The Best One-Year MBA Programs

Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management is ranked seventh among the best business schools in the U.S. by Poets&Quants.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

The prestige one-year option in the U.S. is Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management MBA program. It’s the highest ranked U.S. business school, offering a short-cut MBA, and the school is now putting greater emphasis on that program which has been under the radar for quite a few years.

The median GMAT for the Class of 2011 was 700, with the largest single chunk of the class (43%) with a score of 700 to 740. Students got into the program with an average five years of work experience and the average age was 28. The class tends to include more international students and more sponsored students who plan to return to their pre-MBA employer. Some 52% of the Class of 2011 was international, while 37% were female.

Kellogg draws an interesting and diverse mix of students to the program. In the latest entering class, the school enrolled a physician, a lawyer, a journalist, engineers, economists, marketers, advertisers, entrepreneurs, bankers, consultants, family business owners, financial analysts and supply chain experts. Though the average age of a student was 28, the class’s ages ranged from 23 to 35 years old.

In four quarters, 1Y students, as they are referred to at Kellogg, get the same MBA granted to those who graduate from the school’s two-year program. And because only 1.5 of the program’s course credits are required, the program offers an incredibly flexible curriculum. Students complete core coursework before showing up at Kellogg and then focus on advanced electives in 18 different areas of study. It’s important to note that the Kellogg offering is quite different from those in Europe and Asia that attempt to condense a two-year curriculum into one year. Because of the pre-MBA requirements at Kellogg, you’re getting a surprisingly flexible program of study.

But there is a rather heavy burden to apply and gain acceptance. While most of Kellogg’s one-year students have undergraduate business degrees, the program is open to both undergraduate business majors and non-business majors. All 12-month students, however, must have completed accounting, as well as five of the other required courses: finance, marketing, statistics, operations, economics, and organizational behavior. Kellogg recommends that this coursework be completed within the last seven years (starting from the year of graduation). Many students do the required coursework through an undergraduate or graduate program, but Kellogg will accept any university or community college. It will not, however, accept courses completed online.

Though there are considerable savings in doing the one-year program, those savings aren’t exactly cut in half by getting an MBA in one year versus two. It’s more of a one-third discount (see table at left comparing the tuition and costs of Kellogg’s one-year optionversus its two-year program). Once you add in all the hefty living expenses estimated by Kellogg as well as your lost income and interest payments on the inevitable debt you’ll rack up, the one-year MBA is still fairly pricey. By our calculation, it comes to a total cost of $226,271. That’s assuming you finance the entire nut over ten years and fail to receive any scholarship money. Still, that’s more than $100,000 less than Kellogg’s two-year flagship MBA program.

One-year newbies start in June when Chicago weather is stunning (just wait until winter time!). During the summer, they rule the roost since the traditional MBA students are on their internships or long gone. That’s when one-year candidates are required to take the courses that complement their undergraduate business studies along with the required Management and Strategy and Values and Crisis Decision-Making. In September, they join the second-year class and complete at least 11 additional courses chosen to meet their interests and career goals. They graduate with the two-year students in June.

The obvious sacrifice is a summer internship and additional bonding time with other students. Kellogg makes a point in claiming that he same on-campus recruiting opportunities are available to both its one-year and two-year students. But if a 12-month student is making a dramatic career change, the recruiting process clearly will be more challenging without an internship. One-year students who come to Kellogg with extensive work experience also will find on-campus recruiting wanting largely because it’s geared to entry-level MBA jobs.