What are the Different Types of MBA Degree Programs

If you are considering enrolling in an MBA (Master of Business Administration) program, it is important that you understand the different types. This will enable you to ensure that your chosen program actually meets your personal goals, needs, and requirements. This is also why you should start by thinking about what you actually want to achieve with your degree. Spending some time with an admissions counselor to discuss this is always a good idea.

Below is more information about the various types of MBA programs available.

Full Time MBA

The full time MBA is a general business management degree that will give you a deep understanding of important business management functions and how to solve complex business problems.

The core courses in a full time MBA program nearly always include classes in accounting, finance, business strategy and leadership, HR and operations.

The full time MBA will usually will take two years to complete. For this graduate study, you will go to a business school on weekdays for 12 to 24 months. A full time MBA means that you will be in school on a full time basis and will not have time to work and your time will be mostly devoted to your studies. Full time MBAs are often attended by younger students who have fewer personal and work obligations than older students.

The two year, full time MBA program is quite common in this country. You will fully immerse yourself in it, and you will usually also have to take part in an internship. Interestingly, in Europe, the full time MBA program is generally only one year in length.

Such programs are even more intensive as they teach everything in just 12 months. They do not come with an internship, but it does mean that students only have to take one year out of their lives. Whether in this country or in Europe, you will need to have one or two years’ work experience before being admitted.

An example of a high quality, full time MBA in the US is the University of Southern California Marshall program. The learning goals stated on USC’s website for its full time MBA program are typical of these types of programs:

  • Use critical and analytical thinking to identify solutions that can create both long term and short term value for all types of organizations.
  • Create sustainable and achievable strategies and solutions that allow companies to take full advantage of new business opportunities that create more value for shareholders.
  • Learn to influence and motivate partners, colleagues and other company stakeholders to achieve organizational goals and profit targets
  • Build and keep high performance teams by infusing them with many different skills, perspectives and skills; align success of individuals with success of the team

The core curriculum at USC includes these courses:

  • Accounting Concepts and Financial Reporting
  • Data Driven Decision Making
  • Contemporary Issues for Competitive Strategy
  • Communication for Management
  • Operations Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Accelerated MBA

The accelerated MBA is a faster alternative to a full time, traditional MBA. Many students who choose an accelerated MBA program may be able to complete their degree in 10-15 months. It is the same degree as a full time MBA; it is simply completed in a more time-compressed manner.

More universities offer accelerated MBA programs today to meet the needs of students who work full time and have families. Full time MBA programs can be difficult for many students to complete, so accelerated MBA programs are a good possible option.

It is advised to keep in mind that some universities offer accelerated MBA programs because it is more profitable for them to do so. An accelerated MBA program allows the school to move more students through the educational pipeline faster. It is important for the student to ensure through proper research that the accelerated MBA they are considering has the same high quality instruction and material as the full time MBA.

How do you gauge the quality of the accelerated MBA program? Experts advise that you look at the following factors:

  • Rankings: How the program is ranked by leading publications, such as the Princeton Review and US News and World Report, is an important factor, but not the only consideration. Students should look at the details of the rankings to determine if the school is a good fit. For example, US News has a Peer Assessment score that indicates how highly the program is regarded by other universities.
  • Accreditation: It is advised that the accelerated MBA program have accreditation so that you are confident that the program and curriculum have met high quality standards. The most common and respected accreditation for business programs is the AACSB; another is the ACBSP.
  • Student loan default rate: One of the lesser known but important factors to evaluate MBA programs is how many student default on their student loans. If an MBA graduate has trouble finding a job, or finding a job where they earn enough to pay their student loans, this is a red flag. You can find student loan default rates on some university websites; US News and World Report also provides some information on student loan default rates.

The accelerated MBA is available in the US, and closely resembles the European full time MBA, as it takes less time to complete. Naturally, your class schedule will be intensive and your course load high. There is less time off between semesters, and you will have virtually no summer break. Usually, you will complete this program in one year, although 18 months is also sometimes possible.

Drexel University offers an accelerated MBA that is accredited by the AACSB and may be completed in 18 months in some cases. This is an online, accelerated MBA that is designed to equip students with advanced leadership and problem-solving skills that are essential for working at the forefront of business management in all fields.

