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Part-time MBA vs Executive MBA (EMBA) vs Full-time MBA: Which is better?

Part-time MBA vs Executive MBA (EMBA) vs Full-time MBA

MBA is one of the rare professional degrees that is available to anyone and everyone at any stage of their career. Whether one is looking to attain leadership, management, investment training to enhance her existing career or shift into a new career track altogether.

An MBA in its various avatars can serve the purpose beautifully, as long as the fit is strategically planned. And each of these avatars – a Full Time MBA, a Part Time MBA, or an Executive MBA (not to be confused with MBA for Executives) – has its place in this career planning.

Read Types of MBA Programs

So, what would you choose to fit in your MBA plan?
Why do you want an MBA?
At what stage do you want an MBA in your career?
Can you afford an MBA – whether time or money?
And what do you want to do after an MBA?

These are not mutually exclusive questions really. If you are planning for an MBA, these questions will all play a crucial role. And so, will the choice between the different types of MBA.

Let’s find out when and why one would be preferred over the other.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of Part-time MBA vs Executive MBA vs a Full-time MBA? (Read MBA or Executive MBA: Which is better?)

Part-time MBA vs Executive MBA (EMBA) vs Full-time MBA

Let us first try to understand what each of the MBA types have to offer.

Full Time MBA

MBA as we understand it in its most conventional format. Typically, a 2-year Master’s degree program, mostly in North America and other parts of the world, it can also be designed within a 1-year scholastic period, as is done in most of Europe.

Students attend rigorous classes full-time on-campus and they are usually residential. MBA programs include classes, workshops, internships, projects and end with a bang and full bank with a career placement organized by the business school in collaboration with various recruiters.

Students are usually early in their careers, with a work experience of typically 4-5 years and are in the age group of under 30. Though older students are not unheard of.

In some full-time MBA programs such as in Asia (IIMs), students often go in fresh out of their undergraduate program without wetting their feet in any job.

Though most GMAT based international MBA programs do need work experience and that plays a crucial role in the intensely competitive admission system that MBA is known for.

Read Best Full-Time MBA Programs

Part-Time MBA

In course content, a part-time MBA is identical to a full-time program. Barring the internship or other frills enjoyed within a residential format. Instead part-time MBA offers the flexibility that so many working professionals yearn for. A chance to pursue a degree without the full-time commitment.

Students, here too, are essentially similar in age and work background as full-time MBA candidates. The entry criteria too is similar, probably less competitive and the period of completion can vary from 2 to sometimes even 5 years.

The flexibility offers the part=time program candidates to orient the courses suiting their needs. Thus, the time can be fluid too. Also, to keep in mind is that a lot of the top b-schools don’t offer a part-time option.

Read Best Part-Time MBA Programs

Executive MBA (EMBA)

Also offered in a part-time format, an EMBA is as the name suggests – an MBA that leads to higher executive roles.

Typical student cohort comprises middle management professionals who want to escalate their career growth to senior executive management. Courses are similar in nature to full-time MBA courses with a focus on leadership.

EMBA programs are also held on campus but are designed to fit around the busy work schedules of the candidates who are usually well over their 30s and have 10 plus years of employment experience.

The entry criteria is far less competitive than full-time MBA programs and GMAT can often be circumvented by Executive Assessment.

Employer approval, however, is often warranted, and for the same reason, EMBA candidates are not eligible for campus placement offers. Although, many have been known to have been headhunted upon completion of the degree to bigger better offers from recruiters.

Read Best Executive MBA Programs

Pros and Cons of a Full-Time vs Part-Time vs Executive MBA

Choices can also lead to confusion. Which among these three MBA types would suit your needs?

The response is the famously vague and subjective it depends. But here are a few questions to ask yourself before you catch the next train to MBA land.

Why do you want an MBA?

The motivation driving an MBA pursuit is also the force that drives the decision between the MBA types.

Are you looking to change your career track? Or are you going to use the MBA to improve your professional standing and credibility?

Will your MBA degree help you fill the gaps that you see in your professional training or will it set the foundation of a training that you have never had?

Here are some insights and differences between the MBA types pertinent to these questions.

Why MBA? Full Time MBA Part Time MBA Executive MBA
Course outcome – Helps lay the foundation of business education and leadership training for an enhanced career or change in career track.

– Students typically lack leadership experience but have the potential.

– Helps lay the foundation of business education and leadership training for an enhanced career or change in career track

– Students typically lack leadership experience but have the potential.

– For middle management with enough (10+ years) experience to expand and grow current career. Career change is an unlikely outcome.

– Students have the leadership experience that needs enhancement for senior executive roles.

Networking Opportunity – It provides peer to peer interaction, in and out of class within the residential structure.

– Networking with peers and business leaders is part of the program.

– Networking is limited due to the flexibility of the program.

– Peer interaction is also sparse and usually limited to classroom environment.

