Dear Mentor:

What about part-time versus full-time MBA?

I just wanted to know your views on pursuing part-time versus full-time MBA. I work full-time, and I might get tuition reimbursement from my employer should I go for a part-time program.

Venkat, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Dear Venkat:

Let us begin with the end in mind, that is, what you can expect after you finish the MBA degree. Many recruiters believe that a full-time MBA demonstrates a certain level of commitment and motivation to learning and growing that a part-time MBA lacks. Many attractive companies thus restrict their recruitment to full-time MBAs only. Even when the companies are open to recruiting part-time MBAs, many schools exclude part-time MBA students from participating in the on-campus recruiting. The reason often given for such a move is that the education of part-time MBA students is often funded by their employers, and that the school does not want to be an instrument in separating the student from their current employer. These schools believe that the part-time student whose education is funded by the employer ethically owes working for the current employer at least for some time beyond his/her graduation. In a nutshell, some attractive opportunities for employment may not be available to you, should you pursue a part-time program.

The full-time program takes 2 years for completion, while the part-time program may take 3 to 4 years. Full-time students, by the very demands of the program, spend their "life" on campus which imposes close interaction with other students, and that in itself imposes group interactions that are very valuable in learning management skills. Part-time students are often believed to come to campus for classes and restrict their interaction with other students to a minimum, because of the demand imposed by other aspects of life such as employment. Furthermore, full-time students typically would do a summer internship in which they work in an environment totally different from their earlier experiences and thus learn more. You may disagree strongly with all these opinions, but this is the reality.

As far as level of effort, neither approach to the MBA is an easy road. The full-time program is quite demanding, while the part-time program can be even more demanding, if only because of the continuing day job and the full-year schedule, without any breaks through the summers.

Although the cost of tuition is the same, the full-time program is significantly more expensive, since you can not earn substantial amounts during the program. However, the differential in rewards may more than offset the differential in the costs.

In our view, pursuing a full-time MBA program is more desirable than a part-time MBA, both from career and learning stand-points. Whatever your decision, we wish you every success.

Stay tuned to our iMahal Interviews. We will be bringing an interview with a part-time MBA student shortly.

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