Required courses in this accelerated MBA program are:

  • Managing & Leading the Total Enterprise
  • Essentials of Financial Reporting
  • Leading in Dynamic Environments
  • Corporate Financial Management
  • Business Problem Solving
  • Managerial Economics
  • Managing & Leading the Total Enterprise
  • Introduction to Statistics for Business Analytics
  • Legal Options in Decision Making

Distance Learning MBA

There is a difference between the online MBA (more on that below) and distance learning MBA. With distance learning, you will have to attend some classes at some point during your degree program. However, the majority of the program will be offered through interactive means, such as pre-recorded videos, interactive videos, offline and online computer courses, and teleconferencing.

Usually, you will also have to interact with other students. You may have to organize and attend online or in person meetings with your classmates. You will also have to attend some classes, which are generally offered on weekends or in the evenings, at set points during the year. Essentially, distance learning is a form of blended learning, which is becoming increasingly popular, particularly thanks to the development of smart and mobile technology.

Distance learning MBAs may also be called hybrid MBAs, and they are becoming more popular with top quality universities, including Duke University and University of North Carolina.

These programs have most of their didactic courses delivered online in either live or recorded formats. But there are required immersion experiences on campus, typically two or three times during the duration of the program.

For example, the University of North Carolina offers an excellent, online, hybrid program that offers all courses online, but each student must attend a three-day immersion weekend at the start of each quarter. UNC is also featured as one of the most expensive MBA programs in our America’s Best Online MBA rankings report seen here.

The University of North Carolina also offers global immersion experiences four times per year. Students have the chance to travel to major business cities in the US and globally, where they can join their fellow students and professors to enjoy collaborative learning experiences. Students are required to experience at least two immersive experiences in the US or abroad during the MBA program. In the recent past, the University of North Carolina has held immersive experiences in New York City, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Budapest, Chicago and Mumbai.

These immersive experiences usually add a lot of value to the education experience, but they come at a cost. Immersive experiences usually add $5,000 to $10,000 to the cost of the program. Students also must allow for that time away from work and family. It is up to the student to judge if paying for that face time is worth it. Many of the top MBA programs in hybrid format are requiring these types of face to face experiences.

Online MBA

As the world is becoming increasingly virtual, there are now quite a number of schools that offer the MBA degree program 100% online. Here, you can complete your degree at a time and pace that is convenient to you, from any location with an internet connection. This is a far less intensive study, which means most people are able to do it alongside their regular job. That said, you must show a lot of time management skills and a great degree of self-discipline.

For a long time, employers felt that the online MBA was not as good as an on-campus MBA. One reason was that graduates were not able to interact with colleagues or take part in classroom debates.

However, it is now becoming increasingly clear that the level of commitment that someone has to make in order to complete an online MBA is actually as valuable as for the classroom-based programs. Furthermore, some interaction does take place in virtual classrooms.

Executive MBA (EMBA)

The EMBA program is designed for those who are currently employed and are unable to stop working for a long period of time. It is a part-time degree, usually taking between 12 and 24 months to complete. This means that people can study and work at the same time.

EMBA programs have stringent admission requirements. Usually, people have to have worked as a manager for between five and ten years. As a result, students are often more mature.

For example, the University of Southern California EMBA program has been designed for senior managers and professionals who want to continue to work as they are getting their master’s degree.

It is a 22-month program that is intended for those with at least seven years of business experience. Its learning objectives are concentrated on how business functions are interrelated, rather than teaching separate disciplines that are not related to one another as functional entities.

Themes that are covered in the USC EMBA program are:

  • Evaluating Market Performance
  • Management of Operations
  • The Perspective of Top Management
  • Technology and Information Systems Management
  • Functional Strategies and Implementation
  • Environmental Analysis
  • Change and Implementation
  • Strategic Planning for Growth

EMBA students usually have financial support through their jobs, as well as the ability to take the time out to attend classes regularly. In the classroom, they will work together with other executives in a range of different positions and functions. The EMBA is becoming an increasingly popular qualification, particularly with women, because it is such a flexible degree program.

Professional MBA (PMBA)

The PMBA is a combination of the EMBA and the part time MBA. It is one of the most flexible of all the programs, enabling students to take part in weekend and evening modules and complete their degree in around one year.

The program offers two types of study modules, which means students can study online when they have circumstances making it impossible for them to attend classes, and go to classes when they can. Most participants also work full time while completing this degree program. It is also possible for people to switch to the full-time MBA at any point of the PMBA degree program, although not all schools offer this option.


The GEMBA is a variant on the EMBA program, enabling students to take part in different classroom environments across different cultures and countries. Usually, these programs are created by the cooperation of different campuses or schools across the planet.

These are very competitive degree programs and they tend to be far more expensive as well. To take part in the GEMBA, students have to be able to manage the workload of the course, while also being able to travel and meet the associated expenses of this. The benefits, however, are tremendous as graduates have true global experience and knowledge.

