Magazine article Management Today

MBA & Business Education Guide 2006: MBA: Part-Time or Full Time?

Magazine article Management Today

MBA & Business Education Guide 2006: MBA: Part-Time or Full Time?

Article excerpt

Juggling studies with your career (and life) is a hectic challenge, while a campus place offers real focus but can take you out of the office loop. Which kind of course suits you?

For three days each month, Anna Meleshina swaps her office in St Petersburg for a classroom in Oxfordshire. The 29-year-old group communications director enrolled on Henley Management School's MBA course in 2004, and now juggles her full-time job at Heineken in Russia with part-time study in the UK.

Meleshina doesn't want to take time out of her career, but she does want to accelerate the pace of it. She is among a growing number of professionals who learn while they earn. In a poll of 1,117 MBA graduates from international business schools, the Association of MBAs' (AMBA) 2005 Career Survey revealed that only 37% of respondents gained their MBA through full-time study, while 63% opted for part-time or distance learning, an increase of 27% since 1995.

The main appeal of the part-time route is that students don't have to put their jobs on hold. Part-time MBA programmes are designed to meet the needs of busy managers and can be taken over two or three years, involving either weekend classes or modular blocks. Figures from AMBA show that about half of all part-time students are fully sponsored by their employers, while a further 17% have a proportion of their fees paid, helping part-time students avoid hefty bills run up by full-timers.

Another advantage of the part-time MBA is that students can put their learning straight into practice. They can be in the classroom one day and then use their knowledge at work the next. Students also have the opportunity to customise their course and pick electives that are of direct relevance to their job.

'Part-time students can be even more demanding in terms of the programme being practically applicable, up-to-the-minute and directly relevant to the business issues they are facing,' says Graham Clark, director of the ecutive MBA at Cranfield School of Management.

There are downsides. Trying to cram in study on top of the day-to-day demands of your job is a tough task. 'It's a tremendous challenge and it pushes you beyond your limits,' says Marianne Vandenbosch, manager of the executive MBA at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Switzerland's top business school. 'But it does teach you how to delegate. Students discover what they are really capable of.'

Your commitment will be tested by professional and personal obligations, as well as by sheer exhaustion. Says 40-year-old Thomas Muehlbauer, who enrolled on Henley Management School's part-time MBA course last year: 'I have three priorities: my family - I'm married and have two boys; my full-time job (55 hours a week); and my executive MBA. I have to balance all three and that takes a lot of discipline and organisation.' Zurich-based Muehlbauer flies to the UK each month for lessons and sits his exams at the British Council in Bern. When he's not 'commuting', he's working on assignments and admits that the schedule is gruelling.

There are ways of squeezing in study without disrupting your daily routine. Meleshina uses her three-hour flight from St Petersburg to London to catch up on notes and read through her MBA textbooks. If you travel a lot as part of your job, you could use the time sitting waiting in airport lounges to revise. …

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