Part-time or full-time MBA: Which is right for you?

Students congregating

When considering returning to school for an MBA, prospective students are given two options: a part-time or full-time MBA. Plenty of students don’t know the difference between these two options. The curriculum is the same, but the way the curriculum is delivered varies to accommodate differences in job status, schedule and lifestyle. Here’s a snapshot of the average class profiles between the part-time and full-time cohorts for The Portland MBA:

DemographicsFull timePart time
Average Work Experience (Min. 2 Years)4–6 Years 7–10 Years
Out-of-State Students45–50% 10–15%
International Students35–40%3–5%

Abby Messenger, a program advisor for The Portland MBA provides advice on choosing the delivery that is right for you: 

“The general guideline is that if you’re planning to make a career change through an MBA, the full-time delivery can afford you the dedicated time and space to do so more seamlessly. Full-time students can pursue coursework and co-curricular opportunities related to their new field of interest, network with professionals in their intended career, and seek a job or internship that can potentially dovetail into full-time employment as they graduate. In comparison, our part-time MBA is designed for full-time working professionals, making it a valuable path for those looking to advance their current career. Part-time students can take what they’re learning in the classroom and apply it to their work the very next day, gain leadership skills and credentials to promote them to the executive level, and grow a network of seasoned professionals across different industries.”

Part time

Job status: Generally, students in our part-time delivery are working full time in addition to taking classes. These students tend to have more work experience, ranging from seven to ten years total. Many of these students are looking to accelerate within their field, often with the aspiration of attaining a management role in their current company. Working full time allows for students to pursue their education while still enjoying a salary. Emma Stager, a part-time, second-year MBA student works as an engineer at Mentor Graphics while attending classes. 

“The professors are understanding and do their best to help us get the most out of their classes even if our jobs get in the way. I’ve joined class via Google Hangouts several times while I was travelling for work.”

Schedule: Part-time MBA classes take place in the evenings and are conducive to professionals working a nine-to-five job. These classes are generally offered once a week in a condensed window. A main differentiator for our different deliveries is that our part-time students do not have a certificate or specialization focused classes built into the curriculum timeline. Stager explains that while evening classes can be challenging, “we always have a dinner break, and most classes have enough class activities that helps break up the lectures to keep us engaged. The one downside is that class days are really long days! You wake up, go to work, and head straight to class and aren’t normally home until 9:30 p.m.”

Lifestyle: The part-time option emphasizes the value of networking with peers who are also working full-time — this aspect of the part-time delivery is particularly beneficial to an individual’s future career. Between work and school, these individuals are juggling competing priorities, making it more difficult to be fully immersed in the student experience. 

Full time

Job status: Students in our full-time MBA delivery are typically taking a hiatus from work or working part-time while attending school. These students tend to have fewer years of work experience with an average four to six years of experience prior to starting graduate school. Some of the students in our deliveries hold part-time internships and on-campus jobs while going to school, like Briana Patricio, a part-time Project Manager for the Center for Retail Leadership.

Schedule: Full-time MBA classes take place during business hours, typically Monday through Thursday. Although the core classes are the same between the two deliveries, full-time students often attend a course twice per week, while part-time students attend the same class once per week. This yields an intensified schedule that requires more time devoted to school. Additionally, full-time students enroll in a certificate or concentration, which adds additional classes to their core MBA curriculum. Matthew Gibbs, a full-time, second-year MBA student became interested in finance during his first year of the program, which led him to commit to the MBA/MSF dual degree as an add-on to his full-time MBA core curriculum.

Lifestyle: If students are seeking a more immersive student experience, they should apply for our full-time option. The excess time outside of school allows students to be more involved in clubs, conferences, social experiences and student-run events. When Gibbs is not studying or in class, he is co-leading PSU’s B-Impact group with three other full-time MBA students, or volunteering at conferences and events often related to B Corps and B Local PDX. Gibbs says, “the full-time delivery has allowed me to pursue these interests and I would not have had time or energy for them otherwise.” 

When deciding which delivery to choose, it’s important to consider job status, delivery structure and lifestyle. As Messenger explains it, “our greatest priority when advising a candidate on the best delivery option is in making sure it aligns with their goals and needs.” If you’d like more guidance on choosing a delivery that is right for you, schedule an appointment to speak with an admissions advisor.

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