Online, full-time, part-time or executive MBA?

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Young professional considering business school options.

When you know there’s a Master of Business Administration in your future, you can choose between online and campus-based program options, weigh the part-time vs. full-time MBA debate and even consider an executive MBA program.

Many business schools, including the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, offer all of these MBA formats, tailoring the program to meet various student needs. To help you decide which path is right for you, here’s a look at the different types of MBA programs you can choose.

The online MBA program

Distance learning allows students to complete their MBA online rather than attending classes on campus. Many online programs offer a combination of asynchronous learning and synchronous classes, made possible by interactive digital learning tools.

Rather than planning their days around class meetings, online MBA students can create schedules that work with their professional and personal commitments. The Smith School of Business also offers three online start dates throughout the year.

Most online MBA courses provide the same academic rigor as their on-campus counterparts, attracting the same level of professionals from various industries and academic backgrounds. However, online programs often draw more international students who aren’t able to relocate. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for online MBA students to have more work experience than on-campus students because established professionals are more likely to pursue a degree while maintaining their current position. The average Smith Online MBA applicant, for instance, has a little under 10 years of professional experience.

The benefits of this distance learning include:

  • Complete courses when and where is most convenient
  • Continue working while pursuing the degree
  • Apply new skills and knowledge in the workplace immediately
  • Network with peers from all over the world
  • Enhance digital communication skills

The full-time MBA program

Characterized by intense workloads and valuable networking opportunities, full-time MBA programs generally take two years to complete. Students attend classes during the week, which means full-time MBA programs are ideal for business professionals who can forgo employment for a couple of years.

While some online programs offer full-time workloads, students generally choose full-time programs because they want the campus experience. Full-time Smith students generally have five years of work experience before applying, and a third of the student pool has an undergraduate degree in business.

The advantages of a full-time MBA program include:

  • Dive into an immersive academic experience
  • Complete your degree quickly
  • Connect with faculty and peers in person
  • Access campus resources
  • Attend campus events

The part-time MBA program

The part-time format gives students the opportunity to pursue an MBA at a slower, more flexible pace. The Smith part-time program offers even more flexibility, allowing students to choose from multiple campus locations and course formats and customize the curriculum based on their career objectives.

These programs often attract professionals with undergraduate degrees in business and at least a few years of work experience who want to complement their career advancement with advanced education. What’s more, some employers will provide tuition assistance for employees who are pursuing an advanced degree while working at the company.

Part-time MBA programs offer perks, such as:

  • Enjoy a more flexible schedule
  • Maintain income while attending business school
  • Apply curriculum concepts in the workplace
  • Access campus resources
  • Enhance professional network

The executive MBA program

Designed for more established business professionals, EMBA programs prepare students for high-level leadership positions. They generally require applicants to have an average of 10 years of professional experience, including a few years in a managerial role. For instance, most EMBA candidates at the Smith School of Business are executives with an average of 15 years of progressive professional experience and at least three years in a managerial position.

Classes are generally held on campus once or twice a week and sometimes on weekends. Some programs also require students to complete residences before graduating. As such, candidates can generally maintain their professional positions while pursuing an advanced degree. Additionally, EMBA students or their employers generally cover the tuition costs, with few scholarships or financial aid programs available.

The distinctive benefits of an executive MBA program include:

  • Prepare for leadership roles
  • Build executive competency
  • Develop critical thinking approaches to business
  • Network with established professionals
  • Access campus resources

Making your choice

There are several factors that can point to the right program for you. Keep these considerations in mind as you weigh your decision:

  • Professional commitments: Determine whether you want to continue working while pursuing your degree, or if you’d rather dedicate all of your time to your studies.
  • Personal commitments: If you aren’t in a position to relocate for business school, your best options will either be online learning or local on-campus programs.
  • Timeframe: Consider when you would like to complete your degree, as this may help you choose a program with the right pace.
  • Learning style: Make sure you choose a program that complements your study habits and learning abilities, such as on-campus vs. online classroom environments.
  • Eligibility: Determine which program is right for your background and work experience. For instance, executive MBA programs generally have more robust requirements than traditional degree programs.
  • Cost: Consider when tuition will be due. Part-time courses include smaller payments spanning a longer period of time, while full-time programs require steeper upfront costs.

The Smith School of Business offers all of these MBA programs, with all but the executive MBA available online. If the flexibility and convenience of online learning address your study needs and preferences, connect with an advisor to learn more about enrolling in the Smith Online MBA program.


Recommended Readings:

The specializations you can pursue with a University of Maryland Online MBA degree

Why an MBA is still the best investment you will ever make



The Princeton Review, Part time MBA vs Full Time MBA programs

University of Maryland: Robert H. Smith School of Business, Online Master of Business Administration