Business schools offer the option to study full-time or part-time so that there is a format to fit everybody—no matter where you are in your life or career. Choosing the right MBA schedule can be tricky, but if you learn a little more about each program type and ask yourself the right questions, you can find the option that suits your goals and lifestyle.
Determining which MBA schedule is right for you will depend largely on what you can afford to give up, what you want to get out of the program, and how you can best ensure your own success.
How schedules work for full-time MBA Programs
For a full-time MBA program, you need to be willing to give up your job and your salary for a couple of years, as it’s difficult to work part-time, and virtually impossible to work full-time, while you earn your degree in a full-time program.
The trade-off is giving yourself two years to focus exclusively on laying the groundwork for what you’d like to do in your career. You’ll also enjoy ready access to internships, case competitions, consulting engagements, and other learning opportunities that let you try out different roles and industries while building your skills. The median age for full-time MBA students tends to be about 28 years old. They have an average of five years of pre-MBA work experience. Take a look at the class profile for the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program for reference.
"Prior to business school, I worked in the education sector, says Farah Dilber, a recent graduate of the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program and now an associate with McKinsey & Company. "After four years in my last role, I started to seek outside opportunities and found other employers were looking for a more professionalized skillset. I knew I needed an MBA if I wanted more career optionality."
“I decided to do full-time for three reasons,” says Farah. “First, I could devote the time needed to make a major career shift. Second, I think full-time student status signals real commitment to potential employers about making that career shift. Third, I wanted to immerse myself in social and extracurricular activity that a work schedule just wouldn’t have allowed.”
How schedules work for part-time MBA programs
Part-time MBA programs let students continue working while they earn their degree. The primary ways of earning an MBA part-time are through an evening and weekend MBA (EWMBA) program or an executive MBA (EMBA) program.
In an evening and weekend MBA program, students usually attend classes in two evenings a week or all day on Saturday, though some programs may require a combination of evening and weekend study. EWMBA students are usually around 30 years old and typically have five to seven years of pre-MBA work experience. See the class profile for the Berkeley Haas EWMBA for reference.
Student clubs and other extracurricular activities are generally open to part-time MBA students, but it can be difficult to balance work, school, and extracurricular in additional to personal or family commitments. Kate DeLeo, a recent graduate of the Berkeley Evening & Weekend MBA Program and an associate with Deutsche Bank Securities, has found that some prioritization is required.
“Being a part-time student with a full-time job requires you to distinguish between what’s really important and what’s moderately important,” says Kate.
She also notes part-time programs foster a strong sense of community. “I enjoy the opportunities we have to get together outside of class and the Program Office really helps with that. Just one example is that we ended Saturday classes early one day for a tailgate party and football game. That’s when you get to further build your friendships.”
Another part time option is an executive MBA program. These programs tend to be shorter in duration and offer block scheduling, with classes in two-to-three-day bursts every few weeks. They are also residential in nature, with students staying together near campus to facilitate studying and relationship-building.
Not all of the students are executives, but they do tend to have more work experience than is found among students in other MBA scheduling options. The average EMBA student is 36 years old and has a decade or more of work experience (Here's our EMBA class profile). You can often learn as much from your classmates as you can from the curriculum, according to strategy and finance consultant Robert Ethier, a student in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.
“Getting an executive MBA seemed the most efficient way to expand my skillset while expanding my network among classmates in fields that are as different as possible from mine. I calculate that at least half of what I’m learning is coming from my classmates,” says Robert.
As for the bonding experience, Robert says, “I truly feel that every one of my classmates wants me to be as successful as possible, and they know I feel the same way about them.”
Compare Berkeley MBA programs
As you choose the MBA format that's right for you, it's worth comparing a business school's full-time, part-time, and executive MBA programs to see how the different schedules might work for you and to find your best match for desired campus experience, peers, and faculty.
For example, Berkeley MBA programs all confer the same degree, deliver an on-campus experience, and draw from the same faculty pool. The main differences are in program duration, delivery schedule, and peer group. Take a look at our program comparison.
Seven questions to ask yourself when choosing an MBA schedule
Conducting a brief self-assessment can help you choose the right MBA program. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that can guide you to an MBA schedule that fits your needs:
Do I want to stay in my current work role or study full-time?
Can I afford to study full-time, or is my salary a necessity?
What time commitments do I currently have, and how will they impact my academic performance?
Do I prefer intense bursts of focus, time, and energy? Or do I prefer to distribute and sustain those over time?
Do I learn better when I can immediately apply new knowledge in the real world?
Do I want to be on campus frequently to access extra curricular activities?
Do I focus better “away from it all?”Compare our full-time, Evening & Weekend, and Executive MBA Programs to find the right program for your needs.