When you’re ready to pursue a career change or apply for a leadership role, earning an advanced degree can add to and deepen your skill set — but, how long is an MBA program? A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program can help you pursue such a pathway, and when you take online MBA courses alongside a full-time job, you can continue your education while also gaining meaningful work experience and building your resume.
A common question at the beginning of this process is: How long will it take to complete the requirements and earn your Master of Business Administration? There is no one answer that applies to all schools and students, as there are variables such as full- and part-time schedules to consider, as well as different course and credit offerings. However, once you narrow down the type of program that’s right for you, you’ll be able to plan out your educational future.
How Long Does it Take to Complete an MBA Program?
The typical time required to complete an MBA program is approximately two years. However, U.S. News and World Report states there is some variability in program length which is dependent on whether you’re obtaining a traditional two-year MBA or taking an accelerated MBA program. Lengths can vary greatly depending on your respective schedule and varying levels of flexibility.
When you work with a modern, online MBA program, the amount of time it takes to complete is partially under your control. You are free to choose how many courses to take each semester, keeping in mind the amount of time you’ll need to devote to your current job while ensuring you still have some free time. Having a positive work, life and school balance is very important for success, and great for your mental well-being.
In a full-time MBA program with a loaded schedule each semester, you can complete the online MBA program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business over a minimum of six semesters. In that time, you will complete 36 credit hours of work, or 39 if you have elected to take a concentration alongside the core MBA curriculum.
This schedule includes a semester largely dedicated to a self-directed Strategic Management capstone project. This is always the last term of the MBA program, and you will decide your topic of research with your student advisor. The project unites the many concepts associated with an MBA education, from leadership, finance, and accounting to marketing, economics, information technology and more.
The Difference Between an MBA Degree and an MS Degree
A Master of Science degree, or MS, is different from an MBA in the way that it presents its curriculum to students as well as its focus areas. While MBA programs focus more on tech, finance, marketing and overall business conduct, a Master of Science can prepare students for future doctorate programs in disciplines and related occupations in STEM.
Part Time MBA Programs vs. Full Time MBA Programs
A big difference between full- and part-time MBA programs is whether the coursework will allow you to continue working full time as you complete it. U.S. News and World Report indicates that an accelerated MBA program allows full-time students to finish their education in a single year, but this is typically accompanied by a large course load each semester, which would likely mean you would have to leave your current job.
A part-time MBA program, enabled by asynchronous online coursework, allows you to earn your degree in the traditional two-year style, or more, based on your own schedule. Whether mornings, evenings, weekends or certain workdays are the best times for you to learn, the flexibility enables you to fit the work in. Using up-to-date remote learning technology, an online MBA program doesn’t sacrifice the features of traditional college learning, such as expert lectures and group projects, which make online MBA programs a great, flexible choice for so many people.
What Can Make an MBA Program Take Longer?
When an MBA program takes more than the minimum required time, the reasons are largely under your control. For instance, if you are not comfortable with the course load it would take to finish the program in six semesters, it’s easy to build out a plan that works around your free time and professional schedule.
MBA programs are designed to prepare graduates for leadership roles in various departments and throughout an array of different companies. To build a resume that will help you take on these positions, you will need impressive work experience alongside your master’s degree. This makes it advantageous to schedule your MBA courses around your full-time professional life and build both parts of your background simultaneously.
Is It Worth It to Get an MBA?
Once you’ve determined your ideal schedule for earning an MBA, the next important question is whether this investment of time and effort will pay off in pursuing your career goals. Because hiring managers and executives across industries understand what goes into earning an MBA, there are many cases in which the degree is worth the investment.
There are several factors that determine whether a master’s degree will pay off. For instance, when the diploma comes from a respected university, it can carry more authority. When searching for online MBA programs, you should apply the same criteria that goes into picking colleges for on-campus study: accreditation, qualified faculty and a strong academic reputation. Investopedia notes that 96% of former MBA students who responded to the Alumni Perspective Survey Report said their degrees provided good, excellent or outstanding value.
The MBA experience can also teach students valuable soft and hard skills that recruiters will look for before making an offer of employment. Interpersonal skills, like communication and leadership, are among the most valuable. And hard skills, like proficiency with business analytics and project management, are just a few of the highly applicable professional skills that you’ll learn.
What Are the Concentrations You Can Get with an MBA?
Seeking an MBA is not a one-size-fits-all process. With an optional concentration, you can tailor your areas of interest and specialize in the knowledge that points to particular career paths. Whether this means deepening your investment in your current field or precipitating a change of direction in your professional life, a concentration gives hiring managers a clear view of your priorities. The four following concentrations are available for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s 100% online MBA program:
In a finance concentration, you can gain a detailed view of the processes that go into being a financial leader at a large organization. These include constructing an investment portfolio, navigating mergers and acquisitions, calculating risk and managing a company’s capital.
Studying marketing enables you to see the way modern departments promote companies and products, perform up-to-date analyses and make data-driven decisions. You can also learn to make the most of the latest software tools to direct and oversee marketing campaigns.
Information Systems Management
Because today’s companies are more digitally enabled than ever before, information system knowledge is highly relevant. In this concentration, you can discover the best practices of information security, social media usage, web analytics and more.
Health care Management
Management in the health care sector is different than in any other field, with federal regulations governing personal information security and confidentiality, as well as financial requirements rooted in the insurance industry. This concentration allows you to immerse yourself in these practices.
MBA Admission Requirements at UAB
MBA prerequisites differ from institution to institution and from country to country. But here at UAB, there are only a few MBA admission requirements that prospective students need to meet to be eligible for the program. Those are:
Applicants must be holders of a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution.
Admission to UAB’s online MBA program requires that students have completed the equivalent of a pre-calculus course with a grade of “C” or better within the past five years. A free, self-paced pre-calculus tutorial and quiz is provided online for admitted students who do not meet this requirement, and it must be successfully completed before the start of their first term.
MBA Course Requirements to Graduate
Additionally, once you’re accepted into the program, there are credit requirements in order to graduate. At UAB, those include:
- 36 semester hours
- 30 hours of required classes
- 6 hours of electives (or 9 hours of electives for a concentration)
How Can You Get Started Earning an MBA?
When you’ve identified the ideal combination of concentration and schedule to fit your career aspirations, it’s time to begin the MBA application process. This typically involves taking a Graduate Management Admission Test, though the Collat School of Business offers online Master’s programs that waiver the exam for applicants who have a relevant professional and academic history.
In as few as two years, you can graduate with your MBA degree and begin planning the next stages of your professional life. A master’s degree in business administration remains the standard when it comes to proving your leadership aptitude.