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Earning an MBA Online: Part-time and Full-Time Program Options

Earning an MBA Online: Part-time and Full-Time Program Options

Deciding to earn an online MBA is the first step, but next you must decide if a part-time or full-time MBA is best for you. On this page we take look at part-time programs, outline the unique details, and help you decide if part-time is right for you.

MBA students typically have a wealth of work experience under their belts before they apply to an MBA program. For example, the average MBA candidate at Wharton Business School has four years of work experience before being accepted to the program. However, students who have spent several years building their flourishing careers may find it hard to slow down their upward trajectories by taking time away from work to pursue a master’s degree.

Fortunately, you don’t have to put your full-time job on the backburner to pursue an MBA. These days, part-time MBA programs offer the flexibility to study where and when it’s convenient for you. With this option, you can earn your master’s degree without putting your career on hold. 

If pursuing your MBA without sacrificing your professional progress sounds appealing, read on. Discover the advantages of a part-time MBA, the potential structure of this program, and the best part-time MBA programs for 2023. 

Best Part-Time Online MBA Programs

When looking at part-time MBA online programs, there’s a lot to consider. You want a program with a strong curriculum, networking opportunities, a flexible learning format, and the right specialization options. Plus, it should fit within your price range. You’ll also want to compare part- and full-time programs to understand the time commitment each one requires. These five top part-time MBA programs are good places to start your search.

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University offers a fully online part-time MBA. In this AACSB-accredited program, students take finance, operations, strategy, IT, and marketing courses. Students also have the option to choose one of three specializations: finance, strategy and leadership, or business analytics.

With this part-time MBA, students should expect to devote 25-30 hours a week to coursework, with much of that time fitting around their work schedule and life obligations. The courses are structured into seven-week semesters. Often, students take two to three classes each seven weeks, allowing them to graduate in two years, but students can take coursework at a slower cadence if needed. The cost of tuition for 45-credit program is $1,555 per credit hour, which increases between 3% and 5% each year.

Boston College

The part-time MBA from Boston College allows professionals in the Boston area the chance to propel their careers without taking time off work. In this program, students take courses in economics, data analytics, finance, accounting, marketing, and leadership. While there aren’t official specialization tracks, students take nine credit hours in electives of interest to them. This AACSB-accredited program also offers flexible course loads, allowing students to graduate in two, three, or four years.

Unlike other programs on this list, Boston College’s part-time MBA is hybrid, meaning students must complete some courses on campus. The school offers flexible evening classes between 4:30 pm and 7:00 pm for online and in-person courses. The tuition cost for the program is $2,122 per credit hour, with 57 credits total required for the degree.

Villanova University

Professionals who want to complete their part-time MBA online while working full time will want to consider the program at Villanova University. This AACSB-accredited degree consists of accounting, marketing, business statistics, and finance coursework. 

Along with these foundational classes, students complete electives, leadership courses, and future-of-work classes. The program culminates in a capstone project, which should have an international focus. Villanova MBA students can choose from seven specializations, including business analytics, finance, international business, strategic management, and sustainability. This is a 48-credit program, and tuition is $1,263 per credit.

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University offers a part-time MBA designed for working professionals called the Working Professional MBA (WPMBA). In this AACSB-accredited part-time MBA, students take courses in finance, accounting, and marketing. They also take 21 credit hours in electives. With electives, students can take courses from many disciplines á la carte or specialize in one area. Specializations include global business, marketing, operations, nonprofits, finance, strategy, data analytics, leadership, supply chain management, organizational behavior, and human resources. Plus, the online, hybrid, and in-person class options make it easier to complete this degree while working full time.

The school also features a fully online part-time MBA option. Tuition for the 48-credit Flex WPMBA program is $628.60 per credit for in-state students and $1,132.23 for out-of-state students. Tuition for the online WPMBA is $604.20 for in-state and out-of-state students, with those from out of the state paying a $200 per semester surcharge.

