Accelerated M.B.A. programs and abbreviated one-year M.B.A.s offer a cost saving over the traditional two-year approach that’s attractive at a time when everyone seems nervous about spending too much on school. A very wide range of accelerated business degrees, generally taking 14 to 18 months to earn, are now available from both campus and online schools across the U.S. And super-abbreviated one-year M.B.A.s, which were once available only in Europe, have begun to crop up at some fairly top-notch American schools.
Before jumping into one of these programs, consider these plusses and minuses:
Can cut your total cost by a third or more: At a more expensive private school, an accelerated MBA can save you many thousands of dollars off the cost of a full two year M.B.A. program. Just keep in mind that schools don’t necessarily charge for these programs according to their length. An 18 month degree will probably cost more than 2/3rds of a two year degree cost, and an abbreviated one-year M.B.A. is likely to cost more than half of the full degree. Make sure you get a clear understanding of what the total price tag will be.
Can give you a quick boost if you already have business experience: If you already work in a management capacity, an accelerated or one-year M.B.A. (or even a specialized Executive M.B.A. or “EMBA”) can potentially help you get a promotion or change career directions relatively quickly. If you have an undergraduate business degree or already have a good deal of experience, a faster M.B.A. can help you move up or make a career change. If you have not worked in business or studied business before, it might be in your interest to look only at full M.B.A. programs, though you should be fine with an accelerated one as long as it involves the approximately 60 credits you must earn in most two year M.B.As.
A degree that doesn’t interrupt your career for too long: If you are leaving work to study full time, an accelerated program will clearly get you back into the work force more quickly, before your current skills go stale.
You have to work faster: A one-year M.B.A. involves a smaller number of courses. But accelerated programs, which are far more widely available, basically cram the standard number of credits into a shorter time frame. That means that you need to be ready to focus with real intensity on your studies for the 14 or 18 months that your accelerated program takes.
Fewer internships: Abbreviated programs often don’t include the kind of summer internships that are part of the typical full-length M.B.A. This is an important consideration because many of the major banks, in particular, do most of their hiring of new M.B.A.s by bringing them in as interns first and then offering some of them full time employment.
Less networking: Spending less time in school or working at an accelerated pace can leave you less time to establish relationships with other business students. Connections of that type can have a real value once you get out into the business world.
Potentially smaller return: One year M.B.A.s appear to provide a smaller boost in income than two year programs. According to a study by the Graduate Management Admission Council, two-year M.B.A.s who graduated in 2011 had a median starting salary of $85,000, compared with about $73,000 for one-year program grads. It’s less clear that there is any difference in earnings between grads of two-year programs and those who get accelerated M.B.A.s, since both types of programs involve earning the same total number of credits.