The Best MBA Programs for Full-Time Workers - Business School Guide


There have never been more ways to get an MBA, and today it’s more crucial than ever to select a program that fits your specific needs and goals. Full-time workers pursuing an MBA may believe themselves to be at an immediate disadvantage: working 40-plus hours a week while also committing to a rigorous academic schedule can leave one wondering where the extra time is supposed to come from.

But there are programs out there that are designed to accommodate a full-time work schedule, and they have resources in place to help workers to get the most out of their MBA experience.

Full-time workers generally aren’t looking to join full-time MBA programs. Instead, they may target part-time and executive (EMBA) programs. The latter category appeals to executives with significant managerial experience who are looking to advance towards the boardroom; the former category is less stringent, generally requiring no more than two years of work experience. Both categories expect that a large majority of their students will be working full-time, so even on-campus part-time and executive MBA programs are feasible options for full-time workers.

The maturation of part-time online MBA programs has been a major windfall for full-time workers interested in graduate-level education. Remote learning is the most advanced it’s ever been, and the faculty and staff at online programs now have a hefty amount of experience in teaching online and supporting online students. Asynchronous scheduling, wherein a student can access course materials at any time, allow full-time workers the maximum amount of freedom in planning their MBA experience.

Some online programs adopt a hybrid style, where students can choose to come on-campus as they’re able. Others require students to attend one to two residencies on campus. The best MBA programs for full-time workers are the ones that are the most flexible, leaving scheduling largely in the hands of the students while still providing opportunities to network and connect in-person. These programs will also have dedicated resources in place to help full-time students succeed, and faculty and staff who understand the unique challenges a full-time worker faces when pursuing their MBA.

MBA Specializations for Full-Time Workers

Another factor full-time workers should consider when selecting an MBA program is which specializations are available. Often, full-time workers seek an MBA in order to either advance within their current role or to pivot into a different one. The best MBA programs for full-time workers have a range of specializations that can facilitate those advancements, and give students a chance to put what they learn into practice at their current place of employment.

Several business schools have begun to offer a fully-employed MBA, also known as a FEMBA. These are programs that often include many of the features above while targeting fully-employed MBA students specifically. But they’re not always the best fit: some require frequent visits to campus. In selecting the best MBA programs for full-time workers, we looked for the following criteria:

  • Part-time, EMBA, and/or FEMBA options
  • Innovative online and hybrid delivery models
  • Robust specialization pathways
  • Resources in place for students working full-time
  • Low residency requirements

Working full-time while going to school is never easy. But selecting the right program can make all the difference. Today, a full-time worker can join an MBA program on their own schedule, and find themselves amongst colleagues from diverse backgrounds, but in similar situations.

To get a look at the best MBA programs for full-time workers, read on.

The Best MBA Programs for Full-Time Workers

Johns Hopkins University – Carey Business School

Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School offers a Flexible MBA program that allows fully-employed students to customize the curriculum to their schedule. Courses are offered in short, eight-week terms, and delivered either online, in-person, or both.

Students can choose from six concentrations: financial business; entrepreneurship; interdisciplinary business; healthcare management; leading organizations; and marketing. Three courses require online students to attend three- to five-day residencies. Across the Flexible MBA program, 58 percent of students have reported receiving a salary increase while still enrolled.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Format: Online or Hybrid
  • Tuition: $82,350 total
  • Duration: 2.5 to six years

Arizona State University – WP Carey School of Business

The Professional Flex MBA at ASU’s WP Carey School of Business is specifically designed for busy working professionals. Through a mixture of online and evening classes, students can personalize their MBA with a wide range of electives, technical certificates, and concurrent degrees.

Specializations are available in the following areas: business data analytics; entrepreneurship; finance; international business; leadership; marketing; and supply chain management. The WP Carey Foundation recently committed $15 million to support career services and help working students access resources, tools, coaching, and employers.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Tuition: $57,716 total
  • Duration: Two to four years

George Mason University – School of Business

George Mason’s online MBA program is designed for working professionals with busy schedules. The 48-unit curriculum is delivered entirely online, with no residency requirements; there is an option, however, to attend a one-week global residency program in another country.

