IE Business School Online Masters
Ram Parasuraman
August 19, 2010
"Does a part time MBA really work?" "Does it add the same value as a Full Time MBA?" 

I get asked this quite often during the holidays as I meet "new" people, i.e. those who I have last met only before my MBA began 😉 And of course, as in any other discussion, it is important to have all sides on the table. I had the chance to meet up with a Full Time MBA student from Fuqua Business School who was interning here in the Bay Area over the summer and another MBA student who had begun a "Weekend and Evening" MBA program at the Haas School of Business, Berkeley and we had a fond friend who had completed his MBA from HEC a few years ago. This was a good deal of diversity amongst programs (2yr Full Time, 1yr Full Time, 3yr Part Time, 1.5 yr Online)

As you might expect, there were usual discussions on differences between programs, their duration, content, focus, specializations vs generic, etc. However, one thing that we all converged on was this: "The Ultimate Value of the MBA is directly proportional to 5 factors: 

             a.) The preparation you put into courses/discussions, 
             b.) Your immediate cohort group and the intensity/rigor put forth into discussions and projects,  
             c.) The dedication and quality of experience of your professors,
             d.) The three dimensions of diversity: breadth, length and depth of experience of the class.  
             e.) The three dimensions of network: reach, influence and potential of alumni networks.

I think the above points answer many questions on why Full Time is perceived as better than Part Time. It could be because Working Professionals who form a part time class aren't able to put in as much dedication as the full immersion that full time students put in. Or perhaps the quality of faculty assigned to Part Time programs are not the "cream of the crop" at Business Schools. 

Take another common question that you might ponder as you find yourself in the fork of choosing an MBA program: "Executive MBA or MBA?" — Here again, data will show you the average age of students, the industries, countries they represent. So, it might give you some idea on a, b, d and e above. Executive MBA will feature elder candidates, who are in senior or powerful positions in their organizations and this improves factors d and e, however the time they are able to put into studies or projects might be constrained by those same factors. This is in no way meant as a generalization, but it could be a logical inference and perhaps experience teaches you to do "more with less". 

Another question: "Why does a Full Time MBA allow people to change careers more than any other format?". Well, the answer again is right there. A Part Time MBA student is more attached to his job or profession, having one foot grounded in it. A full time MBA student is in orbit as are others in his group. So, their discussions and plans are more open-ended, it is like getting a fresh start. There is nothing to say that a Part Timer cannot change his profession, just that he has lesser time and a has to overcome a higher resistance to do so. Most Part Timers also spend some time in the industry and are more conversant with their industry than those who have never worked before. 

As many posts in this blog indicate, one can never under-estimate the power of a group. In a way, a large part of your MBA experience, i.e. what you learn, what you contribute and what you take with you, depend on your groups and the class at large. A professor in a case based learning curriculum is most of the times, a facilitator, someone who brings out and coordinates discussions. The class generates the content, the extremities in the class help you see different points of view. Experienced professionals in their respective fields stretch the limits on learning and this is why diversity is so important. In our discussions, when we discussed Finance topics, I found myself contributing very richly to discussions, much to the surprise of my Tuck friend, who had known me from long ago. He said curtly, "Your class seems to have some financial geeks all right!" 😉 

One thing you can be sure about in a program like IE is its diversity and its quantitative/analytical focus your thinking will be challenged by folks. Carefully crafted discussions maybe torn into bits within seconds of discussion, forcing you back to the drawing board. This is the power of an MBA, you unlearn what you know and develop a new mindset. That was a useful discussion and one could really understand why AdComs go on the record saying, "An MBA is an MBA, no matter the format". Indeed it is. It is a tool chest where you acquire your spanner or wrench in a different method, but once acquired, it relies on your brain and experience to wield it as you so desire.

The IE Global MBA 2010 Ram Parasuraman


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