admissions

Business school admissions - MBA programs
In an earlier post, we covered the general graduate school admissions process and promised you a closer look at how to prepare and apply for MBA programs. Just for you, we’ve prepared a series of articles that discuss several key aspects of business school admissions procedures. In particular, our MBA Admissions series answers the following questions.

  1. What types of MBA programs are available and how do I choose?
  2. How can I apply to an MBA program?
  3. What do I need to know about the GMAT?
  4. What should I write about in my MBA Application Essay?
  5. What should I include and how should I format my resume?
  6. Who should I ask to write Recommendation Letters for me?
  7. How can I prepare for my admissions interview?

In each article, we provide essential tips, including a list of common mistakes to avoid (the “Don’ts) and suggestions on how to correct these problems (the “Dos”). We hope this information will help you along your journey to achieving your business career dreams!

Ready to get started? Let’s dig right in!

What’s B-School?

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, “B-school,” is short for business school, and this is the type of graduate school that generally awards the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. There are, of course, some joint degree programs (like the JD-MBA program) and undergraduate/graduate accelerated programs, but this series will solely focus on the graduate-level programs offered by business schools.

What types of MBA programs are available?

In addition to offering online versus on-campus schooling formats, some B-schools offer only the traditional two-year program while others offer an accelerated one-year format. A few schools also allow you to choose the length you want (offering flexible time periods ranging from 12 months to 18 months). Although a few US schools offer one-year MBA programs (Emory, Northwestern, BU and Cornell, for example), this format is essentially the default format in Europe.

Which program is better?

The answer to the above question is more of a matter of personal preference and situation, as well as what you’re looking for in terms of the B-school educational experience. To help you make your decision, we’ve prepared a quick table below, comparing the two most common degree program formats. We organized the information based on a few key questions you might ask yourself. Keep in mind the factors in the table would be in addition to others you might consider, such as:

  • average class size
  • professors
  • facilities
  • school reputation
  • available specializations
  • teaching method
Question Yes No

Do I know what I want to do with my MBA degree?

  • The one-year program is better because you can re-enter the labor market faster and focus on your life goals.
  • If you already have an established career with significant work experience, you might particularly like the one-year plan for the same reason described above.
  • Do a two-year program. You’ll have the chance to take electives and also participate in a summer placement program through which you can test out a field you might be interested in.
  • If you’re a recent graduate with less work experience or looking to change careers or business specialties, choosing the two-year program will help you narrow down your choices and gain the experience you need to enter the job market after graduation.

Can I afford not to work?

  • The one-year program costs half the price of a two-year program. That is a factor for some. However, this program also crams the entire core MBA curriculum into one year instead of two. That means you’d have little to do anything but study. Of course, if you have the appropriate financial aid to cover at least a year, then you might choose this option. If financial aid covers two years (and some employers do!), you might want to think about the two-year program.
  • If you need to work to support tuition and fee costs, then a two-year or nontraditional online program with evening classes might be worth investigating.
  • Because the two-year program spreads out the core requirements, you have more free time to engage in extracurricular activities, including part-time work.
  • You would also be able to participate in the paid summer placement programs, which would help defray costs.

Do I care about social interactions

  • Do the two-year program. Because business heavily relies on our inter-human connectedness, two years will give you time to network with faculty and peers who might one day become your business partners, key clients or service providers.
  • The one-year program costs less and allows you to start earning income faster. Who needs friends anyway, right?

Do I need to find a job after graduating?

(i.e., I don’t have a company sponsoring me)

  • Do the two-year Summer placement programs give you the chance to work with a potential future employer. B-schools not only coordinate with interested companies and host job fairs for students, but they also work extra hard to get you a job! (After all, schools want to develop a reputation for having highly desired students, right?) Of course, students can search for internship positions on their own (and should, in addition to services offered through school).
  • The bottom line: prestigious companies often recruit from program participants before looking at other applicants. So if you want that job…
  • If you have a company sponsoring your degree, and you plan to return to them after you graduate, then obviously, this question is irrelevant!

Does the school’s location matter?

  • If you want to study in the US, fewer schools offer the one-year program than in Europe. In fact, the default for European B-schools, including the most prestigious ones, is the one-year format, while the US still adheres to the two-year program.
  • BUT, recent trends show a shift in the one-year/two-year dichotomy. More schools offer additional flexibility to accommodate students’ financial situations and encourage globalized study programs. Nowadays, you can find programs that last 10, 15 or even 18 months and allow you a chance to rotate through multiple campuses across the globe! Of course, you’d have to be willing to move around every few months…
  • Perhaps you don’t have family obligations or perhaps you’re adventurous and want to travel. If you are flexible about the school’s location, then you might want to try the newer international MBA programs that give you a chance to experience other cultures and learn about global issues that are becoming increasingly more relevant for many industries. These programs tend to last anywhere from 13 to 15 to 18 months. Go ye forth into the world!

Regardless of which program you decide to pursue, keep in mind that the curriculum for any graduate-level business school program is rigorous and designed to prop you up as a global business leader. Accordingly, make sure you’re fully committed and have the time and energy to undertake this full-time venture.

We’ll see you again for the next part of our MBA Admissions series, “How can I apply to an MBA program?” In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop us a comment down below, email us at edit@wordvice.com or reach out through our Contact Us page.

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