What Are the Best MBA Programs for Full-Time Workers?

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 should come from.

But some programs are designed to accommodate a full-time work schedule, and they have resources to help workers 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 looking to advance toward the boardroom; the former category is less stringent, generally requiring no more than two years of work experience. Both categories expect that most of their students will work 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 teaching online and supporting online students. Asynchronous scheduling, wherein a student can access course materials at any time, allows 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 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 to advance within their current role or 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 programs often include many features above while targeting fully-employed MBA students. But they’re not always the best fit: some require frequent campus visits. 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, full-time workers can join an MBA program on their own schedule and find themselves amongst colleagues from diverse backgrounds in similar situations.

Read on to look at the best MBA programs for full-time workers.

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 online, in-person, or both.

Students can choose from eight concentrations: digital marketing; business analytics and risk management; entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology; entrepreneurial marketing; public and private sector leadership; investments; health care management, innovation, and technology; and financial management. Across the Flexible MBA program, 71 percent of students have reported receiving a salary increase while still enrolled.

One course in this program will require a mandatory residency, which includes a two-day onsite component. An additional, optional residency may be held at the Carey Business School’s Harbor East campus in Baltimore, MD.

Made up of 54 credits, the program includes courses such as accounting and financial reporting; business analytics; corporate finance; economics for decision-making; leadership and organizational behavior; marketing management; operations management; statistical analysis; and strategic management.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Online or Hybrid
  • Expected Time to Completion: 2.5 to six years

Arizona State University – WP Carey School of Business

The online 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 various 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.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as statistics for managers; financial performance reporting; operations and supply management; decisions, market structure, and games: managerial economics; leading people, teams, and organization: organizational theory; create and deliver customer value: marketing management; finance: the art of managing resources; ethical issues for managers; and managerial accounting.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: 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 anytime. Students can also choose to add a graduate certificate in business analytics to specialize in their program.

The curriculum includes courses such as statistics for business decision-making; organizational behavior; managerial economics and decisions of the firm; marketing management; operations management; managerial finance; managing costs and evaluating performance; financial reporting and decision-making; management of information technology; and strategic management.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as contract specialists, contracting officers, directors, logistics analysts, negotiators, project managers, senior analysts, senior consultants, and senior financial analysts.

  • Location: Fairfax, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: 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 2023 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 more than 42,000 business professionals.

To get accepted into the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, at least two years of professional experience, a completed online application, a current resume, transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, two professional recommendations, two essays, and TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores for non-native English speakers. GRE or GMAT scores are required for applicants with less than five years of professional experience.

Comprising 62 credits, the program includes courses such as analytical tools for decision making; financial accounting; strategic economics; finance; business strategy; business communication; leading and managing; marketing: analysis and development; and operations.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: 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 once per quarter.

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

The program comprises 50 credits of core courses and 12 credits of Hybrid MBA electives. Some of the courses in the curriculum are probability & statistics; financial reporting and analysis; leading teams & organizations; building effective teams; microeconomics for managers; corporate finance; analysis of global economic conditions; and managerial accounting.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years

Indiana University – Kelley School of Business

The fully online MBA program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business was named the best in the country by both US News & World Report and The Princeton Review in 2023. Kelley Direct online MBA courses are offered 100 percent online. Currently, due to safety and travel concerns, in-person experiences are postponed.

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.

Consisting of 54 credits, the program includes courses such as quantitative analysis; managing accounting information for decision-making; law and ethics in business; economics for managers; leading organizations; operations management; marketing management; financial management; strategic management; and digital technology and innovation.

  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: 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 curriculum of this program can be focused on ten different specialty areas. These specializations include accounting; economics & public policy; finance; information systems; interdisciplinary studies; marketing; operations and decision technologies; organization and management; real estate; and strategy.

The program comprises 19 courses, including nine core courses, seven electives, and three offsite experiential residentials, including one international residential trip. Students will explore organizational behavior for managers; microeconomics for managers; business analytics; marketing for managers; financial reporting for managers; managerial finance; competing with digital; strategic management for managers; and operations management for managers.

  • Location: Irvine, CA
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 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 four campus visits per quarter. 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. The curriculum consists of courses such as leadership foundations; data & decisions; managerial economics; marketing management; organizational behavior; financial accounting; foundations of finance; operations & technology; and business strategy.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Expected Time to Completion: 27 months

Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business

CMU’s Tepper School of Business offers a part-time online MBA ranked as one of the best in the nation. The curriculum emphasizes analytics, leadership development, and strategic decision-making. The program encourages fully-employed students to apply and offers various career services and personal development resources.

Content is delivered online synchronously and asynchronously, and supplemented with Access Weekends: residencies that occur several times a year in different cities nationwide.

Some topics students will delve into include probability and statistics; managing people and teams; managerial economics; financial and managerial accounting; optimization; ethics and leadership; managing networks and organizations; global economics; operations management; marketing management; and corporate strategy.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight semesters

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. Students will have the option to complete their online MBA in either 16 or 24 months.

The 16-month, 32-credit option is for those who have earned an undergraduate degree in business and have graduated in the last seven years, while the 24-month, 48-credit option is for those who have earned their business degrees more than seven years ago or non-business degree holders.

The curriculum includes courses such as the economics of business decisions; financial & managerial accounting; introduction to managerial statistics; problems & methods in marketing management; financial management; organizational behavior; operations management; entrepreneurship & venture finance; and brand management. All students will be required to complete an in-person orientation in Gainesville.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Format: Online with an in-person orientation in Gainesville
  • Expected Time to Completion: 16 or 24 months
Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about how new and aspiring business school students can best plan their education and careers. In the Two Views series, he conducts detailed interviews with recent business school alumni, with a particular focus on the choice between in-person, online, and hybrid learning models. His Femme-BA series highlights business schools that not only excel academically but also take unique and robust steps to support a diverse and inclusive learning environment for women.

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