How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA?

Written by Coursera • Updated on Nov 18, 2021

Many MBA programs take about two years to complete, but there are options for people seeking alternative timelines.

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Pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can have a notable impact on your career trajectory. At the same time, seeking any kind of advanced degree or certification will require some level of time commitment.

While there are a few potential paths toward an MBA, many programs take about two years of full-time study to complete. However, there are both shorter and longer options available. Someone interested in acquiring a degree quickly may be drawn to an accelerated one-year program, while someone balancing full-time work and business school may take closer to three years in a part-time program.

Here are some common types of MBA programs and how much time they’ll typically take:

Program typeTypical completion timeTypical schedule
Full-time MBA2 yearsFull-time
Part-time MBA3-5 yearsNight and weekend classes
Accelerated MBA1 yearFull-time
Executive MBA2 yearsNight and weekend classes
Global MBA2 yearsFull-time
Dual MBA2+ yearsFull-time

Types of MBA programs

The time it takes to earn an MBA degree varies by the type of program and by school. Some MBA programs are designed for students to complete in a year, while others can take several years. Regardless of the type of degree program you enroll in, you generally receive the same graduate degree in the end.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of MBA programs:

  • Full-time MBA: A full-time MBA program, sometimes called a two-year program, is considered to be the “traditional” path toward a degree. Programs typically take two years to complete, and students are expected to be enrolled full-time—meaning they live on or near campus and don’t hold a full-time job while pursuing their degree.

  • Part-time MBA: A part-time MBA program usually takes between three and five years to complete, and classes are scheduled outside of normal business hours. This allows students to work full time while attending school. In fact, you might also see them called weekend or evening MBA programs.

  • Accelerated MBA: Sometimes referred to as a one-year MBA program, an accelerated MBA program only takes about one year to complete. In order to condense the timeframe, many accelerated MBA programs will require either a bachelor’s degree in business or a series of prerequisite courses, and may lean on prior work experience to swiftly move through topics. It could be possible to continue working during an accelerated MBA program, however many programs do require full-time enrollment.

  • Executive MBA: Designed for full-time professionals about a decade into their careers, an executive MBA program typically takes about two years to complete, with the bulk of the classes taking place on weekends. 

  • Global MBA: Like a full-time MBA, a global MBA will typically take around two years to complete on a full-time schedule. The difference is in the program scope: a global MBA will emphasize global business practices, and may attract a more internationally diverse group of candidates.

  • Dual MBA: A dual degree program is basically a double major. There are a variety of dual MBA programs, often combined with law degrees (JD) or other master’s or doctorate degrees in healthcare, public policy, international studies, or technology. Dual MBAs are fast-tracked in that you are able to complete two degrees at the same time, however depending on the program, they may take longer than the two years often anticipated with a full-time MBA program.

How long does it take to get an MBA online?

Online MBA programs are gaining more popularity among applicants, thanks in part to the flexibility these programs can offer. Online MBA candidates are able to learn from anywhere with an internet connection, sometimes on their own schedule, and often for a lower tuition than an in-person program.

In general, online programs require the same time commitments as their in-person counterparts because the programs are pretty comparable. For example, a full-time online MBA program may take two years to complete, whereas a part-time online MBA program may take between three and five years to complete.

Is an MBA worth it?

In addition to the time commitment, getting an MBA can also be a financial commitment. As you think about how business school may impact your life and career, here are some facts and considerations to help you weigh the benefits with the cost.

MBA cost and return on investment (ROI)

The cost of acquiring your MBA degree can range from tens of thousands of dollars to over $200,000—all depending on the program you attend. Because of this wide variation in potential investment, and because everyone going to business school will have their own post-degree career goals, your ROI might look very different from the ROI of someone attending a different school, or even that of your classmate.

That being said, the career outlook for MBA graduates is pretty good. One corporate recruiters survey primarily from the US projects that 91 percent of companies plan to hire MBAs in 2021, and estimates the median salary for MBA graduates is $115,000 [1]. (For comparison, the same survey estimates the median salary of bachelor’s degree holders to be $65,000.) Moreover, 88 percent of business school graduates in the US report a positive ROI after perceiving both an increase in employability and earned salary [2].

An MBA ROI calculator, such as this one from MBA.com, can help you estimate your post-MBA earnings potential.

Learn more about the potential ROI for online MBAs.

Working while getting an MBA

Continuing to work while attending business school can have some benefits, including the potential to advance your career or mitigate lost wages. If you prefer to work full-time while getting your MBA, there are a number of programs that allow for that level of flexibility, namely part-time MBAs and executive MBAs.

Depending on where you are in your career, either a part-time or executive program may be right for you. Typically, MBA candidates in part-time programs are a few years into their careers, while those in executive programs are over a decade into their careers.

Learn more about whether an executive MBA program is right for you.

Continuing your business education

Whether you have the time and resources to commit toward an MBA degree or not, there are flexible ways to continue building upon your business foundations. If you have a few years to work toward your degree, an online MBA program, such as the iMBA from University of Illinois Gies College of Business, offers the ability to work on your degree from anywhere in the world.

For a shorter time commitment, you may be able to achieve your goals with a Master of Science (MS) in business or a professional certificate. The iMSM from University of Illinois and Google Project Management Professional Certificate are two programs designed to explore business practices in less time than a traditional MBA might take.

To help determine the right path for you, consider your goals and how each business education program may help you achieve them in the timeframe that feels most right for you.

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Article references

1. Graduate Management Admission Council. “Demand of Graduate Management Talent: 2021 Hiring Projections and Salary Trends, https://www.gmac.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/employment-outlook/2021_crs-demand-of-gm-talent.pdf.” Accessed November 16, 2021.

2. Graduate Management Admission Council. “Alumni Perspectives on the Value of Graduate Management Education, https://www.gmac.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/measuring-program-roi/2021_gmac_research_brief_alumni_value_of_gme.pdf.” Accessed November 16, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Nov 18, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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