– Networking limited to classroom due to the non-residential nature of the program.
Real world training – Internships provide real world training opportunity.

– Workshops and international trips, exchange visits also help grow network.

– Internships and international trips are usually not available since candidates are working professionals.

– Real world application and training is practised in existing employment.

– No internships since EMBA candidates need employer approval to pursue EMBA.

– Real world application and training is practised in existing employment.

Career change Career change is a viable possibility in a Full-Time MBA program with the advantage of career placement with on campus recruiters

Career change is a limited possibility in a Part-Time MBA program in the absence of on campus recruitment Employer approval for EMBA admission rules out career change upon completion.
Career Placement – Excellent employment statistics, usually in top b-schools, with recruiters from around the world.

– The typically competitive admission process helps recruiters assess strong candidates for employment.

– No career placement available since students are already employed.

– The lack of intense admission scrutiny among part-time MBA applicants as compared to full-time may be a deterrent factor to some recruiters.

– Also lack of internship limits the possibility of investment banking, finance and wealth management sectors that rely on interns training to become full-time employees

No career placement available since students are already employed.
Personal, Professional and Financial Reward (GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey) Personally Rewarding: 95%

Professionally Rewarding: 91%

Financially Rewarding: 79%

Personally Rewarding: 94%

Professionally Rewarding: 87%

Financially Rewarding: 69%

Personally Rewarding: 96%

Professionally Rewarding: 89%

Financially Rewarding: 68%

Satisfaction with business management degree (GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey) 75% completely satisfied with the outcome 70% completely satisfied with the outcome 77% completely satisfied with the outcome

The distinct career advantages of each MBA type indicate that Full-Time MBA programs increase earning power according to alumni who responded to the 2018 GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey.

Whereas Part-Time and Executive MBA alumni agree that their degrees helped them attain leadership positions.

Across the border though there is strong consensus on all MBA types preparing students for their chosen career, developing a solid network, kick starting a rapid growth in career, improving the ability to work among a diverse group of people as well as flourishing in positions abroad.

What is difference in class profile and admission stats?


Class Profile Full Time MBA Part Time MBA Executive MBA
Average age and work experience Typically, in their 20s with 4-5 years of work experience.

Average age at top b-schools ~ 28 years

In part-time MBA, the average age and work experience is higher.

Average age ~ 30

Average work experience ~ 6-7 years

Middle management professionals with 10+ years of management experience. Typically, they are in their late 30s or 40s.
Acceptance Rate Top b-schools can be notoriously competitive with an average of acceptance rate in 20% or less. Some are even less than 10%.

Class size ~ 250 to 900

A significant number of top b-schools don’t offer a part-time option (e.g. Harvard, MIT, Wharton). For others that do, the acceptance rates are well over 50%.

Class size ~ 200 to 500

Acceptance rates are much higher > 60%.

Class sizes are much smaller ~ 100.

GMAT requirement Top b-schools have average class GMAT in the range 720+. E.g. Chicago Booth Full Time Class GMAT ~730. Part-Time MBA GMAT requirement is usually 50+ points relaxed than full-time. E.g. Chicago Booth PT MBA GMAT ~ 680. Often not required and can be substituted with an Executive Assessment, if at all.


What is the difference in affordability and time management?

The greatest difference between a full-time, part-time and an EMBA is the schedule. Although a full-time program demands full commitment and hence a career break to pursue the MBA degree, it still doesn’t demand as much time management tricks that part-time students have to employ.

Part-time, or even EMBA, grads have to juggle their classes with their ongoing professional commitments. Personal life also keeps the pressure on as most of such candidates are over 30 and have families as well.

However, part-time or EMBA students can often pause their courses to fulfil work life demands. Also, advantageous to them is the lack of any career break. This reduces the opportunity cost of getting the MBA degree significantly.

Full-time MBA can cost a pretty penny (>$100,000) and while loans/scholarships are available, the final debt upon graduation definitely mellows the celebration of success.

In part-time, tuition can be similar if not less. However, the candidates have a steady flow of income throughout to keep the bank green.

EMBA graduates, on the other hand, also have the added advantage of often getting company sponsorships that make for a sweet deal despite the often $200,000 plus tuition price tag.
In the end, it boils down to the why MBA introspection and what is your current financial, professional, and personal situation. And how would an MBA, and its particular type, help you attain your career goals.

Drop us a line at info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com for professional help for your MBA plans or for general (non-MBA) mid-career counselling for experienced people.

As you ponder, here are some useful related links to browse.

Is an MBA worth it?
Is a part-time MBA worth it?
Is an Executive MBA worth it?
Executive MBA salaries in USA, Canada, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia

And here are some testimonies from MBA candidates in part-time and EMBA.

Getting into the best part-time MBA in California – Berkeley Haas and UCLA Anderson
Pursuing EMBA in India with scholarship
Flex MBA vs Full Time MBA
Sources: 1, 2

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