One-Year or Two-Year MBA?

Similarities and Differences

B-schools offering the traditional two-year degrees say there are advantages in longer programmes because students can try out a new profession during summer placements. Those offering one-year programmes say the format is an accelerated option for students who have clear career goals. Which one is the right match for you?

Complete dedication in either case

A full-time MBA programme would require you to dedicate yourself totally to your duties as a student during the whole tenure of the programme. This is valid for the two sub-formats of the fulltime programmes: the two-year and the one-year format. In both cases, the programme is designed for students who want to change their career path, work abroad or start their own business. The programme prepares future leaders to meet the rising challenges of the corporate world; challenges that outline the trends in the global business development processes. The courses in the two-year full-time MBA programme are spread over two academic years, providing students with a more theoretical knowledge- base in addition to the practical knowledge gained through a placement. The one-year full-time MBA is more dynamic and intense than the two-year format. Complete dedication and commitment is required from its students, as the one-year course provides everything but the placement within one academic year that the two-year format offers within a two-year period.

The two-year MBA

The typical MBA programme is delivered in the two-year format. Students choosing the traditional format have a richer college experience, and have longer access to an academic environment, network options and interaction with students and professors. By choosing this format, they go deeper into the MBA experience as a whole. The advantage of enrolling in a two-year Full-time MBA programme is that students can take the time to focus on their studies without distractions and they are educated to look at the complete picture of business from the start. There are employers who appreciate this and recruit exclusively amongst two-year full-time MBA graduates. Such graduates are usually very motivated to excel in a company and re-energise the teams they join. They are a great choice for management fast-track programmes, entry-level consulting jobs, or any other graduate-level job in business. The two-year format is not as intense as the one-year format, and offers a wide range of electives, placements and study trips which allow students to focus more precisely on the studies. That is why many of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. stick to the traditional format.

The one-year MBA

Unlike the U.S., in Europe the one-year format is common and there are far more opportunities for quick MBAs at a prestigious school. In fact, almost all European schools offer the shorter MBA format. The list is long and includes Cass Business School, Warwick Business School and Lancaster University Management School in the UK; INSEAD Business School and IE Business School in Spain; Bocconi University in Italy, etc. The list of U.S. schools offering one-year MBAs is shorter and includes Cornell University's Johnson School of Business, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Kellogg, Emory University's Goizueta School, USC Marshall and Boston University, among others. Hult International Business School also appears on the list. The school claims that its one-year MBA programme is the world's first to have been designed by business leaders. The programme addresses feedback from leading CEOs and employers on the effectiveness of the standard MBA curriculum, fully integrating the teaching of interpersonal soft skills and practical business application. The programme is delivered at three of the school's six locations globally. You can start your studies in London and then spend time in Shanghai and New York before graduating with all classmates at the school's Global MBA Summit in Davos, Switzerland.

The flexible formats

Due to changing economic realities, many schools have adopted a flexible approach regarding the format of their MBA programmes. ESADE Business School, which has its campus in Barcelona, offers its MBA programme with a flexible structure – 15 or 18 months with the option to fast-track in 12 months. The programme has specific tracks for students who want to focus on a career in finance, family business innovation and entrepreneurship, Latin America and marketing. "So far, my one year and three months at ESADE has been really productive and enriching. Not only because of my amazing experience at Adidas Group, where I worked as a trainee in the Global Operations – Strategy department; or because I was the Sports Business Club President, where we organised many different events and activities for the club members; but also because I met a lot of people from different parts of the world, worked with them and understood their culture and ways of working a bit better", says Pere Ruis, MBA Class 2013. IE Business School, one of Europe's most prestigious schools, is another example of how European schools have developed the traditional two year programme. Bloomberg Businessweek says its 13-month International MBA programme has the "most innovative curriculum" of any MBA programme. The programme combines entrepreneurship, diversity and the humanities with a unique focus on social responsibility. The school also offers a 10-month IESMU MBA programme that is a joint initiative of the school and Singapore Management University. The programme offers insights into Asia Pacific markets, business strategies and management cultures, and combines the best of theory and practice by allowing students to test out newly learnt concepts, skills and management techniques in business case analyses, simulated environments, and faculty guided, cross-functional, real-life projects.

Both formats have pros and cons

The benefits of the one-year programme can be easily seen. It allows those who have clear career goals and who are in a hurry to grow in the corporate world and to do it as fast as possible. "In addition to the traditional two-year MBA, we also offer a one-Year programme as an accelerated option for students who have clear career goals and an undergraduate degree in business", says Elizabeth Ziegler, Associate Dean of MBA Programmes and Dean of Students at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. "It is sometimes easier to get into oneyear programmes if you are set to return to a family business or to your current company after completing your studies […] This is so because one-year programmes do not offer a summer placement (or alternatively, offer a brief one)", says MBA admission consultant, Brian. Apart from this unarguable advantage, there is another plus point of the one-year format: costs – including tuitions and fees, accommodation and travelling – are half those of the two-year programme. Another advantage is that getting the degree in half the time keeps you closer to the labour market. Schools report that despite the shortened academic experience, starting salaries paid to one-year and two-year MBA graduates are the same. This makes the return on investment faster in the one-year format. Of course, the one-year programme has its price. Those who choose the one-year format have to make some sacrifices. The programme is very intense and there is no time for extra-curricular activities. This means that from a social standpoint, the one-year MBA offers more limited networking opportunities as compared to the two-year programme, because time spent in B-school is less and access to an academic environment is more limited. In contrast, the two year programme allows students to build a large network through attendance in classes and participation in projects with other students. In general, the formats have no huge differences in terms of programme content. Admission requirements are also similar. The degree is the MBA. The main difference is the time you have to relax and be part of real life outside academic venues. Unlike in the one-year format, in the two-year format students have more time for extracurricular and social activities, as well as more time in summer placement that is becoming a key prerequisite for finding a job. That makes the two-year MBA programme a good option for younger students, while the one-year programme is a better choice for more mature people who want faster entry or a faster climb up the corporate ladder.

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