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How to Pick an MBA Program That’s Right For You

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

With over two thousand MBA programs worldwide, finding the right fit can be daunting. If you’re looking to dive into a management career and aren’t sure where to start, keep reading to find out what kind of program is right for you. Also check out Crimson’s MBA Consulting Services for even more focused attention.

Kinds of MBA Programs

If you’re an MBA hopeful, there are a number of options to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the most common:

Residential MBAs

This is the classic two-year MBA program where graduate students relocate to a university campus and dedicate themselves to full-time study. Generally, these programs require 2-5 years of work experience and attract early-career professionals ready to take the next steps to advance in their professions. Residential MBAs are perfect for those with limited work and familial commitments who have the time and resources needed to dive into the world of business management. Advantages of residential programs include working with a cohort, access to internships, networking opportunities, and a diverse array of electives and specializations to choose from. These are often considered the default MBA programs— the standard from which other types of programs are derived. Famous examples include the core MBA programs at the M-7 schools.

International MBAs

An International MBA, also known as a Global MBA, is a popular specialization that focuses on international business practices in addition to the traditional curriculum of a two-year MBA. In addition, these programs often require study-abroad semesters and internships with transnational corporations. International MBAs are perfect for students who are looking to begin a career in global business and who need the knowledge and cultural know-how to establish a successful practice. You can read the US News list of the top International MBA programs in the United States here.

Online MBAs

For those unable to relocate, online MBA programs provide an alternative route to an MBA degree. Online programs often have flexible calendars, allowing students to build schedules around their other commitments. Many online programs also include one or more in-person events during the course of study, allowing for greater opportunities for professional development and networking. Though not as immersive as residential programs, many online MBAs have developed an online cohort model to provide the chance to work with and network with classmates and organizations in the MBA program and beyond. Check out the US News listings of the Top Online MBAs in the United States for more.

Executive MBAs

The EMBA is an excellent alternative for mid-career professionals who want to earn their MBA while advancing their current employment. Unlike a 2-year residential MBA, the average EMBA student is 38 years old and has 10 years of work experience. These programs tend to be more streamlined, as most mid-career professionals have already developed specializations through their work experience. Whereas most MBA candidates front the cost of their degree themselves, companies commonly finance EMBAs for their employees as a form of investment in the company’s future. EMBA programs are usually designed around a weekend and evening schedule in order to accommodate students’ work and familial responsibilities. In addition to Executive MBAs at the M-7 B-schools, top programs include the Ross School of Business, the Stern School of Business, and the Haas School of Business.

Part-time & Weekend MBAs

Often combined with other MBA program types, part-time and weekend MBAs provide students with more than the standard two years to complete their studies. Like EMBAs, these courses are usually held in the evenings, on Fridays, and/or on the weekends. If the program is online, students can participate from any location. However, students will usually enroll in local programs and commute to nearby campuses or satellites to participate in classes. Part-time and weekend MBAs carry the advantage of in-person and cohort based-classes with the flexibility to complete studies at a student’s own pace. Check out this list of top part-time MBA programs for more information.

Accelerated MBAs

Available both online and in-person, accelerated MBAs are fast-paced programs that allow students to complete their studies in 12 months instead of two years. A great option for the budget-minded, accelerated programs are a cheaper alternative to the traditional MBA structure. Many still offer specializations that permit students to custom-tailor degrees to match their career goals. Here’s the Kellogg School of Business One-Year MBA Program, one of the top accelerated MBA programs in the country.


As MBA programs increase in demand, these broad categories are often combined to create innovative and flexible combinations. For example, you may see accelerated online programs, weekend EMBAs, or online international MBA programs. Additionally, your career goals, budget, family commitments, and ability to take time off work to study will define the ideal program for you. If you need any extra help finding the perfect fit, reach out to one of our expert MBA Advisors at Crimson to get the one-on-one attention that you deserve.

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