A full-time MBA program is the most traditional and immersive method of earning an MBA degree. Full-time MBA students generally attend classes during the day on weekdays, spend the summer working at an internship in their field and travel internationally as part of their academic program. The first year of the program is usually spent covering core requirements, while the second year provides an opportunity to specialize in a particular area. All MBA programs are demanding and academically rigorous, but only in full-time MBA programs are students expected to take two years away from professional work in order to concentrate exclusively on improving their business knowledge and skills.
When to Pursue a Full-Time MBA Program
The immersive and concentrated nature of full-time MBA programs make them ideal for experienced professionals looking to change the trajectory of their careers. A full-time MBA program typically requires the student to leave a good job and relocate to a new city, as well as equipping him or her with a new set of specialized business skills and knowledge. This makes it an ideal transition between a field that the student knows well and one which they find attractive but may not be fully prepared for. Accomplished professionals looking to start their own businesses also benefit from full-time MBA programs.
When to Avoid a Full-Time MBA Program
A professional who wishes to keep their current position or to be certain of continuing with the same company should seek a more flexible MBA program that will allow him or her to continue working while earning a degree. Students with extensive personal or family commitments may also benefit from the flexibility offered by other kinds of MBA programs. Full-time MBA programs also incur significant opportunity costs, which can be prohibitive to any professional who does not require an immersive program of study to transition from one field to another.
What a Full-Time MBA Program Means to Your Career
Any MBA program will almost certainly lead to increased job opportunities, increased earnings, accelerated promotions and a significantly expanded professional network. The unique draw of full-time MBA programs is that they offer the opportunity to take time off from professional work and to master a new set of skills before returning to the job market. This makes full-time MBA programs uniquely suited to individuals with some leadership experience who wish to change the trajectory of their careers. Full-time MBA students average a $15,000 salary increase and an $85,000 annual salary at their first post-graduation jobs, according to the GMAC’s 2012 Alumni Perspectives Survey.
Full-Time MBA Program Rankings
Several publications compile rankings of the top MBA programs each year according to various metrics. Each of these rankings differs to some degree, although the same cluster of elite business schools tends to appear near the top each year. These rankings are useful as a rough indication of the quality of various institutions, but they are not precise enough or individual enough to tell you what business school is right for you.
According to U.S. News and World Report, these are the top nine MBA programs:
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
- Northwestern University (Kellogg)
- University of Chicago (Booth)
- University of California — Berkeley (Haas)
- Columbia University
- Dartmouth College (Tuck)