How Long Does It Take To Complete An MBA Degree?

Amanda Push picture
Amanda Push
Updated June 3, 2021

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. Here’s what you can expect when it comes to the timeline for earning your MBA.

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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.

Can I Finish My MBA In Less Than Two Years?

So, how long does it take to get an MBA? 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 within 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.

Estimated Length of MBA Programs

If you’re looking for insight into how long your MBA program will take, the table below outlines the estimated time frame required to complete different types of MBA programs. Remember, though, that these timelines are just estimates. It’s important to also check with the programs  you’re interested in to find out the typical timelines for completion. 

Type of Program Completion Time 
Accelerated MBA program 12 Months
Accelerated online MBA program 10-12 Months
Executive MBA program12-24 Months
Part-time MBA program 36 Months

Accelerated MBA Programs

Accelerated MBA programs are streamlined education programs with accelerated, or shortened, curriculums. These programs are geared toward students who are interested in earning advanced degrees within a short period. The typical length for an accelerated MBA program is about 12 months. However, some of these programs can be completed in as few as 10 months. 

In return for a shortened program, you’ll have to put in the time and work to get through. For example, the testing in these programs is frequent and intensive. The fast pace of the curriculum is geared toward those who can absorb the material almost as quickly as it's being delivered.

 Accelerated Online MBA Programs

Accelerated online MBA programs are similar to accelerated online MBA programs — the only real difference is that the coursework can be done remotely in an online accelerated MBA program. In some cases, the entire course load for the MBA program can be accessed from the start of the online program so those who are even more fast-paced can knock out their tests and coursework. 

In general, the terms for completion in an online MBA program are more flexible than they would be for a traditional MBA program. The completion times for finishing accelerated online MBA programs will vary in length, but can typically be completed in between 8 to 12 months. 

Executive MBA Programs 

An executive MBA program is a degree program for those with previous industry experience and first-hand knowledge of the business field — and has typically worked in the field at a high level. 

When enrolled in this type of degree program you will typically focus on skill development and what it takes to successfully manage a business. A track record of employment in business or a sponsor from an employer is the best way to gain admission to one of these programs. 

Given that work experience is expected, many of these programs are specifically designed to adjust around work schedules.

Part-time MBA Programs

A part-time MBA program is a less-intensive way of earning an MBA. Rather than a fast-paced, accelerated MBA program, you’ll be required to sustain a part-time course load in this type of program. 

Part-time MBA programs typically take about three years to complete, though the density of the curriculum varies depending on the program and school you choose. For those who have a career and are employed, a part-time MBA program may be the best ticket to earning that degree. In some cases, you may even consider asking your employer to sponsor your education, as furthering your education can benefit your employer as well.

When is an MBA Worth It?

There’s no doubt that an MBA can enhance a person’s career path, as having an MBA can help you to land a high-paying job. Keep in mind, though, that pursuing a business-related career path specifically will likely yield the best return in salary. 

The cost-benefit ratio of your MBA degree — as well as the job you land after graduation — are often the two most important determining factors when deciding if an MBA is worth it for you. It’s a common occurrence to go back for your MBA after being in the workforce for many years, and juggling work and studying is not always easy after you have established a life and a career. 

In general, if you can pursue an MBA and reap the benefits without causing major issues in other areas of your life, then the results of investing in yourself will likely be worth it.

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 it takes to complete an MBA degree and instead enjoy their relatively quick completion date.

Related Resource: Choosing the Right Graduate Degree

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