How Long Does It Take To Earn An MBA Degree? The Complete Guide

With so many options available, it can be hard to make an informed decision about the length of your MBA program . Before you start your MBA application, check out these tips on how to decide which MBA program length is right for you.

Deciding to pursue an MBA degree is a big commitment that requires careful consideration of the time and effort required. An MBA can open doors to more lucrative careers, but how long will it take to get that master’s degree in business administration? Here is a complete guide on the time investment needed and strategies to earn an MBA faster.

The Basics: What is an MBA Degree?

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a graduate degree designed to provide students with advanced knowledge and skills in business management and leadership. Core MBA curriculum covers topics like accounting, finance, marketing, operations, strategy, and more.

MBA programs attract students from diverse backgrounds, including recent undergraduates and experienced professionals looking to advance their careers. The MBA designation signals expertise in business fundamentals and management capabilities to employers.

The degree typically requires 2 years of full-time study though part-time and accelerated options also exist. MBA programs are available through business schools at nonprofit and for-profit colleges and universities worldwide.

What’s the Typical Timeline for Earning an MBA?

The standard timeline for completing an MBA is 2 years when enrolled full-time This involves taking a full course load over 4 or 5 semesters

Part-time MBA programs designed for working professionals generally take 3-4 years to complete. Students take 1-2 classes per semester.

Dual degree programs that combine an MBA with another master’s degree like law or public health extend the timeline to 3-4 full-time years

For those looking to earn their MBA quickly, accelerated 1 year options condense the full curriculum into 3 or 4 consecutive semesters. This requires an intensive, full-time commitment.

Online MBA programs offer flexible schedules but generally align with the same timelines as traditional programs, depending on full- or part-time enrollment.

  • 1 year accelerated MBA
  • 2 years full-time
  • 3-4 years part-time
  • 3-4 years dual degree

Key Factors That Impact MBA Timelines

Several key factors influence the length of time required to earn an MBA:

1. Full-Time vs. Part-Time Enrollment

Full-time MBA students take 9-15 credits per semester and graduate in 2 years. Part-time students take fewer credits and need 3-4 years.

2. Program Format: Online, In-Person, or Hybrid

Program format does not necessarily affect timeline. Online MBA programs mirror completion times for full- and part-time on-campus programs.

3. Program Curriculum and Credit Requirements

The typical credit load for an MBA is 36-60 credits. More credits mean a longer timeline, unless taking an accelerated courseload.

4. Single vs. Dual Degree Programs

Pursuing a joint degree like an MBA/JD extends the timeline, as you must meet requirements for both degrees.

5. Transfer Credits

Students may shave time off their MBA by transferring eligible graduate credits. This allows waiving certain program requirements.

6. Class Schedules and Frequency

Accelerated programs allow faster completion by offering classes year-round. Traditional programs follow more limited academic calendars.

Strategies for Earning an MBA Faster

For those focused on minimizing time spent, here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Enroll in an accelerated 1-year MBA program that condenses the full curriculum into 12-16 months of intensive study.

  • Apply to programs that offer 6 or 7 week terms, rather than traditional 15 week semesters. More terms per year allows faster credit accumulation.

  • Attend a school with rolling admissions that has multiple start dates throughout the year. This provides greater flexibility.

  • Look for programs that offer summer courses to help you catch up or get ahead on credits.

  • Complete some preliminary foundation business courses through a MOOC platform like Coursera or edX before formally starting your MBA.

  • Finish any outstanding undergraduate prerequisite courses before beginning the MBA to avoid delays.

  • Identify programs that consider transfer credits from previous graduate business coursework to potentially waive some requirements.

Key Considerations When Earning an MBA

While minimizing the time in school is appealing, it’s important to weigh other factors when choosing an MBA program:

  • Full-time vs part-time – Decide whether you want to immerse yourself full-time or need to continue working.

  • Program quality and reputation – Make sure to prioritize accredited programs with strong reputations when applying.

  • Cost of attendance – Accelerated and top programs often have higher tuition rates. Compare total costs.

  • Curriculum alignment – Find a program that offers courses relevant to your goals.

