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Types of MBA Degrees

Michael McCarthy

Written By: Michael McCarthy

Published: 4/25/2022

Experts have long praised the positive effects that a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can have on a graduate's salary potential, marketability, and skillset. But the degree's popularity has led to a sometimes confusing array of options on the academic market, which can make it hard to identify a program that suits you. Should you opt for a part-time program with a specialized concentration? What about an accelerated degree? And what exactly is an executive MBA?

On this page, we explain different types of MBA programs and their possible pros and cons. See our list of the 25 best online MBA programs once you know what you want in a graduate business degree.

Learn about different types of MBA degrees, including full-time vs. part-time, online MBAs, and available concentrations, to choose the right program for you.

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Full-Time Versus Part-Time MBA Programs

Full-time and part-time MBAs probably need the least amount of explanation. Both options generally consist of 36-48 credit hours, but you can complete a full-time MBA program in two years and a part-time degree in three to five years depending on your course load.

Program directors design full-time MBAs for students who are able to forego two years of paid employment to finish their degree more quickly. Because these students usually don't work while going to school, most programs feature an internship requirement to help them put their business knowledge and management skills into practice. Business experience isn't necessarily required to enroll full time, but admissions officers usually prefer candidates who've been in the workforce for a few years.

You can complete a full-time MBA program in two years and a part-time degree in three to five years depending on your course load.

Part-time MBAs are intended for working professionals, so students take one or two classes per term. In-person learners typically take night classes. Distance learners can sign in to their course management system at any convenient time to complete coursework.

Accelerated MBA Programs

One special type of full-time MBA is an accelerated-track program. You can potentially complete one of these degrees in a year, but it's important to understand which type of accelerated MBA you're applying for.

Accelerated Track 1: Faculty design the first variety of accelerated MBA for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in business, because it requires certain prerequisite courses in subjects such as statistics and economics. You might be able to take the prerequisites as non-degree classes at another college, but this is less common. These programs often begin with a condensed summer session before enrollees join second-year MBA students for the remainder of the academic year.

Accelerated Track 2: This type of accelerated program features shorter courses of seven to eight weeks, which allows you to take more of them in a year. This learning mode is more common for online degrees. Such degrees typically have multiple start dates each year, so you may not need to wait for a traditional fall semester to begin the program.

Executive MBA Programs

Program administrators pitch executive MBAs (EMBAs) to mid-career professionals who have plenty of business experience. Applicants are often managers who've reached leadership positions without a graduate degree but want an extra credential to help them rise even higher.

These programs typically take a hybrid format: classwork is online and part-time, but students usually meet periodically for intensive sessions where they can present projects, discuss business concepts, and network. This model requires a good deal of personal sacrifice — on top of a part-time course schedule and, presumably, full-time career, you'll typically need to use some vacation days from work to satisfy in-person requirements. This will leave you with less time for personal vacation and may involve traveling a considerable distance at your own expense, depending on where you live.

EMBA applicants are often managers who've reached leadership positions without a graduate degree but want an extra credential to help them rise even higher.

MBA Concentrations

No matter which type of MBA you choose, it may feature an optional concentration to let you tailor your studies. Pouring electives into a concentration might help you specialize in an area of interest once you graduate. We've listed a few of the most common MBA specializations below, including information on curricula and possible career paths. Though this isn't an exhaustive list, it can give you an idea of what's available. All salary information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Concentration Curriculum Focus Common Courses Careers with Median Annual Salaries
Finance Maintaining the fiscal health of business entities, setting and analyzing budgets, using finance data for decision-making, and reporting finances to stakeholders
  • Financial Accounting
  • Global Finance
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
Healthcare Management The finance, operations, and marketing of healthcare entities such as hospitals, clinics, and medical device manufacturers
  • Finance in Healthcare Organizations
  • Healthcare Law and Regulation
  • Medical Information Technology
Human Resources Leading teams that recruit and train new employees, writing employer policies, and administering compensation and benefits
  • Creating Policies and Procedures
  • Employment Law and Risk Management
  • Human Resources as a Strategic Function
Information Systems Technical operations management, including hardware and software upgrades, technology help desks, and networks
  • Information Security
  • Information Systems for Decision-making
  • Managing IT Teams
Management Leadership across an organization, using lessons gleaned from organizational psychology, sociology, and data science
  • Analytics for Business Management
  • International Business and Supply Chain Management
  • Project Management
Marketing Presenting an employer's goods and services to consumers in an appealing way using data-informed research, new and traditional media, and strategic campaigns
  • Business Analytics and Market Research
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Digital Marketing

Online MBA Programs

Each variety of MBA program is available in online format. For example, you might choose a part-time online degree with a concentration in marketing, or an online accelerated one-year program featuring a general management curriculum. Some degrees might also contain a hybrid mix of distance and in-person learning — indeed, this is the nature of EMBAs.

Online degrees are popular for several reasons, chiefly their flexibility and general affordability. Most online degree programs consist of asynchronous courses, which means there are no live class meetings. Students in asynchronous courses can watch recorded lectures, interact with classmates in discussion forums, and complete other work at convenient times as long as they submit assignments by their due dates. These degrees also tend to cost less than their traditional counterparts because business schools can enroll more students without needing to make costly upgrades to campus infrastructure.

For ideas about where to apply, you can read our page listing the best online MBAs. Besides the rankings, we list every distance MBA degree that the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredits at the program level.

Which Type of MBA Program is Right For You?

The answer to this question is unique to you, because your finances, family responsibilities, and academic and career goals are different from everyone else's. But you can use our breakdown of MBA types, along with the questions below, to help you weigh different factors in your decision.

Where am I in my career? Most MBA admissions officers prefer candidates with at least a few years of work experience, but EMBA programs typically require significant time spent in positions of increasing responsibility.

Can I afford to study full-time, or do I want to keep working during my MBA? Your financial situation may help sway your decision, including the amount of financial aid you can secure.

Do I want a fully online, hybrid, or traditional MBA? Some colleges have only one option, but others offer two or all three.

Is there a program in my preferred learning mode that also offers my preferred concentration? The more specific your academic goals, the quicker you can eliminate schools from consideration.

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