Joint EMBA

Business rules are changing as the marketplace becomes more global in scope. Markets and products continuously battle for more influence and sales around the world. That is why you may notice that some business schools are starting to offer what are called joint EMBA programs.

These programs are being offered by top business schools in the US in collaboration with universities across the world. For example, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has partnered with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to produce a highly ranked joint EMBA program. This program features electives in the Middle East, Asia, US and Europe; it promotes itself with an angle of ‘East meets West.’

This program bring together many experienced business executives from across the globe to provide a new way of thinking in business and to embrace unique global business challenges. Students are equipped with the business skills needed to make worldwide business decisions to transform their business environment and their lives overall.

The Kellogg program has traditional MBA subject areas with a focus on giving students techniques and tools to solve managerial problems. The emphasis is in these three areas:

  • Behavior in business learning organizations
  • Management on an international stage
  • Managing large groups of firms to promote international competitiveness

Not every joint EMBA program is an effort of two schools; sometimes more entities are involved. The TRIUM Global Executive MBA program is now offered by the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at NYU Stern, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the HEC Paris School of Management in Paris. This is a 17 month program, and participants have an average age of 40 years old.

The joint EMBA typically includes multi-institution and consortia programs. It is quite similar to the GEMBA program, enabling students to experience a range of different curricula and teaching styles on various campuses. The joint EMBA is usually delivered by between two and six different organizations, in partnership with itself.

Modular EMBA

The modular EMBA is a very intensive program. Students become fully immersed in their classroom for a number of weeks every few months. This means that it is delivered part time in a sense, but students must be away from their jobs for long periods of time. Usually, people complete this by using their annual leave, others save up flexi time at work if that opportunity is offered to them. It is possible for people to have to travel to complete the modular EMBA as well, sometimes even to other countries. It generally takes one to two years to complete this program.

Part Time MBA

Last but not least, there is the part time MBA. This degree program follows the same curriculum and methods of study as the full time MBA, but classes are offered on evenings and weekends. As a result, the degree usually takes at least three years to complete, usually more.

Some have speculated that getting a part time MBA is questionable because it takes so much longer. But Forbes magazine recently shed some light on this subject.

Experts at Forbes recommended that going to school part time and keeping your job is a good way to reduce your debt. An added possible bonus of part time MBAs is that some employers will pick up at least part of the tuition cost. You could get out of school with little to no debt.

Many students are choosing this option today; an AACSB survey found that 44% of students were going to MBA school full time. But 56% were in part time programs. Also, part time MBA enrollments have risen by 18% since 2002.

Forbes also noted that research on MBA salaries suggests that by and large, part time MBAs pay you back:

  • A peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Education for Business found that part time MBA graduates had a post-MBA pay increase of 41% over their pay before their MBA.
  • The same study found that part time EMBA students reported a pay hike of 29% after they got out of graduate school.
  • Another study found that part time MBA students realized a 38% increase in their pay after they graduated, and another 63% increase after they had been out of school for five years.
  • A 2007 study by GMAC, which administers the GMAT examination, determined that part time students had a 37% boost in salary at graduation.

Overall, these studies suggest that part time MBA students can enjoy a 35-40% hike in salary when they graduate, and strong growth in the years following graduation.

Part time MBA programs also offer these benefits:

  • Accelerate your career: If you are in a job at a company that you like, you may be able to earn a promotion after your finish your degree.
  • Take care of family: A part-time program is the choice if you have a family and cannot stop working for two years to earn a full time MBA.
  • Less costly: Going to MBA school part time costs less in a way. A full time MBA is the same price generally, but you are giving up a full time job and salary.
  • Tuition reimbursement: Many students are fortunate that their employer will pay for some or even all of their tuition. Know that most employers will require you to sign a contract agreeing to stay for at least two or three years after completing the program. If you leave earlier, you will have to pay back the tuition usually.
  • Use knowledge at work: An underrated but important advantage. Many students can enhance their work performance by using what they learned that day or week at MBA school in their job.

MBA Concentrations

When thinking of the type of MBA degree, you shouldn’t think only of the method of course delivery, but also about the different concentration options that exist. Because the MBA is now such a popular degree, schools have started to go beyond the general MBA, offering specific concentrations.

The decision to choose a concentration or not can be a difficult one to make because, on the one hand, you hone your skills on something that is relevant to you now but, on the other hand, you end up with fewer transferable skills. The full list of different concentrations is now almost endless, but the most popular ones are: