What is a Professional MBA Program (PMBA)?

Sponsored


Anyone considering a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program other than the traditional full-time, on-campus type has probably encountered a professional MBA, also known as a PMBA. Professional MBAs have two characteristics: the first is that a PMBA can be completed part-time; the second is that its curriculum is entirely different from that of a traditional MBA.

The Virginia-based Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is a nonprofit organization of 220 graduate business schools from around the world. GMAT administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), which 6,500 graduate programs use worldwide. In the GMAC 2017 Application Trends Survey Report, the organization classifies all university business school programs into three categories: full-time MBA programs, professional MBA programs, and master’s programs in business.

GMAC further breaks down professional MBA programs into several sub-categories based on whether they are cohort-based or not, lockstep, executive, self-paced, flexible, or online. The common element to all these professional MBA programs is that they are all part-time programs.

In other words, for GMAC, the term “professional MBA” denotes any part-time MBA program. That can encapsulate an evening or weekend MBA program geared to working professionals, an executive MBA program intended for seasoned executives aspiring to top management, or any other type of self-paced, flexible, or online program—as long as they are part-time.

According to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), 27 business schools—about 1.5 percent of all business schools—offered PMBAs in 2017. Here are a few examples:

While the GMAC identifies all part-time programs as professional MBAs, other business schools employ this term to name a specific type of program that they offer.

Regardless of the way the designation is used, there are only two groups of PMBAs: part-time and executive MBA programs. Because more than half of all MBA candidates earn their degrees this way, some call part-time MBA programs “nearly synonymous with graduate management education itself.”

Part-Time MBA Programs

Part-time programs include the “night school” and weekend programs that have been rebranded with newer designations in addition to “professional MBA,” such as the “fully-employed MBA.” Often more affordable than full-time programs and offered online, these programs enable students to continue working full-time while taking a reduced course load and generally involve less competitive admissions due to the reduced applicant pool.

Executive MBA Programs

A smaller portion of seasoned business leaders attends executive MBA programs, which is different from other part-time programs. According to the Executive MBA Council and the Financial Times, EMBA programs are accelerated programs with fewer class hours that allow business leaders to receive their MBA in two years or less while they continue working full-time. Condensed scheduling options include all-day classes once a week, three full days over a long weekend every three weeks, or one week a month.

As noted above, EMBA students complete classes with the same cohort, which can become a valuable lifelong network. EMBA programs also provide special services to address the needs of busy business leaders such as personal career coaching, certain concierge services like travel arrangements and textbook purchases, and meals during classes. The Financial Times business education editor Della Bradshaw claims that in recent years the trend has been to develop EMBA programs taught in different countries, often through partnerships between business schools around the world.

Full-Time or Professional, the Degree is the Same

Most part-time students earn the same MBA degree as the full-time students and benefit from the same alumni network. What’s more, many reports suggest that most recruiters and hiring managers do not care if a student attended a full-time or part-time program. For example, Duke University MBA Sam Lee said: “I’ve never had a hiring manager ask me if I did my MBA full-time or part-time, and as a hiring manager myself, I never once asked a candidate that question either; it’s simply not relevant.”

For more about the similarities and differences between these different kinds of MBA programs, please check out the following BSchools.org guides:

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark
Writer

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.

Related Posts

  • 5 May 2020

    Two Views: University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

    The conventional wisdom says that online MBAs are for older working professionals, and on-campus MBAs are for recent graduates of bachelor’s programs. The conventional wisdom is wrong. The decision between an online and on-campus MBA is an incredibly individual one, which needs to account for the nuance of a student’s goals, context, and preferences.

  • 21 November 2019

    Forbes MBA Program Rankings Surprises

    There were many surprises in the new Forbes MBA program rankings, including a big tumble by a top-tier university, along with a dramatically increased presence of schools with new online MBA programs. But the biggest surprise isn’t contained in this year’s rankings data. To understand more about the 2019 Forbes rankings—and the one surprise few commentators are talking about—read on.

  • 13 November 2019

    The Gender Gap in MBA Case Studies

    Representation, the kind that is unbiased and not stereotyped, is critical to women being successful in business. Students are being socialized to not see women in leadership roles. According to Colleen Ammerman, the gender inclusive director of the Harvard Business School, when leadership is narrowly defined as a strong white man, “it not only hinders the ability of students who don’t share those characteristics to identify with the protagonist, it reinforces stereotypes about who ‘real leaders’ are.”

  • 5 November 2019

    Online MBA Programs Ranked by Affordability (2019-2020)

    Earning an MBA can be expensive. These online programs ranked by affordability can be a viable alternative to more expensive programs while still receiving an excellent education and providing the flexibility working professionals need to balance the demands of work, family, and higher education.

  • 4 November 2019

    Seed Funding Basics for MBA Student Startups

    At some point during business school, many MBA students will have an opportunity to join a startup company, and some will even launch startups as founders. For many students, launching a startup is the objective that drives their applications to business school.

  • 31 October 2019

    MBA Salary Guide: Starting Salaries & Highest Paying MBA Concentrations

    Specializations amount to critical choices in an MBA student’s career. They permit students to immediately deliver highly marketable skills to an employer upon graduation, the value for which most employers will gladly pay handsome salaries.

  • 25 October 2019

    University of Utah (Eccles): Two Views, One Business School

    There used to be a hierarchy wherein online MBA programs were considered diet MBAs—not quite the same as the real thing. Those days are gone. Advancements in tech and the maturation of online programs in general mean that it’s no longer a matter of hierarchy, but individual preference.