MBA programs are numerous. With so many options, the search for the MBA that is best suited for your goals is a strenuous and demanding process. The first step is to identify the type of MBA you are looking for. Above all, you need to realize that there is no "best" or "worst" MBA. Each prospective MBA student has his or her own vision of his or her career development.

It is generally accepted that all MBA programs can be divided into four groups: full-time MBA, Executive MBA, part-time MBA and distance learning MBA. To understand why a full-time MBA still remains what many prospective students refer to as the "authentic" MBA, it is important to illustrate the difference between the traditional MBA delivery method and other program types.

Lately, many kinds of joint MBA programs have been introduced to the market. For instance, more and more B-schools recognize the benefits of part-time students studying elective courses with full-time peers. A few programs even teach part-time and full-time students together, the only difference being the time in which the degree is completed; typically, a part-time program lasts much longer than its full-time counterpart.

The full-time MBA

These programs are mostly self-sponsored and you will find yourself in a stimulating atmosphere ideal for earning your MBA degree without external pressures. Another strong advantage is that you will learn as much from your peers as from teaching staff. A full-time MBA is notorious for providing the best environment for students by establishing long-lasting contacts and friendships. Finally, the full-time programme delivers a complete package of MBA services: career opportunities, increased salary, networking, personal development, and educational experience.

The part-time MBA

This delivery method is designed for your professional needs if you are seeking to advance your existing career. The average age of part-time students is 29 (GMAC 2006) with a GMAT score of 490, whereas full-time participants are on average 26 years old with a GMAT score of 540. Thus, part-time and full-time MBAs differ. The difference could be due to the nature of the student body: those who are younger potentially have less experience and are possibly more academically competitive (GMAC, 2006). Part-time programs give you the luxury to maintain your full-time job. You will have classes on weekday evenings, weekends, or both. Occasionally you will need to spend short periods of time, typically a week, in residence on campus. The curriculum of a part-time program is identical to the full-time version and the degree awarded is exactly the same. However, part-time programs do not emphasize career and salary issues as part-time students are often sponsored by their employers.

The distance-learning MBA

If you need your employer's sponsorship to complete an MBA degree, distance learning is probably the best choice. An employer will sooner agree to sponsor such an MBA than any other MBA type because it is significantly less expensive and the disruption to your job commitment is minimal. Another advantage of this option is that the application requirements are flexible and the GMAT test may not be required. Keep in mind that online education is by no means an easy option. You really need to exercise self-discipline to complete the degree. The online MBA drop-out rate is higher than that of any other program type. It is important to consider that the program will take more than three years. In spite of the independence and convenience an online MBA offers, you have to be selfdisciplined in balancing your studies, work and personal life.

The executive MBA

The "rising star" of MBA programs is the option that is prominent in the MBA arena. The EMBA places strong demands on candidates; an impressive academic background and relevant experience are required. An EMBA is essentially career enhancing rather than career changing. EMBA participants are considerably older and what is the most important, they have a wealth of work experience under their belts, 10 years is often the norm with some participants having worked for 15 years or more. This in turn translates into dynamic classes with EMBA students and faculty learning much from each other, compared with the more traditional teacher/pupil approach of an MBA class. The EMBA offers an excellent combination of innovative methods and classes closely tied to real-life experience. One of the main attractions of EMBA programs is the opportunity to share classes with highly experienced senior managers. You will be able to apply newly acquired EMBA knowledge in the work-field more quickly than the knowledge acquired by any other MBA delivery method. This explains why in spite of the high costs, many companies remain enthusiastic sponsors of their employees who choose the EMBA. In most cases the initiative to attend an MBA belongs to managers, not to employers. Thus, pursuing an EMBA involves the delicate task of persuading an employer that the company will benefit by covering the cost of an Executive MBA.

An EMBA is a leader in terms of salary increase

Upon completing an EMBA program the average salary increase is 15 percent. Recently some schools have reported increased numbers of EMBA students who are self-sponsored. It has become standard for EMBA programs to combine elements of modular programs with lengthy residential sessions and online learning.They are increasingly global in scope, with classes held in various locations around the world and intervening periods spent in online learning and group work.