  • Networking opportunities – Consider full-time and cohort-based programs for expanded peer networking.

  • Program outcomes – Examine career placement rates, alumni salaries, graduation rates.

Earning an MBA in the shortest time possible is tempting but not the only consideration. Balance timeline with program quality, cost, and your career objectives.

MBA Program Options

There are many different types of MBA programs available that offer varying timelines:

  • Traditional Full-Time MBA – Typically 2 years if attending full-time. Offers comprehensive curriculum.

  • Part-Time MBA – Designed for working professionals. Allows 3-4 years to complete with less intensive pace.

  • Online MBA – Flexible and self-paced. Takes 2+ years depending on full or part-time.

  • Accelerated MBA – Fast-tracked curriculum fitting into 1 year of full-time study.

  • Executive MBA – Part-time program tailored for executives with significant work experience.

  • Dual Degree MBA – Joint programs like MBA/JD take 3-4 years to meet requirements for both degrees.

Is an MBA Worth the Time and Investment?

Given the substantial time commitment required, is pursuing an MBA actually worth it?

According to surveys conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the answer seems to be yes:

  • 96% of MBA graduates surveyed reported their degree was worth the time and cost.

  • The median starting base salary for MBA graduates in 2021 was $115,000, up from $105,000 in 2020.

  • 91% of 2021 MBA graduates received a job offer within 3 months of completing their program.

An MBA can provide significant salary increases and accelerated career advancement opportunities in fields like consulting, finance, marketing, healthcare, technology, and more. The long-term earnings potential generally outweighs the short-term investment in time and tuition costs.

For working professionals, specialized MBA programs like an Executive MBA allow applying new knowledge and leadership principles directly in the workplace while studying.

Overall, an MBA can deliver outstanding long-term value for motivated students looking to level up their business acumen and reach higher management positions. But prospective students should carefully weigh the time commitment required for their individual circumstances against the potential payoffs before jumping in.

Final Tips on Earning an MBA

Decide if you want to immerse yourself in full-time accelerated study or take a more gradual approach fitting classes around your work schedule.

Look for ways to transfer credits or test out of certain courses if eligible based on your background.

Compare many programs to find the right curriculum, specializations, networking opportunities, and career support services to help you meet your goals.

Research scholarships, fellowships, employer tuition reimbursement, and loan/repayment options to make the MBA more affordable.

Leverage your MBA education during the program through internships, leadership roles in campus organizations, and building your professional network.

Earning an MBA is a significant investment of time, effort and money. But the payoff can be well worth it over the long-term throughout your career.

how long to get mba

4+1 MBA: 5 years

Some undergraduate institutions offer a fast-track option—the 4+1 MBA—which allows students to begin earning their MBA while still pursuing a bachelors degree (in business or another field). Most 4+1 MBA students start their application process during their junior undergraduate year—and youll still have to take the GMAT . Students begin taking business courses their senior year and will ultimately save time and money.

Accelerated MBA programs: 12-18 months

Many accelerated MBA programs start early summer and end the following summer, with an optional, six-month field specialization. If you have a strong professional background and/or an undergraduate business degree, but you still want to gain more expertise, an accelerated MBA could be the best option to save time and money.

What is an MBA | Should You Get One? (with former CEO)

How many credits does an MBA program take?

MBA programs vary in credit requirements, too, ranging from 30 to 60 credits depending on the school and program type. Traditional MBA programs take two years to complete, but even these programs typically allow part-time students to earn the degree in four or five years by offering night and weekend classes.

How long does an Accelerated MBA program take?

Accelerated MBA: Sometimes referred to as a one-year MBA program, an accelerated MBA program only takes about one year to complete.

How long does it take to get an MBA degree?

The time it takes to earn an MBA degree varies by the type of program and by school. Some MBA programs are designed for students to complete in a year, while others can take several years. Regardless of the type of degree program you enroll in, you generally receive the same graduate degree in the end.

How long does an online MBA program take?

For example, a full-time online MBA program may take two years to complete, whereas a part-time online MBA program may take between three and five years to complete. If you are looking to complete your MBA quickly and with flexible learning options, consider looking for an online accelerated MBA program.

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