The Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) graduate degree is one of the most popular degrees that people choose to complete. A high percentage of graduate students are enrolled in some business field as the returns to the degree are quite high.
An MBA is a degree which focuses on teaching students core business skills so that they can manage existing or new businesses.
In addition, students are allowed to take electives depending on their specialization interests such as in:
- Supply Chain and others
MBA students are diverse in the type of background that they have. A typical MBA class will have several types of students:
- those who have just finished their Bachelor’s Degrees
- people who have been working for a few years and
- long-time professionals with maybe decades of work experience in the private or public sector
This composition and diversity means that different students have different needs not only in terms of what they need to be taught, but also in how long they need to attend school to obtain the degree.
The most common question that students have before starting their degrees is “How long does it take to get an MBA?”
How Long Does It Take To Get An MBA?
People have different reasons as to why they want to know how long it takes them to get their degrees:
- To start their careers
- To not miss a great employment or business opportunity
- Start paying out student loans
There are different types of programs and the MBA length depends on what type you are enrolled in. In general, there are Five main types of MBA programs with different lengths which suit different professionals. The length of these programs typically spans over a range of 1 to 3 or more years, but no more than 6 years.
- Full Time MBA – 2 years
- Part Time MBA – 3 to 6 years
- Executive MBA – 1.5 to 2 years
- Accelerated MBA – 1 to 1.5 years
- Dual MBA – 3 to 5 years
- Online MBA – Flexible length
Full Time MBA
This is the most common type of MBA program. It has a standard length of two full years. It is made up of four semesters, two fall semesters and two spring semesters.
- Fall Semesters begin in late August or early September and end in the middle of December before the holidays
- Spring semesters begin in early or middle of January and end at the end of May or beginning of June
Types of courses in MBA programs
Most MBA programs are made up of two types of courses.
- Core courses – usually required to be taken during the first year to teach basic business skills
- Elective courses – most often taken in the second year of the MBA to specialize in one or two fields
The curriculum for the first year is usually set for students and they know what courses they are supposed to take. The second year gives space for students to concentrate in any one or two fields which they are most interested in. It provides more flexibility many electives which students can choose depending on what they are specializing in.
The second year might also require students to do a final project for graduation in the form of a:
- Capstone Project
Most MBA programs require capstone projects where students come up with business ideas or take an existing business and apply the concepts they have learned during their studies to solve problems and improve profitability. At the end of the capstone there are official presentations where the MBA candidates are evaluated by a panel of professors and industry experts. The capstone is usually completed in the spring semester of the second year.
What do to during the summer break of MBA studies?
In between the first and the second year, MBA students get a summer break. During this time they can choose to relax, but most of them choose to engage in different activities such as
- Internships in different companies or non-profit organizations which are relevant to their studies
- Personal projects
- Assist professors in research
The summer break is valuable time which students can use to make more connections and if they are successful in their internships, even get offers for full time work after graduation.
So for the full time study, the MBA length is two years with many courses and activities in between.
Part Time MBA
Not all MBA students want to do the full time MBA. This can happen because of several reasons:
- work or family obligations that leave little time to study
- not enough funds to afford the full time MBA program immediately
So how long does it take to get an MBA part time?
The part time MBA has a span of 3 to 6 years, with students not being allowed to take more than 6 years to graduate. The course load is usually lighter with a minimum of three to six credits required to be completed per semester depending on the institution.
Students are first required to complete their core courses and then start taking the electives. The part time MBA is a flexible program which gives students the ability to choose courses which they think they can handle and complete for each semester.
The classes are held in evenings or weekends, depending on the class requirements. The students of a class get to choose when to hold lectures based on the work and other obligations that they have during the day. Some business schools might hold classes one weekend per month. On these weekends, students hold classes the whole two days.
- On Saturday they have theoretical lectures and seminars
- On Sunday, they work in groups, do projects, and get assignments for next month’s classes
If part time students want to complete the program in less time, they have the opportunity to shorten the MBA length. This is due to a new structure that some business schools are adopting to allow part time students to finish studies in a shorter timespan. This new structure has a trimester organization. This means that instead of the two semesters per academic year, there are three semesters.
The trimester structure is more intense since students have fewer breaks and the courses are crammed in fewer weeks than the usual two semester programs. It is also more expensive, but it gives part time students the opportunity to get the MBA degree in two or more years.
Executive MBA (EMBA)
The Executive MBA or EMBA program is similar to the full time MBA. It is similar in regards to the length since it usually takes one and half to two years to complete. However, the curriculum and the content of the classes are quite different from the full time MBA.
An EMBA is targeted for students who already have considerable experience in business. These are existing managers or supervisors who have already been in the industry for years or decades and want to learn better and more practical skills to apply to their businesses.
Because of this, the classes are taught in more advanced levels with no need to go over the basic skills since the students already have them. In addition, since most of the students are working professionals they demand more flexibility. Universities have adapted to them and so EMBA classes are held either in evenings of weekends for two years until the students graduate.
For students who want to complete their MBA degrees in less time than the other options, an Accelerated MBA gives them the opportunity to do that. The MBA length for an Accelerated program is between one and one and a half year.
The Accelerated MBA is one of the most intense programs with students having classes in different schedules that might not be university standard. There are few breaks of only one week for the winter break and no summer break because students might be required to take classes the entire summer.
The Accelerated MBA gives the full time MBA experience in a shorter time. The structure is the same with core courses given first and then electives. The students enrolled in these programs are highly qualified and committed to completing the MBA program within the shortened timespan.
For the ambitious students who want to get two degrees the Dual MBA is created for them. These students choose to do an MBA and get another degree in a different field such as:
- Public Policy
- Computer Science
- Other topics
The degree in addition to the MBA can be a undergraduate or graduate degree.
If the students are undergraduate, they complete three years of their Bachelor’s Degree and then during their senior year, they start taking MBA classes. The course load is quite heavy, but undergraduate students can graduate in five years with a Bachelor’s and an MBA degree.
For the students who have the MBA and another graduate degree, they take graduate courses for both degrees. They have the opportunity to finish both degrees and the MBA length is from three to five years, depending on the number of courses they take and their other obligations.
For both undergraduate and graduate Dual MBA students, the core courses are first required and then they can take electives. Different schools have different requirements, so it is best to first check with the university for any details specific to their Dual MBA degrees.
Online MBA (iMBA)
Each type of MBA mentioned above can also be completed online as distance learning. Universities offer the full time, part time, executive, and accelerated MBA degrees online too. As for the Dual MBA, universities have different rules, so you might want to check with them for the details.
The only difference between the classes taught on campus and the online ones is that they are given in virtual platforms over the internet.
The length of the programs will be the same; however, students will not get the same experience as those in campus do. The online MBA is mostly directed towards people who have work or family obligations or live in a different location from the university.
A word of caution for online programs is that you have to ensure that they are properly accredited. Many online programs make fraudulent claims to get students to enroll and pay them, but the students get no value from them. So the best way is to go to the program’s website or the accreditation authority and check the school’s credentials.