For some, a bachelor’s degree is the end of their educational path and the beginning of their business career. For others, it’s the first step before pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which typically covers core business principles, such as finance, marketing, accounting, leadership/management, ethics, and economics, and applies them to real-world business scenarios. Many CEOs, chief financial officers (CFOs), and other executives in Fortune 500 leadership obtain MBAs on their way to the C-suite. An advanced degree is not only a financial investment but also an investment of your time.
How long does it take to get an MBA? While the answer depends on many factors, the average time frame is two years. The exact duration differs by university, type of program, and concentration.
Types of MBA programs
The type of program you choose largely determines how long it will take to earn an MBA. Most universities offer on-campus, online, accelerated, executive, and part-time programs. The variety of options available to aspiring MBA students is evidence that higher education isn’t one-size-fits-all. If you require more flexibility in your coursework and schedule, then you can pursue the same degree as full-time traditional students but in a more convenient format.
If you’re interested in a two-year MBA, you generally have two options: a traditional on-campus program or a remote online program. Either way, the first year of the program will comprise core courses that teach basic business skills. The second year will include elective courses such as finance, accounting, and marketing, that allow you to choose an area of focus. To graduate, you must deliver a final project such as a dissertation, thesis, or capstone that applies what you learned in the program.
If you’re interested in other options, you can deviate from the traditional two-year structure. An accelerated MBA condenses what is typically a two-year program to one or one-and-a-half years. If you require a less demanding schedule, a part-time MBA allows you a longer time frame for completion, usually three to five years. Executive MBA programs typically take one-and-a-half to two years to finish and involve more advanced coursework since it’s assumed that these students already have considerable business experience.
A specialized MBA, or a concentration, allows you to focus on a unique area of business. For example, a marketing MBA might not feature information technology (IT) or accounting courses. One advantage of taking an MBA program with a concentration is that it typically involves less coursework — and therefore costs less money. Compared with a general MBA, a specialized MBA takes about a half year less. Common MBA concentrations include entrepreneurship, media management, and IT management. Those who pursue an MBA with a concentration often have a specific job in mind.
The principal benefit of an MBA is that it prepares you for a demanding career. An MBA offers a foundation in the critical skills and knowledge required to manage an existing business or open a new one:
- Consumer behavior
- Financial markets
- Human resources (HR)
- Organizational behavior
Something else to keep in mind is that individuals with MBAs command higher salaries than those with an undergraduate degree or a secondary education alone. According to Investopedia, the average annual salary of MBA graduates in 2019 was $134,991, with variations depending on region, job title, and experience. A study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that the average starting salary for MBA graduates in the class of 2020 was $20,000 higher than those with an undergraduate business degree.
Another benefit of an MBA is the personal and professional opportunities it can present. As an MBA student, you can expand your personal network organically and make meaningful business connections that you can tap into when seeking postgraduate employment. Networking tools such as LinkedIn are useful, but nothing beats a personal relationship.
Choosing an MBA program can be difficult, but your decision ultimately depends on your schedule and commitments, career goals, and specific interests.
You should avoid overcommitting to demanding programs. If you have family or work obligations, you may benefit from an online or part-time program with added flexibility. On the other hand, if your obligations are minimal and allow you to handle a more aggressive timeline, you may be better suited for an accelerated program.
You should also consider your career aspirations. If you’re interested in working for a major marketing firm, a program that offers a concentration in marketing could be the best avenue. However, if you’re more interested in starting a business than working for a company, you might want to consider an entrepreneurship concentration, which helps provide the tools to establish a new venture.
Before committing to your path, reflect on where it will ultimately lead and how to get the best return on your investment.
Earn your Master of Business Administration
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