One of the biggest investments you’ll make into your MBA is time. No matter what, your MBA will require a significant amount of time, energy, and effort.
But exactly how long does it take to get an MBA? In this article, I’ll go over how long an MBA takes to finish, what could make it take longer than average, and what options you have if you want to complete your business degree more quickly.
How Long Is Business School?
So, how long does it take to get an MBA? A traditional, full-time MBA takes an average of two years to complete. The first year generally includes a period of orientation in late summer, followed by two semesters of core business curriculum. Students often complete internships or study abroad programs during the summer, or may continue classes during the summer semester. The second year of courses usually includes more electives and flexibility.
The Wharton MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, takes 20 months to complete, including a 3.5-month summer internship. The first year of courses spans from late August to May, and second-year students begin in late September and graduate in May. This is a typical MBA length for a traditional program.
Longer MBA Programs
Generally speaking, the MBA length is around two years, but there are a wide range of possibilities for business students. Many of these alternative options—including executive MBAs, part-time MBAs, and dual degree MBA programs—take longer than two years. Let’s go through each one.
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Executive MBA programs (EMBAs) are geared towards MBA students with more extensive relevant work experience. They usually take around two years to complete, like traditional MBA programs.
However, because they are often geared towards working professionals, EMBAs often allow for greater flexibility and offer classes on weekends and/or evenings, which can shorten or lengthen the program time. How long is business school for executive MBAs? The vast majority fall within a 1.5-2.5 year range.
The Executive MBA program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, for example, meets once a month for 21 consecutive months. The Fisher MBA program at Ohio State University meets once a month in a similar weekend format for 17 consecutive months.
Part-time MBA programs often hold classes online, in the evenings, or on weekends. Most part-time MBA students have other full-time work or family obligations and take two courses a semester, with the option for summer study.
How long does it take to get an MBA if you’re in a part-time program? Most take four to six years to complete, depending on the individual student’s workload and flexibility. The part-time MBA (FlexMBA) at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, for example, has a two-evening-a-week option that takes 30 months to complete and a two-weekend-a-month option that takes only 24 months to complete. Most part-time MBA students at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, meanwhile, complete their studies in four years (though they have up to six years to graduate if they want to pace themselves more slowly).
Dual Degree MBA Programs
Dual degree programs, which allow students to simultaneously pursue two (or more) graduate degrees, are especially common choices for business students. Students who are interested in dual degree programs should be ready to invest more time than is otherwise expected to complete their MBA.
Each dual degree program takes a different amount of time to complete; check your prospective schools’ websites for details. Let’s take a look at a few examples from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where 20% of business students are enrolled in joint or dual degree programs:
|Degree Program||Average Length of Time to Complete|
|MD (Doctor of Medicine)/MBA||17 quarters (5 years)|
|MA in International Policy Studies/MBA||9 quarters (3 years)|
|MS in Environment and Resources/MBA||7-9 quarters (3 years)|
|MS in Electrical Engineering/MBA||9 quarters (3 years)|
|MS in Computer Science/MBA||9 quarters (3 years)|
|MPP (Masters of Public Policy)/MBA||9 quarters (3 years)|
|MA Education/MBA||6 quarters (2 years)|
|JD (Juris Doctorate/law degree)/MBA||11-12 quarters (4 years)|
2 Ways to Reduce MBA Length
For financial or professional reasons, you may want to finish your MBA in less than the usual two years. Some students are able to take on more than the average courseload each semester to graduate early. This may be a good idea if you’ve already got a job or business connections lined up or if you really want to save on tuition, but remember that you may miss out on connections with your cohort, faculty mentorship, or networking opportunities if you don’t follow the same academic path as your peers in a traditional MBA.
The most popular choice for students on the business school fast track is an accelerated MBA, which is specifically structured to offer the same level of high-quality instruction and the same number of networking opportunities in around half the time. Qualified students (usually those with demonstrated work experience or high-level academic achievements) who want to enter the workforce quickly have the option of applying to an accelerated MBA program. Accelerated MBA programs usually take approximately one year, or one year and a summer semester, to complete. Accelerated MBA programs tend to be immersive, rigorous, and demanding.
The Johnson Cornell Tech MBA, for example, begins with a 10-week summer program of core business and leadership courses at Cornell’s Ithaca, NY, campus. The summer intensive is followed by two semesters of study at Cornell’s NYC campus, interrupted by a one-week January networking and consulting trip to Israel.
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management also boasts an accelerated MBA program. This one-year program starts and finishes in June; students take a summer semester of core business courses and are treated as second-year MBA students for the fall, winter, and spring semesters.
Accelerated Online MBAs
There are not quite as many accredited, highly-ranked accelerated MBA programs available online, but there are several available options. For example, you can complete an online MBA at Cleveland State University (one year), the University of North Texas (one year), American University (one year), the University of Georgia (15 months), or the University of Florida (one year) in less than the usual two years.
Important: when considering any online MBA programs, make sure that the program is AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business)-accredited. Many companies specify that an applicant’s MBA should be from an AACSB-accredited school. While other programs may have valuable instruction to offer, they won’t necessarily be as highly respected.
So how long does an MBA take? 2 years for a normal full-time MBA program, 4-6 years for a part-time MBA program, 2 years for an executive MBA program, and 1 year for an accelerated MBA program.
Still deciding? For an overview of the pros and cons of getting an MBA, read our guide on what to expect from business school.
If you’re sure you’re ready to apply, check out our article on how to prepare for an MBA.
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Our explanation of what MBA stands for will help you if you’d like more information on the history of the MBA and other graduate business degrees.