Changing realities in the past years following global economic collapse has irreversibly changed the business education search and demand curve. At least, up until now. The business education market has changed and, although the full-time format of the programme has been the preferred choice since before the onset of the worldwide economic crisis, it now faces severe competition from at least two alternative formats – part-time and online.

If you want to immerse yourself in the real MBA experience and be entirely involved in the programme, dedicating 100 % of your time without distracting yourself with a full-time job and family duties and, of course, if you can afford it, choosing the full-time format is definitely the best choice you can make. But if you don’t have the luxury to possess all the above at one time, then thinking about an alternative to the full-time format will come naturally.

According to the Business School Data Guide 2014, from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a global accreditation association for business schools, part-time programmes are almost equally or even more preferred to their full-time fellows. Data shows that the full-time format is still preferred in MBA motherland – the U.S., while the part-time format prevails in other parts of the world.

Full-time MBA

Due to the programme intensity, attendees of the full-time MBA programme are required to focus on their study completely, dedicating 100 % of their time and duties to the MBA during the whole tenure of the programme and focusing on their studies without distractions. Full-time MBA programmes are designed for early-stage career students – the profile of a full-time MBA class averages on students with three to four years of work experience. The target group includes those seeking to entirely switch their career path, change job by going to a different organisation, or those who want to relocate.

The full-time MBA is held on-campus and aspirants usually relocate to the place where the business school is situated. This means that the programme is not a suitable option for those who have family responsibilities or those who don’t want to leave their job while studying.

In the U.S., the birthplace of the programme, the length of the format is two years, while in Europe, the length of the format is typically one year. The longer programme allows students try out a new profession during summer internships, while the shorter format is designed for those who have clear career goals and want faster entry into a new career. The two formats have no determining differences in terms of programme content.

Admission requirements are also similar. The main difference between U.S. and European MBA programmes lies in the condensed intensity of the one-year European programme versus the more encompassing two-year U.S. degree, where students get to study general and introductory subject matter before moving on to more specialised content.

Part-time MBA

For those who don’t have the luxury to leave their full-time jobs or have family responsibilities, but opt for career growth or new ventures, the part-time MBA format is a good choice. The part-time MBA is designed for working professionals who are usually in the middle of their careers and who want to advance further, without leaving their typically high-earning positions. This is arguably part-time’s biggest advantage – keeping the job, and keeping the income. Part-time MBA studies are usually held in the evenings or at the weekend, in modules, and often take two years to complete.

According to Forbes, the main advantages of the part-time degree are the opportunity of 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 the employer could pick up part or all of the tuition cost; and the possibility of directly applying the knowledge gained at work, since part-time students don’t leave their jobs and can apply new knowledge and skills learned at school the previous day directly during their daily work the next day.

As with everything, there is also a list of drawbacks – the part-time format is more stressful due to combining at least two things at a time – working and studying. And if you have a family, it could lead to more stress. That’s why part-time education requires more sacrifices. Another minus of the programme is that there is less academic involvement and no summer internship, meaning that this format is not such a good option for career changers.

That’s why, unlike the full-time format, the part-time MBA is more suitable for those who want to accelerate their career and climb up the career ladder in their current organisation, rather than totally switching career path or job.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA is another form of MBA programme. In general, it is a part-time MBA. The two programmes are similar in format as neither the EMBA nor the MBA require full-time dedication by their attendees. However, there is one essential difference – their target groups. The EMBA programme targets executives with significant managerial experience who want to further accelerate their climb up the career ladder focusing their ambitions on reaching the top C-level post. In contrast, the part-time programmes are designed for professionals with less experience who are at the beginning or in the middle of their career development.

Online MBA

With the economic downturn, many schools have seen rising numbers of applications to their online MBA programmes, since this format is less expensive compared to the full-time and part-time MBA formats. The online programme also allows attendees to keep their full-time jobs and flexibility, to balance their study, job and family responsibilities and even cultivate new interests and ventures.

Blended MBA

The blended learning MBA is the new online MBA. It is an innovative format of MBA learning combining online classes, face-to-face sessions at school campuses and virtual collaboration, allowing students to make the most of their time, learning, network and investment. Unlike online programmes, blended MBAs are not held exclusively online. This means that students are required to meet face-to-face at least a couple of times during the programme. This, combined with the fact that most of the key exams and presentations are delivered face-to-face, allows for in-person assessment in order to measure how much students have learned. The format also allows students to balance business education and their personal lives, especially for women. It is also a good option for people who expect to undergo major life changes in the course of their MBA programme, such as relocation.

Whatever the format – full-time, part-time or online, executive or blended, the degree acquired is the same for all formats. It is always an MBA: the same curricula, with different delivery formats, suitable for different target groups.