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2 Year MBA or 1 Year MBA?

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“What is the second year like?” I asked.

“You’ll learn a lot of interesting stuff” he said. “But the first year is what counts. When that’s over, you’re an MBA.”

- Excerpt from Snapshots from Hell (Stanford MBA)

    by Peter Robinson

The fact that the excerpt above from the concluding pages of one of the most popular books on MBA education did not have great things to say about the second year of MBA was indicative of the subsequent evolution of the MBA programs globally.

For years, the European schools have preferred the shorter MBA, an idea that many business schools across the globe, including the US, have started warming up to.  While the traditional 2-yr MBA still remains dominant, schools such as Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Cornell University’s Johnson School and Emory University’s Goizueta have started offering the 1 year program due to an increased demand for such courses. The other interesting development is at the Melbourne Business School in Australia, which decided to replace its 16- and 20-month courses with a 12-month offering as demand has grown for more abbreviated programs.

So, is the evolution definitive towards the 1-year MBA? Far from it. The reality is that through the years of global economic boom, MBA programs have found great favor with candidates and employers alike. However, as a very wide range of candidates – from near freshers to one with 15 yrs experience – are now interested in the MBA programs, there are options which are more customized to the needs of various groups. In that context one has to evaluate which of the two formats makes more sense for each individual. My view is that there are two critical factors that you need to balance.

  1. Option of Summer Internship & More networking:  Are you looking for a complete shift in your career track? If so, you will be best served to stick to the traditional 2-year programs. The reason is clear – the traditional program offers you the benefit of a summer internship and longer period for networking. That proves to be the key when you are trying for a career transition. Say, if you are coming from a technology background and intend to move to finance, it is much easier to convince a prospective employer to offer you an internship to start with. Your experience and performance during the internship can lead to a successful transition. In case of the 1-year MBA, the lack of summer internship is a handicap. Check if you can live with it.
  2. Opportunity Cost: The opportunity cost of a 2-year program is much higher, for you spend 2-years out of employment. The popularity of the 1-year program is largely on account of candidates who would like to minimize this opportunity cost. Also, for people with a clear understanding of their future career path, the second year is often just a waste of time.    

 These are the accepted trade-offs between the two programs. However, there are other factors at play as well. For example, the option of a deeper immersion in specific subjects in a two year program.  This is however debatable. Academically, MBA is typically the program to learn the skills to address different business problem and one year is sufficient for that exposure, esp. for candidates coming with sufficient business experience.    

To conclude, it is a tradeoff between the higher opportunity cost and additional value of the two year programs. This is very different for different people. Typically, candidates with higher work experience (5 yrs +), seeking a jump within their chosen domain go for a 1-year MBA. While, the lower to mid range experienced (2-5 yrs) candidates chose the 2-year MBA. There are exceptions to this rule. Understand the tradeoff for yourself and that will give you your answer. 

About Anshul Gupta

Anshul is an MBA Application & Interview consultant with more than 5 years of experience. He has helped candidates get into top B-Schools in the US, Europe, & Asia-Pacific region. An ISB Hyderabad Alumnus himself, he has been part of their admissions team and has evaluated application for his alma mater. 

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