Accepted editors were recently debating the full-time versus part-time MBA options. I thought the brief discussion was quite interesting and am excerpting the comments of Cindy Tokumitsu and Sachin Waikar. Cindy has worked with many, many successful applicants to part-time and full-time MBA programs since she started with Accepted ten years ago. Sachin, a former McKinsey consultant who has a Ph.D. in psychology, has received rave reviews from clients during the two years he has been part of the Accepted staff. Both Cindy and Sachin draw on both their broad professional experience and specific illustrative personal anecdotes.
They were responding to these questions:
- What is your overall feeling about the value of the part-time MBA?
- Does the networking/brand pay off reasonably well? Is the quality of education well considered?
- Do participants really have the chance to build their skills?
Cindy Tokumitsu wrote :
It’s hard to answer those questions in the abstract — for a person who really wants a regular MBA, [part-time] might not be a great option, for various reasons. For such people, it’s a compromise they make because they can’t get into a top school’s full-time program (and they’d rather have the name than a lesser ranked full-time degree) or because their life just doesn’t allow them to take off 2 years. For some people, on the other hand, it’s the exact right fit for their needs — often these are people working in a company or industry they want to stay involved in and who would benefit from being able to apply classroom lessons "as they go." Such people also often are on the cusp of advancement into business manager role, and the MBA studies boost their credibility/profile internally.
This anecdote may be relevant: my daughter’s good friend (and a Princeton grad) is completing the top-ranked NYU part-time program; he values the actual education but is disappointed that he does not have access to the recruiting he’d hoped for — not so much that NYU prevents it but that top finance companies simply aren’t recruiting from the part-time program (and he’s atop student in his class and also serves in leadership roles).
Overall I think the quality of education varies depending on the part-time program — for some it is equal to that of the full-time MBA; for others it may be less rigorous.
Also anecdotally, from clients/former clients I’ve heard that (a) it’s harder to handle the school + work than they expected, (b) it’s really interesting to apply the concepts/learning on the job, and (c) it’s stimulating to interact with classmates engaged in all kinds of interesting work while frustrating to lack the time to really interact as much as they’d like.
Not a black-and-white picture — but hopefully it helps!
Sachin Waikar responded:
Cindy raises a lot of good points, especially the recruiting challenges that part-timers face. For example, a ton of people enter McKinsey, BCG, and other consulting firms from Kellogg‘s full-time program, but those in the part-time have to really fight/network their way to such opportunities. Banking is probably even tougher.
Full-time is more immersive, not surprisingly, so students get to know each other better and leave with a more cohesive network. My wife’s best friend started in Kellogg’s part-time program and then transferred to full-time, so through her we got to see both. The cultures, diversity, and recruiting opportunities were the biggest differences. You have people from all over the world in the full-time program, and people from all over the world who now live and work in the Chicago area in the part-time program (though I know more people are commuting to it now, especially the Saturday program). The full-time program was more like a second set of college years, with late-20-somethings partying their way through late-night team sessions (and ill-fated romances; though some get married!), while the part-time program was more serious, with late-20-somethings struggling to even make it to class and team sessions between work and family obligations.
Bottom line seems to be that career-changers are best served (by far) with the full-time program, and those looking to advance within their general career track benefiting from the part-time, especially the financial aspects (no lost income; work sponsorship, etc.). There are always exceptions (e.g., the part-time student who ends up at Goldman Sachs or McKinsey), but as I always say to clients, "Why aim to be one of those?"
The key here is that part-time programs are best for some; full-time are best for others. In deciding which is best for you, consider both the questions that triggered the discussion and the issues Cindy and Sachin raised in the course of it.