For around half of business school candidates globally, the first thing they think about when choosing a school is the type of degree program they want to pursue. Eight out of ten candidates consider multiple program types.
There are pros and cons to each kind of MBA program. You’ll need to decide if the idea of immediately applying your learnings at work on a part-time MBA or online MBA appeals more or less than an immersive experience that gives you a complete career break.
Your age and amount of work experience is also important as most of the learning in an MBA environment is peer-to-peer. You may want to be around the same seniority level as your classmates.
Choosing the right MBA program for you can be tricky. But, by looking into the backgrounds, personalities, and motivations of people applying to those programs, you can get a good idea of what might be the best fit.
In this article, we’ve compiled some of the latest research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) to help you choose the right MBA program and to answer the question: What Kind Of MBA Candidate Are You?
You can skip to your section of interest by clicking one of the links below:
Of all the MBA program types, candidates preferring full-time programs are the youngest and least experienced.
Full-time candidates have a median age of 26 and about three years of work experience. About one-in-five own a home and are married and one-in-10 have children.
Full-time MBA programs provide a rich, fully immersive experience that can be transformational and which allows students to spend time developing strong bonds with their cohort.
The latest Financial Times Global MBA Ranking puts Stanford Graduate School of Business on top for the second year running.
Kristin Harlan, director of strategic communications at Stanford, says: “Our residential program is ideal for candidates who are seeking to address the world's pressing challenges in a fully-immersive and collaborative learning environment.
“At the end of their two years, students graduate into a close-knit network of friends and colleagues who stay connected throughout their lives.”
Part-time MBAs—along with online MBAs—come under the Professional MBA program type, designed for people who are looking to work and study at the same time.
This program type attracts the highest percentage of female applicants, at 44%. Candidates for professional programs have a median age of 28, and four years of work experience.
Candidates preferring professional MBA programs tend to place relative greater importance on specific program aspects (like desired program format and length) and financial aspects (like costs, and availability of scholarships).
Rahul Sampat, director of admissions of MBA programs for working professionals at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business says: “The part-time program allows students to take what they learn in the classroom and implement it in their workplace—and they also bring ideas from their workplaces into the classroom.
“It allows them to complete their MBA while continuing to grow in their careers."
GMAC data on Professional MBAs, which includes part-time and online:
Warwick Business School’s Distance Learning MBA is ranked first in the world by the Financial Times and allows students to fit their studies around family and work.
According to John Colley, associate dean for the MBA at Warwick University, there is a smaller average increase in salary for distance learners compared to full-timers, but that is because they are on average older and further along in their career paths.
“Unlike many other schools our online MBA does not differ from the full-time and Executive MBA in terms of its curriculum, so part-time students have to cover the same volume of study and are marked at the same level as full-time students,” he continues.
The Executive MBA is aimed at older candidates with more work experience.
Candidates who prefer Executive MBA program types began considering business school a median of five years after completing their undergraduate degree.
They have a median age of 34 and a median of nine-and-a-half years work experience. Around half of them own a home and are married and around 40% have children. 67% are men and 33% are women.
Alongside full-time MBA candidates, those preferring Executive MBA program types are especially likely to say quality/reputation is most important to their school decision.
Stacey Kole, deputy dean for MBA programs at Chicago Booth, says she sees students receive promotions and pivot to new roles at new companies by using the skills gained in the Executive MBA program.
“The ability to immediately implement one’s learning is another enormous advantage of studying as a working professional,” she says.
GMAC categorizes prospective students into seven categories, from Respect Seekers (27% of the global prospective student market) to Impactful Innovators (12%)— these are different types of prospective students with different aims.
Of all the categories, only Global Strivers and Respect Seekers prefer full-time study options. Global Strivers want to gain international experience and would want to be based in a new country for at least part of the program. Respect seekers, who value ranking and school reputation, also prefer full-time programs.
Skill Upgraders generally want to study in-person and are interested in the school experience.
Balanced careerists want to pursue their goals with little disruption to their lives. For Balanced Careerists, it is all about flexibility and convenience. A part-time or online program is best suited.
Career Revitalizers want to take their careers to the next level, but more than any other group, prefer part-time studies. Socio-economic climbers are looking to boost their socio-economic status and most also prefer part-time study.
Impactful Innovators—who want to use their entrepreneurial thinking to make the world a better place—prefer part-time and hybrid programs, with a mixture of in-person and online modules.
Choosing an MBA program where you’ll find like-minded professionals makes sense. But then again, you shouldn’t just follow the crowd.
Think about what kind of MBA candidate you are. The type of program you choose will ultimately depend on your individual preferences and circumstances.