Choosing an mba program

Before you start applying to MBA programs, you’ll want to explore your options — and there are a lot of options. The right program for you will vary depending on where you are in your career, whether you want to keep working as you pursue your degree, the industries and locations that interest you, and other factors.

“One of the biggest tools for career growth is confidence, and a rigorous MBA program gives you that.”
– Chantel Miller, 2013 MBA graduate, University of Southern California (Marshall School of Business)

questions to consider

The following questions will help you determine which type of program will best meet your professional and personal goals.

Career Goals

  • What is your target industry or job function?
  • Do you want to have an internship during your MBA?
  • Are you ready for the responsibilities of an MBA-level position upon graduation?
  • Have you identified specific skill gaps?
  • Does the school have alumni in your target industry? Target location?

Program Elements

  • Are you looking to move to a new city or a new country?
  • How many peers would you like to have in your program?
  • Do you prefer lecture style classes or the case study method?
  • How much flexibility are you looking for in a program schedule or curriculum?
  • Do you plan to work full time while pursuing an MBA? Will your current employer be supporting your studies?
  • Do you want classmates in the same industry or location? Classmates at the same experience level?
  • What elements of diversity are important to you?

Family Considerations

  • Do you want to be close to family or your hometown?
  • Will your partner need to relocate and/or enter a new job market?
  • Does the school offer support for partners and/or families?
  • What connection does the school have to the local community?

What Kind of MBA Program Is Right for You?

As you research your b-school options, focus on finding the program that’s the best fit for you. Don’t let a school’s name or ranking cloud your judgment.

Today's business schools offer more opportunities than ever to help you achieve your career goals. Programs generally fall into the categories below. Need more help deciding? Take this one-minute quiz.


Full-time MBA programs are primarily for students who are able to take time off from working to concentrate on their studies. These programs are ideal for career switchers, career accelerators, and entrepreneurs.

  • Programs typically last one or two years.
  • Two-year programs often include a summer internship option.
  • Core course requirements are often completed in the early stage of the program.
  • Specific concentrations and elective courses comprise the latter stage of the program.
  • The mix of electives and requirements varies among programs.
  • Students often relocate to attend full-time programs.

Part-time or working professional

Part-time or working professional MBA programs are designed for working professionals and allow students to continue working full-time. Classes are usually held during evenings and/or weekends. Part-time programs are a great way to further your career in your current field. They can also be a smart choice if you already have financial support from your employer.

  • Courses are usually scheduled year-round.
  • Programs typically last two to five years.
  • The shared professional experience and expertise of students becomes part of the curriculum.
  • Commuting is more common than relocation.
  • Cohorts may draw from one specific city or region.

Executive MBA

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs enhance the careers of professionals who are already specialists in a field or industry. EMBA programs focus on honing general management skills in core classes, with little or no opportunity for specialization. Most programs require support from employers. This may involve allowing the EMBA student to take classes during the workday and/or providing financial support.

  • Students work full-time and typically attend classes on Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes classes meet on alternate weekends or monthly. Programs typically last two academic years.
  • Programs offer a full immersion experience, with learning outside the classroom, travel immersions, and extensive faculty and student/team interaction.
  • The shared professional experience and expertise of students becomes part of the curriculum.
  • EMBA programs may require candidates to have at least eight to 10 years of professional experience and hold a leadership or management role in their organization.


Online/Hybrid MBA programs are a good option for those who need or want to work full-time and who cannot, or do not want to, attend classes in person. Some online programs allow for asynchronous learning, meaning students can complete assignments and review lessons when and where it works best for them. Some programs may still offer on-campus opportunities and a chance to build strong peer relationships.

“Where I was in my life, being physically in the classroom wasn't an option. I needed to go to online classes because my work schedule was erratic. It’s not just about choosing the school; it’s also about choosing how you want to learn.”

Gabrielle Young, 2019 MBA graduate,
University of Illinois (Gies College of Business)


Deferred MBA programs are for undergrads interested in making an MBA part of their future. Want to give yourself a head start? Many b-schools offer deferred MBA programs to give future leaders like you an opportunity to claim a spot ahead of time. Students typically apply senior year of their undergraduate studies. If offered admission, you would start your career and work for at least two years, and then begin your MBA program. These programs allow you to start building your professional experience while making solid plans for the future.