University of Texas – Austin

Students interested in a part-time MBA with evening classes should consider the program from The University of Texas at Austin. Referred to as an “evening MBA,” the program was designed with working professionals in mind. All classes are in the evening and many classes are offered online. In this two-year program, students take courses in finance, marketing, operations, and leadership. There are some options to take electives, though the program doesn’t have an official specialization track. 

This AACSB-accredited program also offers experiential learning opportunities, such as networking events, study teams, and cohorts of MBA peers to share the experience with. Tuition is $2839.75 per credit, with 44 credits total required to earn the degree. New students can expect a tuition increase of 3% to 5%, and out-of-state students can expect a surcharge of $4,000-$4,600 per semester.

Cost of a Part-time Online MBA

With an average MBA cost of $62,650, getting your degree isn’t cheap. And, depending on the school, your part-time MBA online could be more expensive than a full-time option. Of the ten schools we researched, that was the case for six of the schools. Two of the schools had the same price for their part-time and full-time MBA program while the other two had more affordable part-time programs than full time ones.

To better understand how much the best part-time MBAs and full-time MBAs cost, explore the programs featured in the table below:

SchoolPart-time Cost (Tuition & Fees)Full-time Cost (Tuition & Fees)
Arizona State University$60,396 for Arizona residents; $62,606 for nonresidents$97,148
Boise State University$19,401 for Idaho residents; $31,822 for nonresidents$20,480 for Idaho residents; $54,425 for nonresidents
Boston College$124,560$120,954
New York University $165,240$134,204
Ohio State University$31,139 for Ohio residents; $57,091 for nonresidents$58,002 for Ohio residents; $59,202 for nonresidents
Pepperdine University$56,820-113,640, depending on if a student graduates in one or two years$106,350
University of Missouri$45,000$45,000
University of Texas – Austin$105,100 for Texas residents; $117,440 for nonresidentsOver $124,950
Villanova University$63,806$60,824
Wake Forest University$69,975$69,975

When comparing these numbers, it’s important to remember that they only include tuition and fees and are only estimates of what you may pay. Actual expenses will vary. You’ll also have to account for room and board, one-time fees, commuter costs, and meals. If you go with a full-time option, you should also budget for lost income.

Timeline to Graduation for a Part-Time Online MBA

For most students, a part-time MBA online takes two to five years to complete. It is possible, but highly unlikely, to graduate from a part-time MBA in less than two years. The program at Boise State takes 24 months on a part-time basis, but it is an outlier. Instead, it’s more likely that your program will take three to four years to complete.

Some programs have a set number of credit hours students must complete each semester, and thus one estimated timeframe. Other part-time MBAs, like the program from Boston College, offer multiple lengths. Programs with more flexibility might be better while working full-time, since you can adjust your course load for busy and slower seasons at work.

For an idea what your part-time MBA online might look like, explore the mock timeline below, which is a composite of elements from many programs.

  • Year 1

    Year one of a part-time MBA online often includes a kick-off orientation, like the one at the University of Texas at Austin, and foundational coursework. Often this coursework dives into every area of business and provides a broad overview of how the business world works. Courses include financial accounting, introduction to business statistics, business management, and leadership classes. This year also provides students with the space to explore different areas and decide on the right career path.

  • Year 2

    In year two of a part-time MBA online, students often wrap up the core courses required for all MBAs. They also have the chance to start a specialization or take electives. At some schools, like Ohio State University, this doesn’t occur until later in the second year. At others, like Wake Forest University, this starts sooner and students take more electives and foundation courses at the same time. Some schools also include specialty courses during year two, such as Villanova University. In their programs, students take 4.5 credit hours of “future of work” classes in their second year.

