One of the key things to be aware of when pursuing graduate-level education in business is understanding how long it takes to complete an MBA degree. After all, some employers require their new hires to complete this course of study in a limited amount of time, while other students are simply in a hurry to finish their education, use it to advance their careers, and begin paying back any student loans that they might have taken out in order to finance the endeavor. Luckily, MBAs have the potential to be earned relatively quickly depending on the student’s commitment to full-time coursework or part-time, nontraditional scheduling practices.

The Full-Time MBA

Typically, today’s Master’s of Business Administration programs require students to complete 36 credits in fields like strategic management, communication, managerial accounting, and other key areas. Unlike graduate-level business programs, full-time students are not expected to take 15 credits each semester. Instead, the typical full-time MBA student takes nine credits, or three courses, per semester. Most full-time programs feature two semesters per academic year, which means students can expect to complete their degree two full years after they began the program.

The only real exception to this rule is if newly admitted applicants require some form of remedial education prior to beginning MBA courses in earnest. Students who haven’t taken the required undergraduate coursework in finance, accounting, economics, and management, might have to add up to a full extra semester to their estimated program length. Most schools will require between three and nine credits of this coursework before students can be moved into degree candidacy and take the course needed to graduate with the MBA degree.

Part-Time Students Could Still Finish in Two Years

Generally speaking, most students who embark on a part-time MBA will take longer to finish than their full-time counterparts. Schools that only offer two semesters of coursework per year will typically allow students to graduate three years after they began the program. As mentioned earlier, most students who require remedial courses will have to add at least one semester to this duration so that they can be moved into full degree candidacy.

One of the most exciting developments for graduate-level management students, however, is the adoption of a trimester format for part-time degree candidates, according to an article in Business Week. This allows students to essentially add an extra semester of part-time study to each of their academic years, and they may be able to complete their program in two years as a result. Some fine print does apply, however, including the expense of extra tuition, limited breaks between intensive graduate classes, and the potential for such a high work load to become overwhelming alongside career obligations. Even so, this is a promising way to complete a part-time program in a span of time typically reserved only for full-time students.

Related Resource: Choosing the Right Graduate Degree

Part-Time or Full-Time, MBA Completion is Still Pretty Quick

At its longest, a Master’s in Business Administration will take about three years to fully complete. Though that may sound like a long time, students should remember that undergraduate work takes at least a year longer. In addition, programs in medicine, law, counseling, nursing, and numerous other areas can take anywhere from three to five years to complete on either a full-time or part-time basis. For this reason, students should focus less on how long to complete an MBA degree and instead enjoy their relatively quick completion date.