Is a Part-Time MBA Worth It?

A primary reason to go to school part-time might be to avoid what are referred to as the opportunity costs of leaving the workforce for two full years. Giving up work to attend school full-time can mean more than just a loss of salary. There is also a cost involved in leaving your job and abandoning whatever investment you’ve made in your position. For many ambitious employees, two years out of the workforce is simply too much.

Fortunately, there are many excellent part-time MBA programs that might mitigate this problem. Part-time programs are designed for those individuals who want (or need) to work full-time while earning their degrees, or for students who have other commitments such as families to care for. In a part-time program, you can keep your day job and advance your career simultaneously.

Since it is common for business professionals to enter the workforce first and pursue their master’s degrees years later, there are plenty of part-time options on the MBA landscape. Part-time MBA programs allow for flexible scheduling while earning the degree. Students can proceed at their own pace, and can continue fulfilling the obligations of their day jobs.

For many MBA hopefuls, an online format may also be appealing. The convenience of an online MBA allows students to better manage the rigors of business school study. Plus, the lower tuition offered by most online programs makes these MBAs that much more affordable. There are many other advantages to pursuing an online, part-time degree — including not having to travel to take classes.

That said, like everything in life and education, there are pros and cons to any path you choose.

Here are 8 advantages to earning your MBA part-time or online:

  1. You can proceed at your own pace. If your job is demanding, or your home life requires you be present, going part-time will allow you to advance your education without jeopardizing other commitments.
  2. You don’t have to uproot your life and relocate. Whether you choose an online option or a nearby brick and mortar part-time program, you can access a top-notch education without disrupting your current life.
  3. Your employer may reimburse you for your part-time study. Many companies offer employees tuition reimbursement for college and graduate study. Depending on your company benefits, going part time may make you eligible for those funds.
  4. Classes are typically offered year round. Working through the summer will accelerate your course of study, making a part-time option very efficient.
  5. Earning your MBA while keeping your job will allow you to immediately apply what you’ve learned in your workplace.
  6. Depending on where you live, your local part-time MBA program might be a regional powerhouse, and might offer networking opportunities and connections to nearby employers.
  7. In most part-time or online programs, you can skip a semester or take time off without any penalty. If your work/life balance becomes too difficult, or if your job responsibilities suddenly require more of you, you will be able to leave and re-enter as a part-timer.
  8. Courses may cost less in these MBA programs.

And here are 5 disadvantages to part-time or online MBAs:

  1. It will most likely take you much longer to earn the degree.
  2. You may feel as though you are missing out on the full-time, on-campus experience.
  3. Juggling a job and part-time MBA study can leave you feeling exhausted.
  4. There will be fewer in-person bonding and networking opportunities.
  5. Depending on the program, full-time students may be favored for certain courses or experiences.

The Takeaway

Most decisions in life require some form of compromise. There are definitely trade-offs in choosing a part-time MBA over a full-time program. But there are many advantages as well.

As we said, one unbeatable advantage of a part-time or online MBA is that you may be able to benefit from your employer’s tuition reimbursement program. Another is that you will be able to continue working full-time, and will not lose momentum in your current job.

What do you hope the MBA will do for you? If you are looking for the degree to develop your skill set and build your credibility, then a part-time program is a perfect fit. If attending an elite school and having the whole campus experience is on your radar, then a part-time option may leave you feeling like you missed out.

Nedda
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.