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How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA?

group of students looking at laptop
group of students looking at laptop

The length of an MBA program greatly depends on whether you are attending full-time or part-time. Full-time programs generally last about two years. You can usually finish an accelerated, online, or hybrid MBA programs in a shorter time if you don't take any breaks.

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The time needed in the classroom is also a consideration. If you choose a more intensive, accelerated MBA program, you may spend as many as six hours a day in class. The pace of a part-time MBA program is slower; you may attend class only once a week, but you'll only be able to take a couple of classes each term. Online courses, though they don't require you to physically be in class, do require you to devote several hours per week to each class you take.

MBA Programs and Their Lengths

The length of an MBA program—and other graduate degree programs—vary per school, type of program, and student circumstances, but here are some examples of typical program lengths for common degree programs:

Type of ProgramCompletion Time
Full-time MBA2 years
Part-time MBAAbout 3 years
Accelerated MBA12 to 18 months
Hybrid MBAAbout 2 years
4+1 MBA5 years
Executive MBA1 to 2 years
Online MBA1 to 2 years
Doctor of Business Administration3 to 6 years
PhD4 to 5 years

MBA Teaching Methods

MBA programs commonly use a teaching technique known as the "case study method." The case study method simulates what an MBA graduate might expect in a business setting, explains Marco De Novellis, senior editor for Graduate Management Admission Council's BusinessBecause networking site and GMAC Media. In this method, students are given a description of a real-life business problem or scenario to read about and research. They work individually or in groups to analyze the causes and effects and to suggest solutions.

Core MBA Business School Subjects

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), "Although no two business schools offer the same curriculum, all MBA programs expose students to a common body of knowledge in basic accounting, economics, finance, human resources and organization design, marketing, operations, policy, and quantitative methods and statistics."

These core subjects are generally taught in the first year of a traditional, two-year MBA program. Other types of programs may require that you be proficient in some or all of these areas upon entrance, and may not cover as many of them, or cover them in as much detail.

In the second year of your MBA program, you will likely be allowed to choose elective courses in an area of concentration such as finance, management, or human resources. The concentration may prepare you for a specific type of management career.

Working While Attending School

While some people prefer to take a break from their jobs and attend an MBA program full-time, many others choose to earn their MBA while they continue working. Part-time and executive programs are designed specifically to meet the needs of working students, while accelerated, one-year MBA programs are likely to demand your full attention.

While some people prefer to take a break from their jobs and attend an MBA program full-time, many others choose to earn their MBA while they continue working.

Most traditional, two-year MBA programs will probably fall between these two extremes. They may allow you enough time to hold a part-time job, but they're not specifically designed to accommodate a working person's schedule. These business schools do not recommend working while attending full time.

If you choose to continue working while pursuing an MBA either part-time or online, you will be gaining valuable work experience. At the same time, you may have limited time for recruitment fairs and other networking activities that many business schools offer.

Before making a final decision, it's a good idea to research several schools, according to Michael Biarnes, product and development manager with The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. If you plan to attend on campus, Biarnes recommends visiting the university and talking to students and professors. "Each school has its own culture of what they emphasize," he says.

Salary and Job Outlook

The job outlook for people with MBAs appears strong. In GMAC's recent Corporate Recruiters Survey, more than 90% of corporate recruiters said they expected their hiring of people with MBAs to increase or remain stable.

People with MBAs are more likely to make more money per year and over a lifetime compared to people with bachelor's degrees. Some industries will pay more, and there are many other factors that might influence individual salaries.


karen hanson

Written and reported by:

Karen S. Hanson

Contributing Writer

marco denovellis

With professional insight from:

Marco De Novellis

Senior Editor, BusinessBecause and GMAC Media

michael biarnes

Michael Biarnes

The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson; Author of Redefining Success