Should You Go Full-Time or Part-Time?


Full-Time Or Part-Time?


‘I may as well flip a coin,’ you think.

If I go full-time, I won’t make much money for two years. If I go part-time, I won’t have a social life between work and school. And don’t the best students – the people I want on my rolodex – go full-time?

Ah, decisions, decisions. Alas, there really isn’t a best answer. Your decision rests on what’s best for you. What is your financial and family situation? What do you hope to achieve with your education? And just how much of a workload can you absorb?

This week, Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, who has held leadership roles in student affairs, admissions, and financial aid at Cornell (Johnson), Michigan (Ross), and Arizona State (Carey), examined the advantages and disadvantages inherent to both programs. Looking for direction? Check out what differentiates each program:

Full-Time: Grinblatt Epstein depicts these programs as the “media darlings” that receive the most budget while producing the least revenue. They also have an “undergraduate” feel with more clubs and activities.

Advantages: These programs benefit from more financial aid, with 90% of all scholarships and fellowships granted to full-timers. They are structured for 23-30 year-old students who can afford to leave the workforce. Full-time students generally enjoy greater access to on-campus recruiting. They also tend to attract the best students globally. What’s more, the environment is considered to be perfect for singles looking for relationships.

Disadvantages: Full-time program often have bigger academic workloads, where academics and job hunting overshadow time with loved ones.

Part-Time: Conversely, these programs are considered the “cash cow” of MBAs and often “live in the shadow of their smaller, full-time counterpart.” In fact, some part-time students can feel “like the stepchild” of the full-time program, even though their program serves more students.

Advantages: Targeted to 24-35 year-old students, part-timer programs share the same faculty as their full-time peers, with some professors preferring to teach nights and weekends so they can devote more time to research. While there are few scholarship dollars available to part-timers, these students can cash in on employer-sponsored aid.

Disadvantages: Grinblatt Epstein notes that part-time students are considered, overall, to be “not as competitive or as diverse in terms of admissions.” This is particularly true of campuses located in less metropolitan areas. Some programs are less flexible with career services, with company events and interviews often held during the day. These programs also last longer than 2 years and rarely help students change careers.

Grinblatt Epstein also evaluated a third option: Executive MBA (EMBA) programs. Geared for 30-42 year-olds, EMBA programs are smaller than their full-time and part-time brethren, yet mix in many benefits (and drawbacks) from both programs.

Advantages: Typically meeting every other weekend, EMBA programs are attractive to students who prioritize family and work over school.  They are designed for experienced high performers looking to amplify their leadership and administrative skills. According to Grinblatt Epstein, “schools take care of their EMBA students for their tuition premium” and faculty and students often bond more closely.

Disadvantages: EMBA programs are very expensive, with no scholarships available as schools “expect the student’s company to sponsor the student partially or completely.” There is also little interaction between EMBA students and the rest of the business school students.

Source: Accepted

  • MSD

    MBA Schools are not where you go to strengthen your skills. In fact MBA has less prestige it did a few years ago. It is also not that challenging as say just a specialization ior MS Financial Engineering.
    So, the real reason people go to MBA programs is to important network or that is what I have been told by people who go to Ivy Leagues.

  • Jason Darell

    Its weird that “Full Time MBA” students are considered as “more competitive and of better quality” than Part Time students. So, now you are trying to judge a student based on their GPA and GMAT scores rather than their real life experience and accomplishments. I am a part time mba student and have a clear bias towards part time mba. Even though I admit, my GMAT score is 30 points lower than an average full time student’s GMAT score, I still feel I bring more to the table and am able to contribute to the class with my experience. I feel, I am able to take more from the program, by incorporating concepts of Economics, OM, Finance and Accounting in real life rather than wait on an opportunity like Internship or a Full time position.Just because I don’t have a 720+ GMAT has not stopped me from making AT LEAST 20 % higher salary than average salary ( for the last 5 years ) of a FT graduate from a top 10 program.

    Also, most Full Time students are recruiting for jobs that start out at an associate level. Most PT students are either looking to jump to a senior role OR are trying to change careers.

    I would really recommend Poets and Quants to take a broader look at their thinking.

  • Nikhil

    Hi Brian. Thank you for a great post. I would like to get some valuable advice from you regarding my ambition to go for a part time MBA program. I am a Mechanical Engineer with a Masters degree and I am interested to go for Ross’s PT MBA program. Why Ross? Because I believe I have a good GMAT Score (720), decent work experience and overall a good profile and the school is very close to my work location as well. Not to be overambitious, I am also going to apply to a few other schools. Why part time? Well I am an international student and on a work visa and going full time will complicate matters extensively for me, not to mention the stoppage of an ongoing salary as well.

