Should I take a Part Time MBA?

For many people who are considering undertaking an MBA, one of the more common questions they face would be the choice between a full time or a part time MBA program. The decision that they ultimately make would depend on several factors - their current and future objectives, their financial state, the perceived benefits and cost of the respective program formats.

The folllowing points are benefits of a part time MBA program:

1) Active application of knowledge
Quickly apply what you learn in school at your workplace - part time MBA students are able to immediately apply their knowledge to their jobs the very next day, this active process makes learning more engaging and involved as students are able to see the tangible results and effects of the business theories and concepts learnt in school.

2) Lower risk and opportunity cost
You don't have to leave your job to pursue a part time MBA, this means that you do not have to be out on a job hunt again, competing tooth and nail with other post graduate degree holders, once you graduate - this significantly lowers opportunity and search costs.

"(MBA degree holders) don't have the confidence their predecessors did that when they get out they can breeze into high-paying jobs that will liquidate the debt in short order. In 2000 Goldman Sachs hired 46 graduates from Columbia Business School. Last year (2005) Goldman took only 18." - Forbes

Staying employed while taking an MBA means that you continued to get salary, you can move ahead in your existing line of work. By the time you graduate, you won't be in debt, and you'd have both an MBA and a considerable number of years of work experience. Win-win-win situation.

"A degree at a top full-time MBA program like the Johnson School at Cornell University costs $71,000 in tuition plus something like $130,000 in forgone compensation." - Forbes

3) Company sponsorship
Some companies are willing to fund their employee's part time MBA course through tuition fee assistance. This is the most ideal situation - you get your regular salary, you pay significantly less for an MBA course, and your company's sponsorship is often an indicator that they intend for you to advance into higher posts, and also that they're seeing you as a long term investment - in other words you've got job security.

While the benefits of a part time MBA program are quite significant, there are some issues that you may want to consider before applying for a part time course:

1) Demanding Schedule
Straddling a full time job and a part time MBA can be an intensive and stressful endeavour. Your classes take place after work - you have to shuttle to and fro from work to school and back home to study - your weekends are burnt because of tutorials or self studying - and you'd have to keep this up for at least 3 years. Some part time students end up failing their modules because they're unable to keep up with the pace  - they might spend more money in repeating modules, or worst, drop out of the course, wasting their time and money.

2) Longer program duration
Usually, part time MBA programs take around 3 years or more to complete, this is in contrast to a two-year full-time program, where more lessons and tutorials can be squeezed into the curriculum.

3) Incomplete program immersion
Part-time MBA students would not have the luxury of making full use of the school's amenities, staying back to study, interacting with the professors regularly, or take part in school activities and events. They also do not have time away from the workplace to evaluate on their thoughts and feelings about how their career is evolving, and assess if they're indeed moving down their desired path.

4) Networking
Outside of your own project group mates, you might not have much opportunity to interact and make new friends in school. Chances are, most of your group mates are busy with their work too, and with differing work schedules and commitment, your group meetings might have to be held remotely also. It's not uncommon for part time MBA students to feel a little distant from school and their peers.
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