Is Shorter Sweeter? Consider the B-School's Program Length

by Vault Education Editors | June 21, 2011

This week, in the ninth and final post in our Selecting Your Target MBA Program series, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of accelerated MBA programs and stress the importance of choosing wisely for your particular situation.

Whether one is talking about Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Duke or any other top U.S. business school, the typical MBA program offered is actually fairly standardized—two years of organized study and an internship during the summer in between. However, if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find accelerated programs in the form of Columbia's J-Term and Kellogg's one-year (known as 1Y) MBA. Students in these programs start at a later date than the rest of the school's incoming class in a given year and do not complete a summer internship; instead, they study through the summer, then join the second-year class when those students return in the fall, and all the students ultimately graduate together, at the same time. Or, alternatively, some European business schools offer programs that are shorter than the typical U.S. program, such as INSEAD (10-12 months), IMD (10 months) and London Business School (15-21 months). So, why don't more candidates take advantage of these comparatively brief programs? After all, these students spend less time out of the work force, pay less for living expenses while in school and get back to earning sooner. Well, we can think of a variety of reasons...

Many candidates want longer programs because they need that internship experience to be able to change careers. Summer internships often serve as bridges that allow you to establish credibility in a new field and of course provide a trial opportunity for an employer to decide whether to take a chance on you. In some ways, a ten-week summer internship is a kind of extended job interview. So, if you are trying to transition to a new field, that extended interview may be your only chance to impress and to prove to employers in that space that you have the appropriate skills for your new target career. Generally, the accelerated programs at Kellogg and Columbia are for candidates who have already determined their post-MBA career track and will have an easier entree into their chosen field-the individual who will be entering a family business, for example, or the consultant who plans to return to consulting. Before applying, you should reflect on whether you need an internship to achieve your post-MBA career goals, because the admissions committees will be considering this as well.

Of course, beyond career transitions, you also need to balance the short and long term. Although completing your MBA studies quickly may help reduce costs now, you have to determine whether doing so will provide you with the level of education you are seeking, which is a long-term consideration. Maybe you want a longer elective curriculum so that you can explore and specialize—HBS's entire second year is electives, for example, whereas almost all of IMD's ten-month program is made up of core curriculum classes. Or perhaps the lessons taught in a school's core curriculum are all you will really need in your general manager's toolkit. Maybe you can find a program that offers a little bit of both, if that is what is important to you.

Finally, you have probably worked quite hard to get to the point at which you can take time off to study, and you might just want—or even —a longer break than an accelerated program would offer. Truly quantifying the value of what will essentially be your final extended educational break—for almost all your classmates as well—is extremely difficult. Whether your MBA experience lasts two years or ten months, you should ensure that you have given yourself enough time to simply enjoy the experience and reenergize. In the end, though, no matter which you choose, if you are like 99% of MBAs, you will feel that it was all over way too soon.

About mbaMission:

Since ambassadorial speechwriter and MBA Jeremy Shinewald founded mbaMission in 1999, the firm has worked closely with business school candidates from around the world, successfully guiding them through the entire MBA application process ("From Start to Finish") and ensuring that their unique attributes are showcased in a creative, compelling and focused way. mbaMission senior consultants are published authors/elite communicators with top-MBA experience, who work one-on-one with applicants to help them discover, select and articulate the unique stories that will force MBA admissions committees to take notice. mbaMission collaborates with candidates on all aspects of their application, reducing stress levels and maximizing their chances of being admitted to the business school of their dreams.

For more information on the particularities of the top MBA programs and selecting your target schools, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

Related:

What's Really Important? Consider the B-School's Rankings Responsibly

Comfortable in Your Surroundings: Consider the B-School's Facilities

Who Went There? Consider the B-School's Alumni Base

More Than Meets the Eye: Consider the B-School's Stereotypes

How Do You Want to Learn? Consider the B-School's Instruction Method

How Flexible Are You? Consider the B-School's Core Curriculum

Mountains or Metropolis: Consider the B-School's Location

Look Before You Leap: Consider the B-School's Class Size

Filed Under: Education


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