Welp this was supposed to go live on Friday. Ooops.
We reported last week how Chicago Booth assured a prospective applicant to their Weekends MBA program that recruiters see a part-time MBA the same as a full-time program, and we promised further discussion. If you have comments or questions to ask about part-time vs full-time MBAs, risks and opportunities and challenges and advantages, please lay them on us! We may be continuing this for a few more days into next week.
First, if you don’t believe us on the relative ease of admission to a part-time program compared to full-time, we invite you to attend an admissions event or go talk to admissions people at both flavors of program and find out for yourself! Admissions directors at all programs will always (always!) encourage you to apply. That’s their job, and they are incentivized to have more candidates submit applications. However, the perennial question that many BSers ask — “What are my chances?” — will be met with a cagey “We need to see your app” type of response when it’s served up to an admissions rep from a full-time MBA program. That’s not what you’re likely to experience when you ask such questions of a part-time adcom member.
Here’s an example, again from a part-time MBA online chat:
BSer: Would it be possible to furnish the acceptance rate for the weekend program?
Adcom: [BSer], we do not publish our acceptance rates, as it varies from quarter to quarter. We encourage you not to worry.
“We encourage you not to worry”???? WOW!
It’s not like they’ll accept anyone with a pulse who applies, but the barriers to entry are simply not there with a part-time MBA the way they are with a full-time program.
And it makes sense, right? For a full-time MBA, there are gobs more people who are willing to quit their job (o, the sacrifice!!) and move to a new city (dang! how awful!) and spend two years
partying studying to improve themselves in order to be spit out into a fancy high-paying new job.
Does that happen with the part-time programs?
Well, no, not really.
Yes, you should expect to command the same type of exit salary from a part-time MBA at a top tier school as you would from a full-time program.
But just as is embedded in the question we quoted in the prior post the recruiting situation for part-time MBA students is simply not the same as it is for the full-time cohort.
Heck, some top bschools didn’t even allow their part-timers to go through the on-campus recruiting process and interviewing that their full-time students do (this may be changing in the modern era but it’s definitely something important for you to ask about before you commit to a particular program!). An example of a school that includes all students from all programs in interviewing opportunities, there’s Darden who is part of a collaboration of schools offering Interview Forums for their students to meet with employers in major cities . You would still need to take the day off work and travel to that city in order to participate, so there may be other barriers that make it impossible for you to take advantage of it, but at least they make those opportunities open to all of their students (in this case, that means executive MBA students, as Darden does not offer a part-time MBA).
But not all schools do this, so it needs to be one of your points of research.
Given that, what’s our scoresheet look like so far?
The Part-Time MBA Option
Way easier to get into
Comparable perception by recruiters
The same-exact degree – an MBA is an MBA
Limited on-campus recruiting
Really stressful life for 2+ years
Remember, the greatest impact that the MBA will have is on your first post-MBA job. If you’re a part-time student, when will you be making that big jump? What resources will you leverage to do it? Mapping these out before you get too far into the process is a good idea. As part of that project, be sure to ask your school’s part-time admissions office lots of questions. Are your assumptions about what role you’ll be qualified for realistic? What will be a reasonable starting salary for that target? It should be in the ballpark of what a full-time student landing that role would get, but when you’re outside the standard funnel, then YMMV*. Specifically, a hefty signing bonus may or may not be part of the package if you’re recruiting outside of a firm’s standard processes — in a tight labor market such as we’re now in, then they’ll likely be including something, but it’s hard to say if that’ll be the same as what a typical hire would be getting coming out of a full-time MBA program. So these are questions to be asking.
Your first post-MBA salary will set you up on an earnings trajectory for the rest of your career. Since most people are interested in the MBA in order to earn more money, you’ll want to be sure you’re maximizing your ability to make a big jump from pre-MBA to post-. If that first job post-MBA does not provide for a big earnings jump, you’re not getting the same ROI on the cost of the education, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recoup that missed jump at any time again.
In addition, take a hard look at the opportunity costs, which go in both directions. In case you’ve forgotten your Econ 101 from college, an opportunity cost is what you forego when you take one option instead of another. In the case of doing a full-time MBA, the opportunity cost might be the chance to get promoted in your current firm, and the lack of salary over the course of the MBA (this is the simplistic version obviously). For the part-time MBA, you get to keep your salary which is attractive for sure, but what would you be missing out if you did a full-time MBA instead? One example is the international experiences that most bschools have as part of their full-time tracks, either as a requirement to fulfill for graduation, or just with all the projects and initiatives that are happening as part of the MBA experience. We don’t know of any part-time programs that will accommodate a semester-abroad such as some schools like Wharton and INSEAD have with partner schools in other countries. So these are all questions to ask yourself. The part-time and the full-time MBA both have their own advantages, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re investigating the full spectrum of advantages that you’re skipping out on by taking the other option.
Obviously this all may be moot; if you’ve been unable to break into a full-time program and you really really want an MBA, and there’s a school reasonably close by to you that has a part-time track, then it makes sense to pursue it — especially if you’re moving too far to the upper edges of the work experience range for the top full-time programs.
Just make sure you’re going into it with a full assessment of the entire landscape. Your own pros/cons list will be personal to you, since what you value or prioritize will be different from the next person’s. Examine the non-obvious factors, too, and question your assumptions. Then go ask questions of everyone you know, to make sure that this decision is sound.
For more ideas on calculating the ROI of an MBA, see this helpful post from UC Berkeley .
*YMMV = “your miles may vary” which is another way of saying, who knows if that will be true for any one individual.