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I Work Full Time. Will I Have Time for an Online MBA Program?

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MBA graduates are in demand. Ninety-two percent of employers plan on hiring MBA graduates in 2022. Ninety-seven percent followed through on plans to hire MBAs in 2021. MBAs are also high earners. In 2021, the median MBA salary was $115,000 for new hires, compared to $65,000 for workers with bachelor’s degrees. And while earning a Master of Business Administration isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket into the C-Suite, going to business school can smooth the path from manager to executive.

However, pursuing this master’s degree can involve making considerable trade-offs, which gives some prospective MBA applicants pause. Students in full-time MBA programs may have course loads that don’t align with their work schedules, requiring them to reduce their work hours or even quit their current jobs. They may find that going to school full-time interrupts their work-life balance. And students who work less—or not at all—lose out on income and may have to take out more student loans to pay for their degrees. Interest on those loans adds up, so full-time students may pay more for their degrees in the long run.

Professionals concerned about the time commitment involved in earning an MBA shouldn’t put their leadership development plans on hold. Instead, they should look at flexible MBA degree programs first. Part-time MBA programs such as the Online Master of Business Administration from the Howard University School of Business offer an alternative path to this credential. Part-time students can continue working full-time jobs while pursuing their degrees, advancing in their careers while in school, and earning income that makes it easier to pay for an MBA. And even though some flexible online MBA programs take slightly longer to complete than full-time programs, many students pursuing MBAs while working full time find they save time, financially and professionally.

How you can save time by pursuing an MBA online while working

Saving time in an online MBA program isn’t about graduating sooner. The schoolwork in part-time MBA programs for distance learners is typically identical to that of full-time programs, and MBA grads have the same advanced management and leadership skills, regardless of how long they study. Instead, part-time online MBA degree programs offer ambitious professionals with strong time management skills a way to go to business school now instead of waiting for the “right time” to pause their careers. Additionally, full-time working professionals in part-time MBA programs start benefiting from their education immediately for several reasons.

They can study when it’s convenient

Many flexible MBA programs, including the Online MBA program at Howard, include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. This blended format lets students working full-time jobs complete much of the required coursework when they have the most time and energy. They don’t need to change their work schedules and can maintain a personal life while enrolled. That doesn’t mean part-time MBA students in online programs study in isolation. At Howard, online MBA candidates connect with professors and peers in live classes and breakout rooms and during faculty office hours.

“The mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning in the Online MBA program has helped a lot,” says Howard student Monique Davis. “I’ve always been a night owl, so I am able to utilize those late-night hours to get work done.”

They can advance more quickly

Students pursuing online MBAs while working full-time continue to add work experience to their resumes—something critical to long-term business success. One 2017 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) study found that just 5.1 percent of employers don’t factor work experience into hiring decisions. Most prefer to hire candidates with relevant experience, which suggests MBA candidates who stay in full-time jobs until graduation may be more competitive in challenging job markets than peers who took time off to study.

“I chose the part-time MBA program so I could continue working,” says Howard MBA student Andre Samuel. “I currently have a role in an organization that makes a difference, and I did not want to give that up. The part-time program allows me to balance the need to enhance my credentials while also gaining work experience. It also provides the opportunity to immediately apply what I’m learning in MBA courses to real-world situations.”

They can tap into professional networks faster

Meeting the right people sets professionals across industries up for career success, and the opportunities mentioned above for connection are one of the most important benefits of any MBA program. Part-time students in top online MBA programs meet seasoned faculty, industry leaders, and corporate recruiters. They also work closely with accomplished peers from fields as diverse as architecture and entrepreneurship throughout the program. And because they’re still working full time, they can immediately leverage their networks for professional support and advancement.

“There is in-class collaboration, and there are group projects that involve meeting with your peers offline to work together, which has helped build relationships,” says part-time MBA student Sandy Joseph. “Online MBA candidates at Howard create study groups to prepare for exams or just to have discussions about topics covered in classes. There are also events. I recently attended an MBA leadership event in D.C., where I had the opportunity to meet many of my peers in person.”

Howard students also have immediate access to the university’s Career Services Center, which partners with leading corporations, startups, and nonprofit organizations to offer students unrivaled professional development opportunities.

They don’t waste hours commuting to and from campus

Traditional on-campus MBA programs require that students be on campus as often as five full days per week for classes, seminars, meetings with professors, and group project work. Commuting hours add up, and MBA candidates in full-time programs can quickly find their free time disappearing. Online MBA students, on the other hand, can complete many assignments on their own schedules and log in to live classes from anywhere—an appealing prospect for busy professionals working full time.

“I attempted an on-campus graduate program five years ago, but I burned out quickly between a significant commute and hours of classes twice a week,” says Howard student Krystal Brockett. “This is what brought me to consider online programs.”

They can take classes year round

Many full-time MBA programs operate on a schedule that aligns with the standard academic year, with the bulk of required classes offered in the fall and spring semesters. If a traditional learner can’t take a particular core course during fall or spring, that may delay their graduation for a year or even longer. In contrast, many online MBA programs offer core classes year-round. Howard students pursuing MBAs while working full-time can build course schedules around their professional and personal lives and still complete the Online MBA program in about two and a half years.

They can apply what they learn right away

Online business school students who continue working while pursuing MBA degrees can apply the skills they learn at work from day one. They may derive personal and professional value from the graduate school experience more quickly than peers in full-time programs because research suggests students learn best when “actively involved with concrete experiences.” Howard students, including Andre Samuel, report being able to apply what they learn in courses like Organizational Management immediately in their workplaces.

They can pay off their education more quickly

MBA candidates in part-time programs can tap into various sources of financial aid, but the best source of tuition assistance comes from employers. Students pursuing MBAs while working full-time may qualify for tuition reimbursement through their employers. Some organizations pay for promising employees to go to graduate school as preparation to step into more senior roles. Prospective MBA students should contact their human resources department to ask about tuition reimbursement while applying to MBA programs.

However, even students who can’t use employer tuition assistance to pay for their degrees can save money by pursuing an MBA online while working. By sustaining income through school, they can avoid costly student loans and spend less on their MBAs over the long term.

Can I earn a Howard MBA while working full time?

Many assume that top-ranked MBA programs are only offered full time and only for students who can afford to drop out of the workforce for a few years. This is not universally true. Howard University is highly-ranked for its business programs—it is the only HBCU on Bloomberg Businessweek’s list of top U.S. schools, where it comes in at #23 in the U.S. Yet Howard also acknowledges MBA students are often busy professionals who can’t put their careers on hold to pursue their degrees.

The university’s 100 percent online MBA program accommodates the needs of working professionals from diverse backgrounds while delivering a high-quality academic experience consistent with its rankings. Students complete 48 credit hours of coursework via small synchronous classes and asynchronous assignments. This blend helps them engage with the material and faculty in an inclusive learning environment without overwhelming their busy professional schedules and personal lives. They can also take what they learn in the classroom and apply skills and concepts where it matters most—at work—from day one.

Don’t wait for the “right time” to pursue an MBA. Apply now for fall or spring admission to develop skills for the C-suite while you continue to work full-time.

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