Going to graduate school is a big decision, but one that can pay off greatly over time. And those who do choose grad school will become part of an increasingly large cohort of peers. In fact, earning a graduate degree is becoming more popular than ever: it is the fastest growing educational credential in the United States.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 8 percent of the population now holds a graduate degree. Many see a master’s as a high-value ticket to career advancement and higher salary. For those seeking a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, this is especially true!
Although earning an MBA can be personally and professionally rewarding, it’s not without its challenges. Most MBA programs will require candidates to be out of the workforce for two years. They will also require a big investment of effort and money.
For MBA hopefuls who are reluctant to leave the workforce and forgo a salary, there are ways to minimize this impact. One option is to enroll in an accelerated 12-month course of study rather than a traditional two-year MBA program. These continuous study programs go straight through the summer, rather than leaving those months open for an internship placement or summer job.
Another accelerated option is a hybrid MBA program. This newer offering is designed for more advanced candidates who are already experienced in the workplace. Programs are two-parts executive MBA and two-parts traditional two-year MBA. Here, the curriculum is condensed into an 18-month run with weekend study. A benefit of this arrangement is that it allows students to remain in their current jobs.
Although there are some compromises to be made in pursuing an accelerated program over a traditional MBA, the academic offerings of the these two options are exactly the same. There is no deficit in what you study in a one-year curriculum. Both programs immerse you in the core fundamentals of business study including operations, finance, and marketing. Both programs feature a cohort model, where students begin with a group of peers and move through the program in lockstep with that group. Both programs provide the opportunity to take electives and specialize. And you won’t garner any less respect by graduating from an accelerated program. If anything, you may be held in higher esteem for powering through at warp-speed.
There are advantages to pursuing an accelerated MBA, but there are also some downsides. It is important to ask yourself what you want out of your MBA program. Is it just the degree and credential? Or are you looking to engage a vibrant social community loaded with amazing extracurriculars? You will need to consider the tremendous interpersonal experiences and connections that can be made in a traditional business program. These are substantial benefits, and should not be overlooked. Indeed, students heading off to business school often hope to not only jumpstart a career, but also build a social and professional network. Many MBAs who reflect on their two-year school experience say that the best resource they found in their program was each other.
Still trying to sort out which option might be best for you? Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of accelerated MBA study.
You’ll save time and money. Because you’ll be earning your degree in half the time, you’ll save thousands of dollars in tuition expense. You will also be able to jump back into the workforce with a post-MBA salary much sooner. Time and money are the primary reasons students choose accelerated study.
Students in one-year programs tend to be older and more experienced. In an accelerated program, you will likely study alongside a fairly smart and seasoned group of peers. Since business school is designed to for you to learn from your classmates, this is a definite bonus. This highly talented pool of ambitious students may also yield excellent networking opportunities.
With an accelerated MBA, you will do as well as (if not better than) your two-year business school peers when it comes to job offerings and salary. Recruiters see no real difference in the types of programs MBA hopefuls pursue, as long as programs are accredited and reputable. You will have equal standing in the job market no matter which option you choose. In fact, you may even do better with an accelerated MBA. One-year accelerated students tend to have more work experience, which can factor into a higher salary post-MBA.
You won’t have a summer internship. Summer internships or jobs during MBA programs allow students to pursue new positions and/or new industries. For many, working in that summer position is integral to getting initial out-of-school job offers. This is the main way that many recruiters identify new MBA graduates and use them to fill open spots.
You’ll miss out on the traditional bonding and campus life that robust MBA programs are known for. Again, many MBA graduates report that the best resource they found at school was each other. MBA programs set the stage for this by offering a dizzying amount of beyond-the-classroom activities and opportunities. These experiences are sometimes so meaningful that they compete with classroom learning. All that bonding advantages those students who find lifetime friends and business partners at school.
You will only get to know one cohort of peers.** In traditional programs, students are exposed to many other cohorts through an array of courses and social events, allowing them to expand their networks further.
Without a summer position, it may be more difficult to switch careers. If you are earning your MBA in order to maneuver into a new field or profession, a summer job will go a long way towards allowing you to make that transition.
There are not many U.S. schools that offer these one-year programs. Although a one-year accelerated MBA may be the best option for you in terms of your mindset and career plans, you may find slim pickings when it’s time to apply. There are a limited number of schools offering accelerated programs in the United States.
Are you the right candidate for a one-year accelerated MBA program? If you are narrowly focused, have some high-level work experience, and are earning your MBA in order to continue your current career trajectory, this may be a powerful option for you. However, if you are hoping for the full MBA experience and all that goes with it, you may prefer a more traditional two-year program.