Classes are offered in an asynchronous format and can be accessed at any time. Students can also choose to add a graduate certificate in business analytics to specialize their program.

  • Location: Fairfax, VA
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $48,804 total
  • Duration: 36 months

University of North Carolina – Kenan-Flagler Business School

The online MBA at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School was ranked first in the nation for 2020 by US News & World Report. The program can be attended either online or in-person, with interactive coursework and classroom resources available 24/7.

Students can choose from five specializations: finance; data analytics and decision making; marketing, entrepreneurship; or strategy and consulting. Kenan-Flagler graduates gain lifelong access to career services, including an alumni network of 37,000 business professionals.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $125,589 total
  • Duration: 1.5 to three years

University of Washington – Foster School of Business

The hybrid MBA at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business is designed for compatibility with a full-time work schedule and a busy lifestyle. The two-year program is 95 percent online, with the other 5 percent taking the form of three- to five-day residencies on-campus one per quarter.

With both synchronous and asynchronous course content, students can access lectures and learning materials on their own time, or connect in real-time when they want. Hybrid MBA students at Foster also have access to a suite of career resources that includes career coaching; mock interviews; employment opportunities; and personalized career roadmaps.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Tuition: $78,000 total
  • Duration: Two years

Indiana University – Kelley School of Business

The fully online MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business was named the best online program in the country by both US News & World Report and The Princeton Review in 2019.

The program includes a wide array of electives and seven different specialization options: business analytics; digital technology management; entrepreneurship and corporate innovation; finance; marketing; strategy and leadership; and supply chain and operations. Students can pursue a dual degree by adding an additional 12 credits. The Kelley online MBA program also offers personalized career coaching and other career services that are specifically designed for working professionals.

  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $74,520 total
  • Duration: Two to five years

University of California, Irvine – Paul Merage School of Business

The FEMBA at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business is designed for early- to mid-career working professionals. Focused heavily on digital technology’s impact on business, the rigorous curriculum is delivered in a flexible, work-friendly schedule.

FEMBA students at UCI experience an average salary growth of 35 percent while in the program; the Merage Career Center offers students specific career timelines, coaching sessions, workshops, and other resources. The 73-credit curriculum can be focused on ten different specialty areas.

  • Location: Irvine, CA
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Tuition: $98,567
  • Duration: 27 to 33 months

University of California, Los Angeles – Anderson School of Management

The FEMBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management offers fully-employed students a hybrid schedule that combines online study with one weekend per month of on-campus residency. Nearly half of the 80-unit curriculum is dedicated to electives.

The program is home to over 850 fully-employed MBA students, a dedicated career services department, and a vast network of business alumni. Student salaries increase between 23 and 34 percent during enrollment in the program, on average, and 137 percent within six to eight years of completing the program.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Tuition: $128,560 total
  • Duration: 27 months

Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business

CMU’s Tepper School of Business offers a part-time online MBA that’s ranked as one of the best in the nation. The curriculum emphasizes analytics, leadership development, and strategic decision-making. Content is delivered online both synchronously and asynchronously, and supplemented with Access Weekends: residencies which occur several times a year in different cities across the country. The program specifically encourages fully-employed students to apply, and offers a wide array of career services and personal development resources.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Tuition: $140,000 total
  • Duration: 32 months

University of Florida – Warrington College of Business

In 1999, the UF MBA program was one of the first schools to offer a fully-online and accredited MBA program. Today, it continues to lead the way with online delivery and continual innovation. In its asynchronous format, the program immerses students in the core concepts of business education. Students can also choose from several residency elective options.

The cohort sizes are small, averaging around 50 students and allowing for a personalized feel. That said, the alumni network is enormous: 400,000 UF alumni and 9,000 Warrington alumni are spread across the globe.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $59,807 total
  • Duration: 24 months
Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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