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Full-Time, Part-Time, Online, or Executive: Which MBA Format Is the Right Fit for Me?

Industry Advice Business

Making the decision to pursue your Master of Business Administration is a big decision that has the ability to propel your career forward, or enable you to change the direction of your job. An MBA can open new opportunities to grow in your role and lead the way to a higher salary. In 2016, the average starting salary for an MBA graduate was $105,000—a five percent increase compared to the year before.

Career development isn’t the only reason to pursue an MBA. Feelings of accomplishment and personal satisfaction are often key motivators that contribute to students’ decision-making.

Choosing to earn your MBA through a respected school can support your goal of advancing at work or in your career overall. One of the first choices you will need to make when deciding on a MBA program is what type of format you want to pursue.

There are four main formats for MBA programs:

  • Full-Time MBA
  • Part-Time MBA
  • Executive MBA
  • Online MBA

Every student’s situation is unique—your classmates may be on different tracks, or have different goals and family or financial situations—so there’s no one universally right choice; there’s only the right path for you.

Full-Time MBA

Full-Time MBA programs typically take two years to complete. They’re highly intensive and provide students with opportunities to collaborate on ideas, lead projects, and attend recruiting events with potential employers. A Full-Time MBA, such as the one at Northeastern, offers both strong academic learning and meaningful business experience delivered through a six-month paid corporate residency at one of the business school’s prestigious corporate partners. The program is ideal for professionals who are in a position to take time away from the workforce to pursue an advanced degree.

There are a number of advantages to a Full-Time MBA program:

  • Financial aid opportunities: Typically, more than 90 percent of MBA scholarships go to full-time students, according to Accepted, a graduate school consulting company. This can help offset the cost of tuition significantly.
  • Fast-track to graduation: Part-time programs may take longer than the full-time option. For students who want to earn their degree quickly, the full-time track may be best—particularly if employment at a particular company is dependent upon graduating with an MBA.
  • On-campus recruiting and internships: One of the perks of being committed full-time to the MBA program is that students can take advantage of built-in internship opportunities to expand on their newly acquired knowledge base, as well as take part in career counseling and recruitment services that are easily accessible on-campus.

Part-Time MBA

Part-time programs are more geared toward professionals who have been in the workforce for at least a few years and want to climb the corporate ladder. A Part-Time MBA, such as the one at Northeastern, offers the opportunity to concentrate in one or two areas that build on your strengths and career aspirations. The part-time format is the ideal fit for those who are looking to build on their knowledge base and gain new skills at a flexible pace.

A few advantages of enrolling in a part-time MBA include:

  • Ability to continue working: Since you will only be attending classes on a part-time basis, you may still be able to balance a job with your studies. This also allows you to continue earning an income while enrolled in the program.
  • Flexibility: Since there is a less rigid and time-consuming class schedule, you will have time to dedicate to other aspects of your life, like family obligations.
  • Financial support from employer: Sixty percent of employers offer tuition assistance to their workers who pursue an MBA on a part-time basis while continuing to hold a position at their company.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA option is a part-time program that is targeted at more experienced professionals. Many of the students in EMBA programs are mid-to senior-level managers with an average 10 years of experience. Programs of this caliber equip students with new leadership and critical thinking skills that help them develop their careers further. The benefits of the EMBA program may allow you to:

  • Directly apply key learnings on the job: Similar to the Part-Time MBA, mid-to-senior level management may find it easier to apply new concepts taught in the classroom directly to their workplace, enabling them to learn as they go and excel further in their career.
  • Hone leadership skills: EMBA programs are designed to give professionals the tools they need to manage teams and projects more effectively.
  • Network with powerful peers: Because these MBA programs are built for professionals that are more advanced in their careers, your classmates could have diverse and impressive backgrounds from an array of different industries. Working and interacting with executives skilled and versed in various business areas can open your mind to new opportunities and ways of thinking.

Online MBA

Another MBA option is the 100% Online MBA program, such as that offered at Northeastern University. This program is targeted toward someone who is looking for a world-class education but wants the flexibility to be close to family and their job. Alternatively, you may live nearby but want to complete your coursework at your own pace rather than rearrange your days to suit a class schedule.

The Online MBA option allows students to complete their MBA in the same two-year timeframe without leaving the workforce–essentially providing the best of both the part-time and full-time worlds. Online MBA programs also give students exposure to interactive multimedia tools, which can be a bonus in today’s age of connectivity and remote workers.

Some of the advantages of an Online MBA program include:

  • Flexible schedules: Since courses are available online, you can access them wherever and whenever is most convenient for you.
  • Engagement with online tools: Multimedia tools and interactive classrooms provide students the opportunity to improve their virtual communication skills, increase knowledge retention, and participate in enhanced class discussions through online forums.
  • Networking opportunities with professionals from all over the world: Since online programs can be accessed from almost anywhere, you could have classmates from various regions of the country or world.

Which MBA Program Is Right for You?

After evaluating the four types of MBA formats, it really comes down to personal preference, professional circumstances, and career ambitions. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I afford to study full-time or do I need to continue earning an income while pursing my MBA?
  • Do I need to complete my MBA degree within a set timeframe?
  • What personal commitments do I currently have and how much flexibility do I need in my class schedule?
  • Do I want to study without leaving my current job?
  • Is my plan to switch careers or industries after I complete my MBA?
  • Will I learn better if I am able to apply my learnings into the real world right away?
  • Do I focus better in individual settings or in group environments?
  • Would I prefer to be on-campus frequently for face-to-face interactions?

Depending on how you answer these questions, one MBA format may stand out to you as the right fit, which will enable you to further zero in on the ideal MBA program for you.


To learn more about the MBA options offered at Northeastern University, reach out to an enrollment advisor, who will be able to explain in greater detail what advantages these programs can provide you.