Part-time MBA: Is it the right choice for you?

More than half of all MBA students are enrolled in part-time MBA programs, according to a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). These programs include the same classes as full-time programs, but are typically completed during evenings or weekends over the span of three to four years.

Furthermore, the ROI on a part-time MBA education is strong. According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Education for Business, part-time MBA graduates earned a median post-graduation pay raise of 41% over their pre-MBA pay. Five years after graduation, pay had increased an additional 56%. And, a part-time MBA still provides the same “brand” and alumni networking opportunities as full-time programs.

Are you thinking about a part-time MBA program? A part-time degree might be a good option if:

1. Your current financial situation requires that you keep working full-time.

If the thought of self-imposed “unemployment” for the next two years makes your bank account cringe, then the part-time option may be right for you. While tuition cost is the same as that of a full-time program, being able to keep your current job while you study makes a significant difference in cash flow.

2. Your family obligations make full-time MBA studies impossible.

The immersion – intellectual, social and emotional – that is required by full-time programs can be all-consuming. For many individuals, having a spouse, children and/or other dependents makes earning an MBA degree part-time more realistic and far less stressful.

3. Your top priority is to gain knowledge, not change functions or industries.

While part-time students enjoy many of the same career recruitment opportunities available to full-time students, most summer internships are reserved for full-time students. If you are satisfied with your current function and industry, a summer internship is less important; earning a part-time MBA will still help fast-track your career advancement.

4. Your professional profile is strong but your academic profile is less competitive.

In general, business schools have a slightly lower bar when measuring applicants for their part-time programs than for their full-time programs. Consequently, your chances for admission are greater if you apply to a part-time program. However, be sure to do your research to ensure you meet the program’s qualifications.

5. Your current employer offers tuition assistance.

While merit- and need-based scholarships are typically restricted to full-time MBA students, many part-timers receive tuition assistance from their employers, which substantially reduces their debt load. It can’t hurt to ask!

Applying for a part-time MBA degree is just as demanding as full-time. And the competition for admission to highly ranked part-time programs is intense. If you are targeting a more selective program, the guidance and support of an experienced, professional admissions consultant can give your candidacy a real boost.