Types of MBAs: How to Decide What’s Best for Your Career

by Ariel Smotrich

4 Types of MBA to Know About

• Traditional MBA vs. MBA Alternatives
• General MBA vs. MBA Specializations
• Full-Time MBA vs. Part-Time MBA
• Online vs. In-Person MBA

Continuing business education is an opportunity to expand your business knowledge and professional network. But not all types of MBAs are created equally. That’s why it’s important to consider which types of MBAs are a fit for your goals, schedule and budget.

Here are the most common types of MBA and what you need to know about each.

4 Types of MBAs to Know About


1) Traditional MBA vs. MBA Alternatives

Traditional MBAs are typically two-year, full-time programs. That means students generally have to leave the workforce to pursue the degree while also having to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses.

MBA alternatives, like the brunchwork Business Intensive, are faster, more practical and cheaper. These programs cost ~$1,500 and can be completed as quickly as a few weeks.

➡️ Recommendation: MBA alternatives take a practical, hands-on approach to learning, relative to traditional MBAs. For instance, students in our program, Business Intensive, walk away with skills they can immediately apply on the job. We cover everything from developing effective business presentations to analyzing financial reports.

If you want an option that’s fast, inexpensive, and actionable, look into mini MBA programs, fast track MBAs and other MBA alternatives.


2) General MBA vs. MBA Specializations

• As the name suggests, general MBA programs expose students to a broad range of coursework covering leadership, economics, globalization, and more, preparing graduates for any number of business leadership opportunities and industries.

MBA specializations, on the other hand, offer a more targeted learning environment. For instance, depending on the program, these may focus more narrowly on a given business function — such as accounting or marketing. MBA specializations are also offered by industry, such as programs focused on business management within a healthcare or technology setting.

➡️ Recommendation: There are trade offs to consider when deciding between specializing within a given field or role or broadening your knowledge more generally. That said, over the last few years, generalists are getting promoted fast.

In a post-COVID-19 era, the need for agility and flexibility is clear. More versatile generalists may be best positioned to meet these new expectations. As a result, we recommend starting with general programs before moving onto specialized coursework.


3) Full-Time MBA vs. Part-Time MBA

Full-time MBAs are generally two-year degree programs in which students enroll, attend classes, and network with a cohort of classmates they’ll remain with throughout their time in the program. Classes and activities typically take place during the day, meaning students are unable to work full-time.

Part-time MBAs offer classes outside of traditional 9-to-5 working hours and on weekends and leave it up to students to decide how many classes to take at once. As a result, this degree program can take longer to complete — up to a few years or more.

➡️ Recommendation: Part-time MBAs offer a couple of key advantages. One, students can keep working to cover the cost of living, tuition, and other expenses. And two, these programs are often easier to get into, even for highly competitive schools.


4) Online vs. In-Person MBAs

• These days, the lines between online MBAs and in-person MBAs are blurring, especially as the global pandemic has pushed top schools like University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and NYU’s Stern School of Business to move online, at least temporarily.

Initially resistant to offering online MBAs, more and more traditional MBA programs, including Howard University, Boston University, Wake Forest University, University of Illinois, and Indiana University, are expanding to offering ongoing digital degree programs due to COVID-19.

Since 2009, the number of accredited online MBA programs has grown by 2X, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the age of social distancing, that’s a trend that’s likely here to stay.

➡️ Recommendation: In the short term, online may be the only option. In the longer term, as more programs become available online, the choice will really come down to your personal preferences — and the tradeoffs of the flexibility offered by online programs and the in-person networking offered by traditional programs.

Of course, online MBAs are cheaper. With elite MBAs costing up to $200,000 and full-time MBA programs requiring a two-year break from the workforce, the true cost of an MBA — inclusive of opportunity costs — adds up to around $500,000.

That’s why, for many, earning a traditional MBA simply isn’t worth it. Other types of MBAs, like the online and mini MBA, offer a much more affordable, practical, and appealing alternative.