MBA Programs for Non-Traditional Students

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer, the Guide to Business School. Karen also writes about online colleges for

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Attending a two-year program is the traditional way to earn an MBA. But two-year programs do not work for everyone. Fortunately, there are many other ways in which today’s non-traditional student can earn an MBA. Some of the best options include:

Online MBA Programs

Online MBA programs are becoming more and more popular among working adults, individuals with families, and other non-traditional students. Commuting is not necessary and classes can be taken whenever it is convenient for the student. The tuition for online programs is also lower in most cases, which is a definite plus for cash-strapped students struggling to afford what is traditionally a very expensive degree. There are many different online institutions that award MBA degrees. A growing number of campus-based business schools have also begun to offer online programs to their students. In most cases, there is very little difference (if any) between the two curriculums or the degree that is awarded. Online program examples:

  • Carnegie Mellon Distance Learning MBA 
  • University of London Distance Learning MBA 
  • Thunderbird Online MBA

Part-Time MBA Programs

Part-time MBA programs were developed many years ago for students who wanted to continue working while they earned their degree. These programs are still popular among non-traditional students because they are more flexible than their full-time counterparts. Most part-time programs hold classes in the evening or on the weekends. Some are specifically designed for fully employed adults. Part-time programs usually take between two years and five years to complete. Although some offer less classes than full-time programs, in most cases, the coursework and the course load is the same. Tuition breaks are almost non-existent. However, it may be possible to receive tuition reimbursement from an employer. Many of the students who attend part-time programs are either sponsored by an employer or reimbursed for a portion of the tuition costs. Part-time program examples:

  • Emory Part-Time MBA 
  • Chicago GSB Part-Time MBA
  • UCLA Fully-Employed MBA

Accelerated MBA Programs

Most MBA programs take approximately two years to complete. Accelerated programs, or one-year programs, as they are sometimes known, require less of a time commitment. They also tend to cost less than traditional two-year programs. Accelerated MBA programs can usually be completed in 12 months or less. Every accelerated program works differently. Some focus exclusively on core business courses and leave little room for specialization. Others offer more of a specialty focus and no core courses. No matter how the program operates, the course load is rigorous. Students in an accelerated program do not receive less education–they simply receive it in a shorter amount of time. Accelerated program examples:

  • Babson One-Year MBA 
  • Cornell Accelerated MBA
  • Kellogg One-Year MBA

Executive MBA Programs

Executive MBA programs are geared toward a specific type of student. Most of the people who attend these programs are mid or senior-level managers who want to expand their current knowledge or climb the corporate ladder. EMBA programs are similar to part-time programs; classes are held on the evenings or weekends to accommodate working students. The average program takes two years to complete and emphasizes group study. Students start classes together, complete the degree requirements as a group, and graduate at the same time. EMBA students are almost always sponsored by their employer, one of the reasons why this type of MBA program is so popular among working adults who want to further their education. Executive MBA program examples:

  • Wharton EMBA
  • Columbia EMBA
  • University of Michigan EMBA