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  • Writer's pictureSam Weeks

Choosing business schools: 1 year vs 2 year

Updated: Feb 1

Choosing the right business school is critical. The school which best 'fits' your profile is likely to look more favourably on your application. Admissions staff are trained to identify genuine passion for their school in your application essays and interviews.

Consider whether you want a 1 year or 2 year MBA experience (or something in between).

Program type (1 year vs 2 years)

An obvious difference between European and US schools is their program lengths. European programs tend to be shorter, often 1 year compared to 2 years in the US. This means they differ dramatically in terms of cost, and also in terms of the type of students they attract.


The average number of years of work experience of US MBA programs is lower and falling. European business schools tend to value more experience. For example INSEAD's class of 2020 had 5.6 years of work experience. The same year at HBS had 4.7 years of experience.


From a professional standpoint, a longer course allows more opportunities for self-discovery through trips, treks, consulting projects and additional electives. More experienced candidates with a clearer goal of their post-MBA goals tend to lean towards 1-year courses.


A longer US MBA will be more expensive. Some of the factors in determining cost are outlined below:

  • Tuition: Fees on an annual basis are very similar. A second year will double your fee bill.

  • Living expenses: Cost of living will vary by location. Some schools offer good-value on-campus accommodation for students, particularly in first year. We’ve used the cost of living estimates given in Oxford and NYU-Stern publications.

  • Trips: You will be presented with opportunities for travel. Whether course-related (such as company visits) or holidays (ski trips), you’ll feel under pressure to participate in these but they are almost always self-funded. Budget for some trips to make the most of your experience and deepen bonds with classmates.

  • Lost income: Don’t forget the lost income while you’re taking 1 or 2 years unpaid leave from the job market. Particularly if you have liabilities such as a mortgage or student debt. On the other hand candidates without a job when applying may choose to discount this.

  • Medical insurance: For US schools in particular, don’t forget medical insurance. UC Berkeley guide to $5,682/year for graduates and each of their dependents (partner, children). This rises by the number of dependents you intend to bring with you. Partners and children will add the same amount each. Therefore a family of 4 going to the US should budget for over $40,000 in medical insurance costs alone.

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