Part-Time Vs Executive MBA
Comparing the Part-Time MBA and the Executive MBA (EMBA)
There are many reasons that a full-time MBA might not be right for you. A full-time MBA requires you to leave work fully for one or two years, which is a huge commitment.
But that doesn't mean you have to give up on your dream of getting an MBA. The Part-Time MBA and the Executive MBA (EMBA) both offer you the chance to pursue an MBA without having to commit full-time.
But which is right for you?
This depends mainly on what stage of your career you are at; Part-Time MBA candidates usually have 6-7 years' work experience, while EMBA candidates have an average of 14 years' work experience.
The main similarity between the two types of program is of course that neither expects you to quit your current job.
Let’s go through the details of each type of program.
The Part-Time MBA
In terms of the actual course material, a part-time MBA is almost identical to a full-time MBA. It is simply spread out over a longer period of time, providing flexibility so that professionals are able to work the course content into their busy schedules. It is important to bear in mind, however, that not all MBA programs offer a part-time MBA option.
1. Differences in candidates in a Part-Time MBA vs. Full-Time MBA
In principle, there are no real differences between the candidates for a Part-Time or a Full-Time MBA. Both programs require similar amounts of work experience (average five years for Full-Time MBA, 6-7 for Part-Time MBA), the same entrance exams, and similar expected backgrounds and post-MBA goals.
Similarly to a Full-Time MBA, the Part-Time MBA can also be helpful for those looking to pivot their career and who are looking to develop leadership skills, even if their jobs thus far have not been direct leadership roles.
2. Time to Complete a Part-Time MBA vs. Executive MBA
Executive MBA programs are typically two years.
The length of part-time MBA programs varies depending on the school. It can take anywhere from two to five years to complete with the student going to campus to complete various modules.
These modules do require a substantial time commitment and travel to campus and they are designed to fit around a busy schedule.
It is important to note that some schools will be more flexible about the time required to complete the program, potentially allowing pauses for work and life commitments. Check with your target schools to learn more about the specific time commitments required.
3. Networking Possibilities in a part-time MBA vs. full-time MBA
In a Part-Time MBA, networking possibilities are relatively limited compared to a Full-Time MBA. There are of course chances to network during modules and group projects, but much of the shared experience of networking is restricted by the shorter windows of time actually spent on campus.
Also, much of a full-time MBA is spent helping classmates with recruiting, such as for summer internships, which builds camaraderie and hence your network. In contrast, in a part-time MBA not many of your classmates will be actively recruiting, so you miss this opportunity to bond.
Finally, part-time MBA classes tend to be smaller. For example, Chicago Booth’s part-time MBA class of 2024 is 305 students, compared to 621 for the full-time MBA program.
4. Internship Possibilities in a Part-Time MBA
As we touched on above, internship opportunities tend to be more limited in a part-time MBA, given that these candidates already have a job. Instead of applying classroom learnings during internships, part-time candidates are encouraged to apply these in their current roles.
5. Acceptance Rates for Part-Time MBA vs. Full-Time MBA
One benefit, however, is that for many Part-Time MBA programs, the acceptance rate is much higher than for the corresponding Full-Time MBA.
There is an argument to be made that this higher acceptance rate may scare off recruiters who take the higher acceptance rate to mean it’s “easier to get in.” This depends on how a given recruiter chooses to look at the situation, given that the Part-Time MBA cohort will be largely self-selecting and often already on a good career trajectory.
Risks such as this are the price one pays for the lower entry bar and smaller amount of debt coming out of the program.
6. Test Scores for Part-Time MBA
In practice, Part-Time MBA GMAT scores tend to be somewhat lower than Full-Time MBA GMAT scores. While not dramatic, the difference is usually 30-50 points. This is enough to dip the Part-Time GMAT average for some excellent schools below 700. For example, Chicago Booth’s GMAT average for the class of 2024 for the part-time MBA program was 691, compared to 729 for the full-time program.
Similarly, the average GPA of the part-time MBA is 3.4/4.0, compared to 3.6/4.0 for the full time program.
7. Cost of a Part-Time MBA
The cost of a Part-Time MBA will be similar to that of a Full-Time MBA, but amortized over the length of the course. The other advantage, of course, is that the candidate will still be working during the program, which can soften the blow of the hefty price tag.
