Home Media SCU Leavey Blog Choosing the Right Online MBA Program Format: Part-Time, Full-Time, Executive, or Hybrid

Choosing the Right Online MBA Program Format: Part-Time, Full-Time, Executive, or Hybrid

21 Nov
Inspecting the details of four options with a magnifying glass

In recent years, online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs rose in popularity. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) reports that the number of students enrolled in online business programs increased 158% between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. Many factors contributed to this rapid growth, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing acceptance of online degrees.1

Earning your MBA online can give you more flexibility and allow you to study from any location. It is essential, however, to choose a program that aligns with your schedule, learning needs, and priorities. There are several online MBA formats to consider, including part-time, full-time, executive, and hybrid. These programs may offer daytime, evening, weekend, and accelerated summer courses. Further, some programs offer synchronous learning, in which faculty and students meet and interact at set times and in real time. Others offer asynchronous learning, which allows students to access course materials at their own pace and connect with each other on their own timing.

Read on to discover the benefits and challenges of each format so you can find the best fit for your career goals and lifestyle.

Understanding Different Online MBA Formats

Students in the United States can choose from over 500 online MBA programs. These programs have varying schedules, modalities, and learning opportunities.2

  • Full-Time MBA: Typically requires students to take three courses per semester and can be completed in two years
  • Part-Time MBA: Students take fewer online classes per semester and earn their degrees at a slower pace
  • Executive MBA (EMBA): Designed specifically for mid- to senior-level executives with substantial work experience
  • Hybrid or Blended MBA: Combines online coursework with immersive, on-campus learning experiences

Advantages and Challenges of Each Online MBA Format

Full-Time MBA Programs

Many people pursue full-time online study while maintaining full- or part-time employment. Universities often design their full-time online programs to offer flexibility for working professionals. This format has a heavier course load than other options and can usually be completed in one to two years.4


  • Shorter time to program completion
  • Immerse yourself in your studies
  • More opportunities for networking with faculty and peers
  • Advance your career or launch a business more quickly
  • May include synchronous and asynchronous courses


  • Requires intense study
  • Requires planning and strategy to maintain work-life balance

Part-Time MBA Programs

A part-time program allows students to choose the number of classes they take each term.3 For example, you may only enroll in a single class during your job’s busy season. If you have more time to study the next semester, you might take two or three courses.


  • Ability to work while completing courses, like full-time and executive MBA (EMBA) programs
  • Often offers courses in the evening and on weekends, unlike some full-time programs
  • Self-paced learning
  • Often includes asynchronous courses


  • Longer time to program completion
  • May lead to higher tuition costs
  • Students might have limited networking opportunities

Executive MBA Programs

An executive MBA is designed for busy business professionals with extensive work experience. These programs often require students to have five or more years of experience in their industry. Like part-time programs, EMBAs typically offer a variety of schedules to accommodate working professionals, such as Friday night courses. Many students graduate in two years.4


  • Cohort-based like full-time programs, but all students are experienced professionals with extensive networks
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Promotes work-life balance
  • Often includes asynchronous courses


  • Requires planning and strategy to maintain work-life balance
  • High bar for enrollment

Hybrid MBA Programs

A hybrid program blends online courses with in-person learning experiences. These programs may require students to travel to campus several times for face-to-face lectures, seminars, and other activities. Like full-time MBA programs, hybrid programs are designed to be completed in two years.


  • Balance flexibility and in-person interactions
  • Include hands-on educational opportunities
  • Synchronous and asynchronous courses


  • Traveling to campus can be expensive and time-consuming if you live far away
  • In-person requirements can vary from once a semester week to once a week

Evaluating Your Goals and Priorities

Assessing your personal and professional goals can help you choose the right online MBA format. Ask yourself:

  • Do you need to earn an MBA quickly to achieve your professional goals or secure a promotion?
  • Do you already have an education and years of experience in business, or will you need to start with the basics?
  • Do you learn more effectively in person or in an online learning environment? Through a self-paced approach or a more structured schedule?
  • Do you need to balance your MBA program with family, a job, and other responsibilities?
  • How much time can you allocate to coursework and studying weekly?

Choosing the Best Online MBA Learning Experience

Once you’ve evaluated your goals and needs, you can search for suitable online MBA programs. Look for business schools that have received accreditation from the AACSB. These universities have demonstrated that they provide high-quality education and receive widespread recognition from employers.5

There are a number of ways to evaluate how the commitment you'll make to earning your MBA will balance with the benefits it will provide for you:

Program Cost, Financial Aid, and Return on Investment (ROI)

The cost of MBA programs can vary significantly. According to a recent survey by Affordable Colleges, the average cost for all types of MBAs is $33,700. However, online MBA students pay an average of 26% less than traditional on-campus students.6

Full-time and EMBA students pay more per term than part-time students because they take more courses. Part-time students, however, may end up paying more in the long run because it takes them longer to complete their degree. Additionally, hybrid MBA students will incur travel costs to get to and from campus.

As an MBA student, you may be eligible for federal financial aid. In addition, many MBA programs offer scholarships and grants to help students reduce their educational expenses, though some only provide financial assistance for full-time students. Your current employer may also offer tuition reimbursement.

Additionally, you can research the career outcomes of program graduates to get a sense of the potential return on investment. Use LinkedIn and company websites to determine if alumni received promotions or got hired for more advanced roles after they completed their MBA.

Career Advancement and Networking Opportunities

Universities provide access to career advancement and networking opportunities, such as:

  • Career services: Assistance with resumes, cover letters, and interviews
  • Job placement support: Help with locating job opportunities and networking with employers
  • Internships: You may have the option to complete an online internship or find a local employer to complete internship requirements in person
  • Alumni network: Opportunities to meet and receive mentorship from previous program graduates

As you consider multiple MBA programs, it’s in your best interest to determine which of these opportunities will be most valuable for you, and to choose a university that meets those specific needs. If, for example, you’ve worked primarily on solo projects or are making a career pivot into the business world, you may find that strong, varied networking opportunities will be particularly important. If you’re starting graduate school straight out of college, then dedicated career services and job placement support may work to your best advantage.

Testimonials and Insights From Current Students and Alumni

Consider asking current students and program alumni about their experiences. They can provide recommendations and discuss how the MBA program influenced their career progression. Additionally, some programs share student success stories on their websites and social media.

The Smartest Path to Career Success

Strike the perfect balance between your education and your professional life in the Online MBA program from the Leavey School of Business. The flexible online structure and frequent start dates accommodate the busy schedules of working professionals.

Santa Clara University creates Silicon Valley Professionals. You’ll build your professional network as you collaborate with your cohort and form relationships with members of our prestigious faculty. In the robust curriculum, you can focus on a broad-based MBA or specialize by completing a concentration in data science and business analytics, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship and new ventures, or leading innovative organizations.

Don’t wait to advance. Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor today.