    Now, to the real question, I want to go for MBA as I want to switch my careers from Mechanical Product Design to Management Consulting(even a Technology consulting domain is fine). I am not very sure if PT MBA will give me that. Mostly, what I have read is that only a FT MBA enables you to switch careers but that makes no sense to me. Why would a recruiting company differentiate between FT and PT MBA if the coursework and faculty involved is the same.

    I would be very happy if you can give me any advice if I am taking the right decision.

  • techrulz

    You are literally the dumbest person on the internet. If you work for a prestigious tech firm (I do) and want to move up the corporate ladder you would need an MBA but have no desire to work for companies such as Bain and McKinsey.

  • SamHBS2016

    The school I represent invented the MBA, and offers only the original mode Full Time. The original Product has no derivatives. DOT.

  • Jon

    Great comment. Can you talk a bit about your experience in recruiting to consulting from a partttime program? What was your background? What type of firm did you join?

  • Andrew

    Remember the school and name you represent, exercise self awareness.

  • Marbi

    no wonder here…HBS accepts people with 490 gmat score !

  • Dex

    This is just a ridiculous comment… Amazing (judging by your name) that someone possibly going to HBS would be this ignorant.

  • SamHBS2016

    I wonder how fast you get angry from just posts online! is that kind of douchebag or what?! take it easy man.. you will achieve your life dream by attending elite MBA and tell your grandsons that you have saved the mankind by scoring high gpas and how smart were you to slap some idiots on P&Q website … I should go now..

  • FocusedMBA

    Clearly, the only one that I am confusing is you, judging from your post??? Now please – you have discredited yourself enough already by illustrating that the only Masters degree you possess is in the Obvious! Blanket and broken record comments taken from the MBA playbook from 1989 are very easy to recite and uninspiring to most:
    MBB, Goldman, elite, elite, best, best…really that is news?
    Why don’t you offer some insights that people actually find useful instead of citing obvious and readily accessible information that does not apply to all readers…
    I will not criticize your writing, but suffice it say that I believe strongly that the ability to communicate effectively/well DOES have a bearing on ultimate business potential…
    Good Luck!

  • SamHBS2016

    Please stop confusing readers! there is no significant differences between adults! a man at his 20 may find a multibillion company! and another could waste his entire life doing nothing! Now, I begin understand why you are so upset about smart kids!

  • FocusedMBA

    College Confidential is an excellent website that would welcome your deep and thoughtful sentiments – try it. Though I must warn you that the competition is fierce amongst those HS juniors and seniors!!! Enjoy

  • Matt

    It certainly was not my intention to imply that. My apologies if I offended – the comment was just meant for Sam.

  • SamHBS2016

    you are not allowed to tell other whether they have a shelf-life in real or virtual world! lets keep it on your CLAIM of writing skills! do you agree that good writing skills is not a condition to do well in “BUSINESS”? I repeat in “BUSINESS” not in numbers or exams… boy..

  • canber

    are you assuming that all the +900 students of HBS are just perfect?! thats so foolish!

  • Matt

    Agreed. About the walking, talking stereotype that is, not your cut on American higher education.

  • Matt

    I actually do agree with you that most people want to work at MBB or other elite companies. I would be lieing if I said it wouldn’t feel great to have such a prestigious employer on my resume.

    But that doesn’t mean it is the ONLY reason to get an MBA, nor does it mean that people can’t have fulfilling and successful careers (strengthened by their MBA) if they work somewhere else. It is extremely foolish for you to suggest otherwise, thus why I am pretty sure you are just trolling us.

    Another thing I’ve noticed on these forums is a tendency of the most “elite” to be extremely childish, which is how you are acting here. Like, if you are a HBS student then the school and your peers should be embarrassed by your behavior. How are you the best of the best of business school? That is disturbing to me.

  • halo

    Huh. Doesn’t that speak volumes about American business education system, even in its highest ranks. Then, we wonder why general public has such a negative sentiment towards an MBA graduate. You my friend are a walking, talking stereotype. Those usually have a very short shelf-life in the real world.

  • SamHBS2016

    perhaps you should practice on more cases to have another chance at Mckinsey 😉 sorry but the competition is fierce!