Scholarships for Part-time MBAs are often less than for those for Full-time MBAs given that the candidate is of course still working. In many cases this seems to be in the range of 15-20% of the total MBA cost. For example, here is Kellogg’s scholarship page for Part-Time MBAs.
Nevertheless, it is worth researching the options available to you. Particularly, try to get scholarship offers from several schools and bid them against each other to increase the scholarship amount.
The Executive MBA
The entry requirements for an EMBA differ significantly from those for a Part-Time or Full-Time MBA.
1. Work Experience for EMBAs
The work experience required for an EMBA is often more than ten years. For example, the average work experience in the 2023 cohort of the MIT Sloan Fellows program is 15 years. Unsurprisingly, this means that EMBA candidates will be in their 30s, 40s, or occasionally even their 50s.
Similar to a Part-Time MBA, it is assumed that the candidate will continue to work while pursuing an EMBA. This means that these courses are, by nature, more flexible than a Full-Time MBA but will require trips to campus.
The timeframe for EMBAs can often be more compressed than for Part-Time MBAs. Courses can be completed in 1-2 years. EMBAs also tend to be somewhat less flexible than Part-Time MBAs in terms of allowing students to pause their programs for outside reasons.
2. Focus on Leadership in EMBAs
Executive MBAs are mid-career options for people who have significantly more experience than those applying for a Full-Time MBA. Given this focus on leadership, EMBA programs also tend to offer fewer electives and less opportunity for academic concentrations than Part-Time MBAs.
Fundamentally, EMBAs build leadership skills for people in mid-level management roles who intend to rise to senior-level management roles. In fact, one of the key admissions criteria for EMBA applicants that we hear from speaking to admissions officers is that qualified candidates for EMBA programs MUST have had formal management experience in the workplace.
3. Networking Opportunities for EMBAs
Since EMBAs are also part time, networking opportunities are arguably limited compared to Full-Time programs. However, since your classmates will be seasoned executives with decades of experience and decision-making capabilities at major companies, the network might be even more valuable.
Just as with a Part-Time MBA, it is important to balance how much time you spend on coursework, networking, professional work, and family. It is entirely possible for the interviewer to ask the candidate about how one might propose balancing time with one’s cohort with all the other commitments.
That said, EMBAs have residential modules rather than the evening and weekend classes of some Part-Time MBAs, which can be helpful for networking opportunities. EMBA students often fly in and out to attend classes; they can be much more international or non-regional when compared to the geographically tight cohorts of Part-Time MBAs.
4. Internship Opportunities for EMBAs
Similar to a Part-Time MBA, EMBAs offer a limited scope of internships. Classroom lessons will be applied in one’s current job context. Furthermore, employer approval requirements within the EMBA program likely rule out any possibility of an internship.
5. Test Scores for EMBAs
EMBA programs place less emphasis on academic achievements than work experience. For example, they keep GRE/GMAT requirements lower than those for Part-Time or Full-Time MBAs. Additionally, many schools now allow EMBA applicants to take the Executive Assessment, an exam published by the makers of the GMAT that is designed to require less preparation time than the normal GMAT.
6. Cost of EMBA
The EMBA can be significantly more expensive than a Part-Time MBA, reaching up to $200,000. Nevertheless, many graduates report a significant ROI on EMBA programs.
And just as with a part-time MBA, candidates will be working while pursuing the degree. Additionally, many companies sponsor their employees to pursue an EMBA, which further reduces the impact of the tuition costs. Some applicants with exceptionally strong profiles may even be able to negotiate a scholarship, although these tend to be smaller than for full-time MBA programs at $10,000-$20,000.
Making the Choice Between a Part-Time MBA and an Executive MBA
Ultimately, the choice comes down primarily to your current level of work experience. If you have under ten years’ work experience, then a Part-Time MBA is a better option. However, it is worth considering whether better networking opportunities and potentially better post-MBA opportunities might make it worth taking the time off from work to pursue a Full-Time MBA.
If you have more than ten years’ work experience, you likely have too much experience to be considered for a standard MBA program. In this case, the EMBA may be your only opportunity to pursue an MBA.
Still unsure about your options for an MBA that isn’t full-time? Book a free 20-minute call here.