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The Mini MBA—Is It Worth It?

Find out what it is, how much it costs, and whether a mini MBA is worth your time or a waste of time

The needs of prospective MBA students are changing, seeing a rising demand for a flexibility—whether this is part-time MBA formats or online MBA programs. 

The Mini MBA offers something very different—an accelerated business program, with an emphasis on the student's specific needs. For those interested in studying longer term, or those looking to supplement their business education, the Mini MBA can be the perfect complement to a full-time MBA.

But what exactly does it involve? And is it worth your time and money?


What is the Mini MBA?

The Mini MBA, as the name would suggest, is a fast-track format of the MBA, concentrating what would be one or two years of content into around 40 hours of tuition. 

“[The Mini MBA] is like a balcony view of the business landscape, offering a view of how all the pieces work together,” comments Jacque Anderson (pictured below), assistant dean at Opus College of Business at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota.

Their program provides an introductory insight into business, preparing students for what might be a further exploration, or just a foundational understanding of the area.

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The Mini MBA exists mainly in two formats—a week-long accelerated program, or a weekly extended program.

The week-long format offers concentrated, informative training, usually on a specific topic, such as the Mini MBA in digital marketing at Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick—a comprehensive understanding of digital marketing condensed into five days.

The extended format tends to spread over the course of 12-14 weeks, delivered in weekly classes of three to four hours. The Mini MBA at Opus, for example, focuses on a different topic each week, such as finance, business ethics, and leadership.


How much does it cost?

In 2018, more than two-thirds of US schools recorded a decline in applications to full-time MBA programs. One of the bigger indicators of declining MBA applications is the significant costs thrust upon students for their one or two years of study.

The average cost in the US for a two-year MBA program is $60k, while EMBA students can expect to pay over $100k.

Andrew Crisp of CarringtonCrisp—marketing research and consultancy for higher education—observes how fewer companies pay for places on MBA programs for their employees—formerly an assurance for students of both funding and employment after graduation.

The cost for a Mini MBA varies depending on where you take them—they are, unsurprisingly, significantly cheaper.

Tuition fees start at around $2k—the price of the Marketing Week Mini MBA—and go up to just shy of $6k—the cost of the Mini MBA at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in California.

 

Why should I do a Mini MBA?

The Mini MBA is geared towards three main types of candidate.

The most common is the prospective full-time MBA student, offering candidates the chance to sample the flavor of a business degree before fully committing.

Brad Bays (pictured), senior MBA director at Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Ohio, notes that the majority of Farmer’s Mini MBA students go on to study the full-time MBA.

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It gives candidates a far more comprehensive understanding of what an MBA involves than a prospectus or an open day. At Miami, follow-on is further incentivized by deducting the $3k cost of the mini program from their MBA tuition.

The second common type is the candidate looking to enhance knowledge in a specific area.

While undertaking a full-time MBA gives you a comprehensive view of all areas of business, for those looking for more specialized focus, the Mini MBA is ideal.

The Marketing Week Mini MBA splits marketing into 12 different modules, finishing with an exam at the end of the course, suited specifically to those for whom marketing is an interest.

The third type is the student looking to enhance their own business competency, while remaining in a specific role—a lawyer or an architect, for instance, looking to enhance their business understanding of the industry.

“It’s about learning the language of business, and understanding the systems thinking for business,” reiterates Jacque from St Thomas.


What do employers think of it?

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Mini MBA programs, in general, are under no misgivings as to the differences between full-time and mini in employers’ eyes­—“any recruiter will know they aren’t equivalent,” Andrew Crisp notes.

Employers, however, are increasingly drawn to the Mini MBA format to enhance the skills and business acumen of their employees.

The Mini MBA at Farmer was set-up from demand by a local law firm, who wanted to expose their younger recruits to “a layer of business education”. Brad from Farmer, illustrates how this law firm saw the Mini MBA quickly accelerating the understanding, and the careers, of their junior intake.

Other non-education based companies are starting to run their own programs. Google recently announced an Innovation Mini MBA which they are launching and running during London Tech Week in June 2019.



Is it worthy of the ‘MBA’ name?

It’s not surprising that many business schools reject the idea of the Mini MBA—it lacks the breadth and depth which makes a full-time MBA so valuable. 

Stuart Robinson, MBA director at Exeter Business School, objects to the idea that you can condense all of the knowledge of an MBA into a 40-hour program.

“You either do an MBA, or you don’t,” Stuart protests, arguing that the existence of the Mini MBA devalues the qualification of a full-time MBA.

He similarly objects to the idea that you can do a Mini MBA “in something”—the very idea of an MBA is that it is a general qualification with a wide focus of business administration in general.

The providers, however, tend to argue that it is not an alternative or a replacement for a full-time program, but rather offers something supplementary to a full-time degree.

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Peter Methot (pictured), director of Executive Education at Rutgers Business School, notes how their portfolio of Mini MBA programs is topping up business knowledge.

“In our digital marketing program, almost everyone that comes has an MBA—they just earned it before digital marketing was part of the curriculum,” Peter comments.


Worth your time or waste of time?

The Mini MBA clearly is not the same as an MBA, nor is it trying to be.

Universities are unsurprisingly 'degree-focused', explains Brad from Farmer, as it is far more sustainable for them to promote full-time programs.

Modern trends, however hint at the erosion of MBA in a traditional format, forcing it to adapt to people’s needs and interests. Life-long learning, for example, is increasingly popular as professionals seek education alongside their career, rather than having to put their career on pause. Remote-learning, meanwhile, is showing how MBA students favor flexibility over the physical commitment of a degree. 

The Mini MBA is not replacing the full-time MBA—but it is showing how the needs of its students are changing. The MBA­—full-time, part-time, online, or mini—will be forced to adapt to meet these needs.


 

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