  • SamHBS2016

    good writer does not mean good business manger! you seem to be confusing between “BUSINESS” education and pure academic research. MBA programs can accept people without even an undergraduate degrees! (Harvard did)! It is possible to be a CEO of a multinational company with very bad english!

  • FocusedMBA

    Has anyone ever mentioned that you may have a tendency to assume too much on behalf of others? Just curious? Really – every MBA wants to get hired by the aforementioned firms? I think you are just trying to make a very strong point that those companies are certainly prized by many, but certainly not every. Among my cohort, and including myself, there were a number of candidates without any interest in any of those companies. Again, this does not mean that those firms are not highly valued, but they are certainly not the defining outcome that you portray IMO…

  • halo

    Please do tell McKinsey, Bain, BCG or Goldman once they hire you out of HBS to work on your writing skills. It would be a shame to come out of the “elite” company such as theirs on your way to become a CEO and not hold 4th grade writing skills.

  • SamHBS2016

    Mckinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman, are the most elite jobs for MBAs, every MBA want to be hired by them, highest salaries, short cut to become CEO… the other desperate MBAs who couldn’t join those prestigious firms better save their time and money…

  • Matt


  • Matt

    I think you bring up a good point about the work experience in a PT format program. For a FT student there is so much importance placed on the internship, but in a PT program the students are working 40 hour+ weeks, every week, the entire time. So I definitely think there is something to be said about the additional “real world” experience the PT people will have.

  • Matt

    So the only purpose of an MBA is to work at McKinsey or Bain?

    I am starting to think you people are just trolling me…

  • Andrew

    We’ve had several people in my class, UNC EMBA, change career paths during the program, and even more switch jobs as well (including myself). One big misnomer for people on the outside looking in is that the Career Services department is the only place to get a job. In a good EMBA program your average experience will be at least 10 years, the cross-mingling and job transfers within my own class have been astounding.

  • SamHBS2016

    only full time MBA worth the investment. part time, executive, global, international,…etc etc MBAs all waste of money and is almost impossible to get an interview invitation from Mckinsey or Bain if you are not full time student.

  • Brian

    Like Andrew mentioned in an earlier comment, it depends on what programs are right for you as an individual. As a recent graduate of one of the top part-time programs, I did enter the program intending to move up in the same company, as did most of my classmates. However, over the course of 3 years (and yes it was tough) the things you’re exposed to change your perspectives. Consequently, I and many others switched careers. I ended up in management consulting. To that end, I would argue that the quality and age of part-time and full-time students is closer than it has ever been. More of us are seeing part-time programs as viable alternatives to applying lessons as they are taught as well as a way to keep debt levels lower. We simply choose a different path to get our education. Quality is also more debatable than it has ever been. Have you ever seen a full-time student with 2 years of experience debate finance with a CFA Level 3 with 7 years of experience? Guess who wins from a knowledge and practical experience standpoint? Finally, we must keep in mind that full-time or part-time, we all bring different perspectives, with diversity ultimately creating a stronger team. HR departments in the Fortune Top 100 companies who recruit at my alma mater love the experience that part-timers bring and they value the prioritization skills that were necessary to get through a top part-time program. By the way, if you truly want to compare full-time vs. part-time programs, you need to judge on the spectrum of a Top 5 part-time program vs. a University of Phoenix. I understand people apply to what suits their individual situations and I don’t mean to bag on the Phoenix, but there is a quality difference.By the way, based on what I’ve said so far, if you truly do the research on part-time programs and understand individual program benefits/nuances, you should be able to narrow down my program to 2 possibilities.

  • Renault

    Doubt it.

  • Dan A

    Part-time programs rarely help students change careers? Huh? 50% of Booth part-timers change careers in their first year at the Booth. What is this guy talking about?

  • Andrew

    You hit the nose on the head, all three types of programs (Full,Part,EMBA) are right for different people.

    I’m currently in an EMBA program and am quite happy with my decision. I always tell people trying to figure it out for themselves (which program) to develop that “action” plan for their career after they finish the program as soon as they can, i.e. are your goals to switch to a broadly different career/industry/country, these decisions / hopes can help you make the decision very quickly.

    One specific note as well, EMBA professors tend to be the best professors programs have (at least good programs). Plain and simply it takes a much more experienced / insightful professor to deal with a room of seasoned professionals. Another benefit of EMBA (if you find it useful) is EMBA programs tend to be “lock-step” where you’re on a schedule from day one to usually finish within 2 years. Some part time programs can extend for up to 5 years.

    Good luck to everyone making this decision! I don’t regret mine!