The MBA is probably the business study programme delivered in the widest variety of formats. Traditionally a two-year programme, the course is now delivered also in shorter and more flexible formats. With the latest developments in technology, B-schools are becoming more and more innovative in delivering programmes that are completely tailored to the personal needs and learning goals of its students. Explore the options and opt in where you will thrive.

Fully immerse yourself in the MBA experience for a career change

Full-time MBA programmes are the top preference of career changers – the young professionals who aim to switch to a new field, industry or region. The full-time MBA is the most immersive MBA experience, in which students attend class full-time. Participants typically take four or five classes per semester and complete the degree in 10 to 24 months. Most European full-time MBA programmes last between 10 and 12 months, whereas traditionally, US full-time MBA programmes take two years to complete. Personal goals, preferences, and budget define the best fit.

One-year full-time

Those who enrol in such programmes spend up to a year off work gaining the specialised knowledge needed for a career in their targeted business area. That makes the programme attractive for those who do not want to be off the labour force for too long. Its shorter length means its cost is more bearable – debt costs and living expenses for the period of study in a new location, and travelling are less than for a longer programme. In addition, going back to work earlier allows you to recoup your investment faster.

Although attractive for some, the length of the one-year programme could be considered a negative by others, especially when it comes to obtaining specialised knowledge in a particular area of interest. Also, a one-year programme rarely allows for long internships.

Read: How the Digital Era Is Reshaping the MBA Experience

Two-year full-time

The traditional two-year programmes offer enough time for a full immersion in the MBA experience through all its core and elective courses, face-to-face interaction, vast networking opportunities,  international experience and study trips, etc. The curriculum of a two-year programme also allows for an internship in which knowledge learned at school can be practised in a real business environment.

While they do enjoy a complete immersion in MBA studies, those who enrol in a two-year programme must quit their job for longer. In addition, two-year programmes are usually more expensive, in particular because of the extra expenses for living costs if studying in a new location and travelling. And having in mind that students are off work all the time they are studying, the opportunity cost is much higher. Also, students might need to relocate for the duration of their studies which might be a challenge for those who have families.

Accelerated MBA

Accelerated MBAs are a fast-track alternative to one-year and two-year programmes – they can last as little as eight months, providing elective courses for specialised business knowledge. Since it is a shorter alternative to the traditional programmes, it also costs less. But although shorter and cheaper, it is still a high-quality course.

Unfortunately, because of the limited length, the course curriculum does not involve summer internships, and immersion and networking opportunities are also condensed.

MBA for career enhancers

Professionals who have a successful career but still lack some specialised business knowledge, or who simply want to enhance their career by moving to a C-level post, can choose an MBA from among the many other options available. Part-time, blended, online or Executive MBAs exist for those who do not want to quit their successful jobs while studying.

Part-time MBA

A part-time MBA is a good option for working professionals as classes are scheduled outside normal business hours and some programmes require fewer courses than their full-time counterparts. Part-time courses cause less strain financially as tuition is sometimes cheaper, students can invest their earnings, and employer reimbursement is often possible. What is more, students can immediately apply what they have learned to their work, although some may find studying while working an exhausting endeavour.

Unfortunately, not all business schools offer a part-time format of their MBA course, and some part-time programmes offer fewer elective courses than their full-time counterparts. Another drawback is that not all part-time programmes offer study abroad option or international experience – one of the most valuable features of full-time formats, especially in today’s business environment. As part-time programmes require fewer class hours per week it can sometimes take up to six years to complete the whole programme, which may put your motivation to complete the study at risk.

Read: MBA Course Formats: Innovations and Trends

The blended format

The blended MBA course allows you to take the best from both worlds – on-campus and online learning. It is a hybrid programme with most coursework done completely online with some group workshops or sessions, usually lasting several days every two or three months, held on-campus.

The format is flexible, providing the opportunity to keep your full-time job while you balance study, job, and family responsibilities. It allows you to take the best from in-class and online instruction, explore networking opportunities while on-campus, and organise your home study in the best way possible. In addition, the programme is less expensive than on-campus formats that require additional expenses for long-term relocation.

The major drawback of such a format is the less intensive face-to-face interaction with classmates and faculty members, which limits networking opportunities.

Online/Distance programmes

Online or distance programmes are the most flexible MBA formats, allowing a balance of work, study, and commitment to your family and social duties. That can make them very popular, especially during uncertain times of volatile economic and financial developments.

These programmes are the most flexible of all MBA courses, providing students with the opportunity to study at a time and place that is most convenient to them without the need to spend time or money getting to class. Another great advantage is that online programmes have minimal impact on office work and other responsibilities. They are also more affordable than programmes that call for relocation and travelling.

However, you should know that such formats provide minimal face-to-face contact with professors and students. In an effort to offset this, many schools have set up online platforms that enable students to stay in touch and to get together for web study sessions, and some programmes run workshops and other on-site events. In addition, the truth is that there are many hard-to-ignore distraction factors during home study.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA is in general a part-time course targeting high-calibre managers in their mid-to-senior career development who are seeking executive and global managerial roles. The EMBA class profile is one of experienced professionals, managers, executives, and entrepreneurs who have the potential and motivation to become truly global, multi-skilled business leaders and move from a functional C-level role to a CEO role.

It is delivered in a flexible format – part-time, modular or blended. However, as classes focus on global issues, programmes may incur additional costs for study trips to different continents. Attracting high-calibre professors, executives, and global leaders to teach the art of senior business leadership also adds to the cost of education, but employer sponsorship can offset the financial challenge.

Read: What Type of MBA Programme Is Best for Your Profile

Go global with a Global MBA

The globalisation of today’s business environment has created a demand for leaders with a global mindset and a diverse toolkit to solve cross-cultural, global-scale problems. This calls for an impactful leadership training experience to teach a new breed of transformative leaders. The Global MBA gives a global perspective through the international orientation of its curriculum, teaching managerial know-how to access international businesses, define their strategic vision, and implement strategy. Schools offering a Global MBA usually have campuses or partnerships with other B-schools on different continents.

This great variety of MBA learning settings enables professionals to choose the best fit depending on their personal goals, lifestyle, needs, and preferences in order to make the experience worthwhile.  Whatever the programme format you choose, you will always attain the MBA degree’s gold star for your CV/resume.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2018-2019 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “All Roads Lead to Rome”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.