  • Years 3 + 4

    In the final year or two of a part-time MBA online, students wrap up elective courses. At schools like Ohio State University, the final year is almost entirely composed of elective courses. Others, such as the University of Texas at Austin, feature a mix of advanced core classes and electives in the final two semesters. Almost every program we looked at also had a capstone requirement, which is a larger, more time-intensive course. In the capstone course, students create a semester-long project that encompasses what they learned in their MBA. The University of Oregon provides examples of what MBA capstone projects have covered in the past.

Paying for Your Part-Time Online MBA

While the sticker price of a part-time MBA is often hefty, there are some ways to lower the bill, including financial aid, grants, and scholarship. Your employer may cover some of the bill through a tuition reimbursement program as well. 

When looking at funding options, remember you can mix and match. It could be hard to get one scholarship to fund your part-time MBA online, but a scholarship combined with employer tuition reimbursement and FAFSA financial aid could be more feasible. Let’s make the best part-time MBA program for you more affordable.

  • Financial Aid

    Financial aid is one of the most common ways to pay for a part-time MBA online. Usually, this aid is provided by the federal or state government in the form of low or no interest loans, grants, or scholarships. To be eligible for any government federal aid (and many types of private financial aid), students must fill out the FAFSA.

  • Grants

    Grants are money awarded to a student because they meet certain requirements. Usually, the money doesn’t have to be paid back, but students might have to complete research projects, internships, or other requirements in exchange for receiving the grant. For example, the NAACP provides grants to Black students who want to start a business while getting their part-time MBA, while the Fulbright Foreign Student Program provides grants to international students who want to get a graduate degree in the United States.

  • Scholarships

    After FAFSA, the most common form of financial aid for part-time MBA students is scholarships. Scholarships are money given out without the expectation that the recipient will pay it back. These awards are often given by universities, state or federal governments, nonprofits, or private companies. 

    When applying to a scholarship, check if it’s for part- or full-time students. Some scholarships, such as the ones from New York University, are for both. Others, such as the ones from Boise State University, are only for full-time students.

  • Employer Tuition Reimbursement

    Getting your employer to pay for your part-time MBA online is the ultimate life-hack. And no, you don’t have to be at a high level in your career to make this happen. Companies like Starbucks offer all their employees at least partial reimbursement of their tuition and fees for your degree. Some companies will even sponsor advanced degrees like an MBA as well. Two employers with exceptional tuition reimbursement programs include JP Morgan and Target.

  • Pay as You Go

    If you end up attending part time, you might find it reasonable to pay as you go, particularly if you are also working full time. This can mean no or very few student loans at the end. One of the best things you can do if you decide to pay as you go is start a budget. Put aside some money each month toward your education so when next semester’s tuition bill comes around, it doesn’t completely drain your bank account.

Part Time MBA vs. Full Time: Is it Worth it?

Obviously, the answer to the “worth it” question is highly subjective. The good news is 85% of MBA graduates say their degree positively impacted their career, meaning you can’t go wrong with either.

With that being said, there are some students who will find a full-time program is better for them or vice versa. It’s important to reflect on your current career goals, lifestyle, family situation, and finances before deciding on a part-time vs. full-time MBA.

  • A Part-time online MBA program is right for you if…

    • You want to work full time while getting your degree. Since a part-time MBA offers evening or weekend classes, it’s easier to balance with a full-time job. 
    • You’re using your MBA to enhance your current career. If you want to advance in your industry, but would like to stay in your current role until graduating, a part-time MBA is a better choice. 
    • Your employer has a generous reimbursement program. You have to work at a company to take advantage of their reimbursement program, meaning a part-time MBA may be easier to fund.
  • A Full-time online MBA program is right for you if…

    • You want to use financial aid to fund your education. Some scholarships and grants are only for full-time MBA students, meaning this option may be easier to fund. 
    • You can afford to leave work for 18 to 24 months and want to fully immerse yourself in your studies. 
    • You are looking to start a new career. If you are fresh out of undergrad or looking to pivot into a new career, a full-time option provides the space and resources to make that career change.