A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is one of the top degrees to put you on the path to the highest-paying business careers. Another factor that makes the degree popular is the wealth of options available for earning it. Some business professionals choose to take on their graduate education just a couple courses at a time, while others immerse themselves fully into an intensive accelerated program that allows them to complete the degree within a year. Before you rush into enrolling in a one-year MBA program, you should understand how schools fit the coursework into a 12-month schedule and who is and isn’t a good candidate for a one-year MBA program.

The Feasibility of Earning an MBA in One Year

Is It Possible or Recommended to Complete an MBA Program in a Year

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Master’s degrees are typically two-year degrees, but not always. Some part-time programs can take a few years to complete, while other accelerated programs take as little as one year.

Generally, the structure and content of MBA curricula of the same number of credits are comparable no matter how much time it takes students to complete their studies. In fact, at schools that offer both one-year and two-year (or longer) MBA programs, the coursework itself is identical between the programs. The biggest difference is the schedule on which you complete your studies to squeeze that curriculum into just 12 months.

Some one-year MBA programs hold courses in the evenings, with students taking classes every Monday through Thursday. Other one-year MBA programs are intended to take the place of your full-time job. They require you to attend courses, experiential work opportunities, networking events, and other school-related obligations during regular working hours, taking up as much as 40 hours of your time per week.

The biggest benefit of a one-year MBA program is obvious: the sooner you complete your studies, the sooner you can start leveraging your degree to attain better career opportunities. This may mean that you start earning more money faster, that you make more money over the course of your working life, and that you can more quickly move up the ranks to your desired career role. However, students often have to leave their job for full-time MBA programs that hold classes during traditional business hours, according to U.S. News & World Report. Even MBA programs that are suitable for working professionals – and don’t require your presence during regular work hours – still require a lot of work, especially when you already have a full-time job.

Accelerated-format MBA programs may have traditional semesters, or they may be structured into shorter terms in which students complete fewer courses per term but more terms per year.

Who a One-Year MBA Is Recommended For

The number-one thing you need to succeed in an accelerated MBA program is motivation. One-year MBA programs are a lot of work, so you should only consider them if you are eager enough to finish your graduate school studies that your motivation will help you get through the year without suffering burnout.

That said, you need more than enthusiasm alone to be a good fit for a one-year MBA program. These programs are best suited for students with certain educational backgrounds and career goals, according to GMAT prep company e-GMAT. It may be worth considering a one-year MBA if you majored in business as an undergraduate student, because having a strong foundation in introductory and intermediate business coursework will be crucial to succeeding in the advanced classes that form your graduate curriculum. You also need to think about what you want to do with your degree. Students of a one-year MBA program usually succeed in advancing careers in their current field – such as moving to a management role – rather than in changing careers.

MBA programs are generally for candidates with professional work experience. Students fresh out of an undergraduate program are more likely to be accepted into master’s programs in finance, accounting or other specialized areas than an MBA program.

Who a One-Year MBA Isn’t Recommended For

While earning your degree quickly may sound great, an accelerated MBA program isn’t for everyone. For one thing, you need to have realistic expectations about how much time and energy you will have to devote to school in the context of what else is going on in your life.

If you plan to continue working a full-time job, do you often work overtime? Are you also studying for professional certification exams that will require your attention? If you have extensive family obligations or are deeply involved in other activities like sports, community organizations, volunteering, coaching or mentoring, factor in the time you want to keep available to spend on these activities, too. There’s no shame in choosing not to earn your MBA degree in the quickest format possible, especially when slowing down allows you to live a fuller life overall.

You should also think twice about an accelerated degree program if either business studies or your intended career path after graduation is a change from your current career. With no academic background in business, you may need more time to catch up on the foundational knowledge you haven’t yet gained from your undergraduate studies in other fields. MBA students hoping to use their graduate education as a springboard to launch a new career in a different field or industry also do better when they choose a program with a more traditional structure.

Two-year MBA programs often include an internship that is crucial for aspiring career changers, but less so for working professionals who just want to move up, not out of their current fields. Most one-year programs don’t have time for this internship experience.

Additional Resources

What Is the Fastest School for an MBA?

How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA?

At What Point or Age Is It Best to Pursue an MBA?