The characteristics of an MBA programme are the crucial factors that impact candidates’ decisions about where to apply. However, personal factors such as the candidate’s support from both employer and family, funding the degree, the ability to travel, professional goals and career ambitions all determine which different type of MBA format is most suitable.

Full-time MBA

A full-time MBA programme would require you to dedicate all of your time to the programme. Students in full-time programmes can take the time to focus on their studies without distractions. Full-time MBAs are held on-campus and aspirants usually relocate to the place where the business school is situated. This makes the programme an unsuitable option for those who have family responsibilities or who don’t want to leave their job while studying. Attendees of the full-time MBA programme are able to focus on the study completely, and go through a rigorous curriculum that prepares them for different business and management roles. Typically, participants learn from solving problems that businesses generally face. Full-time MBA programmes are designed for early-stage career students – the profile of a full-time MBA class averages out as those with six to seven years of work experience, as the minimum work experience required is three to four years. Most full-time MBA programmes would not admit students with no professional experience at all, entering immediately after college.

Full-time MBA courses are designed to offer in-depth knowledge on a range of different topics and students are educated to explore the entire business world from the start. Courses are held on campus and are divided over terms/semesters, with core courses held in the first or second semesters and electives held in the last. The programme ends with a thesis, dissertation, business project or a placement, which allows students to apply in practice theoretical knowledge absorbed during the course of the programme. Students have easy access to the academic environment, their professors and teaching resources, to the business school’s career services and networking. The programme is completed within a short period of time – between one and two years, depending on which sub-format students choose. Due to changing realities, the options for obtaining MBAs have expanded from the original two-year full-time degree. Parttime and online degrees are now competing with traditional campus programmes.

Part-time MBA

For those who prefer working while studying or have family commitments, the part-time MBA programme is a sensible choice. The part-time MBA is designed for working professionals who are usually in the middle of successful careers and who want to advance further, usually in their own organisation, without leaving a typically high-earning position. The part-time MBA management education format is the newest on the market and was introduced to meet the needs of candidates who want to qualify for a fulltime MBA course but cannot afford to take one or two years off work. Studies are usually held in the evenings or during the weekend, and often take two to three years or more to complete. According to Forbes, the main advantages of the part-time degree are: the opportunity for career acceleration for those who already have a job in a field they enjoy; the possibility for attendees to maintain their family responsibilities as there is no need to relocate; the fact that part-time programmes are less expensive compared to the full-time option; the tuition reimbursement, as in many cases the employer picks up a part or all of the tuition cost; and the possibility to directly apply their new knowledge at work. Of course, there is also a list of drawbacks for part-time programmes – they are more stressful and demand more sacrifices, as students have to dedicate time to their studies while working. Another minus of the programme is that there is less academic involvement and no summer placement which makes that format an unappealing option for career changers.

Generally speaking, on the basis of the above, the part-time format tends to be the most suitable option for those who want to advance their career within their company. Because graduates of part-time programmes usually have several years of experience behind them, companies often see them as great candidates for middle-management positions or fast track programmes. There are two main formats for part-time programmes – regular and modular MBAs. The regular format consists of one to two demanding evenings a week in class and some 15 hours a week for individual study, preparation and group work. The modular MBA format combines modules that are delivered on-campus with lengthy periods spent off-campus.

Modular programmes enable students to become on-campus residents between four days and two weeks at a time over a period of 15 to 22 months. The programme is complete when students have completed all their modules in week-long campus residencies. Professors may stay in touch with their students via the Internet during periods of non-classroom activities.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA (EMBA) is generally a part-time MBA, although it has a longer track record than its part-time cousin. The two programmes are similar in format, as neither the EMBA nor the MBA require full-time dedication from the participants. Both programmes end with a Master of Business Administration degree but there is one essential difference – the target group of the programmes. While the EMBA programme targets executives with significant managerial experience who want to further accelerate their ascent on the career ladder, focusing their ambitions on reaching the top C-level post, the part-time MBA programmes tend to be oriented towards professionals with less experience who are at the beginning or in the middle of the career ladder. The EMBA format is designed to meet the needs of those working in senior management and who assume higher-level strategic roles. Executive MBA students are high-calibre managers, executives, and entrepreneurs who have the potential and motivation to become CEOs within their organisations. EMBA courses participants are usually aged between 33 and 45, with average professional exerience around 12-14 years, of which about 8-9 years is of managerial experience. EMBA programmes generally have a strong focus on team-based learning where classmates share their real-life experience and work on case studies to discuss real situations and solve real problems. Courses are condensed and the aim is to create as diverse a work experience as possible.

Distance-learning MBA

With the economic downturn, many schools have seen rising numbers of applications to their online MBA programmes, as these kinds of programmes are less expensive than the traditional formats. The online MBA programme provides attendees with the opportunity to keep their full-time jobs and balance their study, job and family responsibilities flexibly. The structure of the programme, with students submitting papers online and attending online seminars, gives greater academic accountability to both students and professors, as classroom interaction and participation are in written form and are recorded. Students have minimal face-to-face interaction with professors and other students, which does limit networking opportunities. However, there are numerous online platforms that enable students to stay in touch and get together for web study sessions as frequently as they choose. Additionally, the distance learning programmes, such as MBSW and Northampton, organise workshops and other on-site events every three to six months. The format requires full dedication and self-motivation. Sometimes it is hard to remain 100% committed, which might account for the high dropout rate of such programmes. But whatever the format – full-time, part-time, executive, online or modular, the degree acquired from all programmes is the same. It is always an MBA. Fundamentally, the curricula are the same as well. However, the delivery formats differ, and the level and focus of these programmes are different, so the type of candidate’ profiles that match each specific programme also differs. The formats of MBA studies are adapted to take into account the major difference in experience between those who enter the programmes, so they deliver completely different outcomes. This is why it is important to select one that best fits your career stage and needs. Once you have figured out which format fits your situation, the next stage relates to the choice of a specific programme.