What are the Benefits of Earning Your MBA While Working Full-Time?

Students in part-time online MBA programs who continue to work while earning degrees can make rapid career progress by applying new skills immediately.

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A 2021 GMAC survey found that 55 percent of prospective Master of Business Administration students were motivated to apply by the promise of increased earning potential. However, while it’s true that MBA graduates earn more than professionals with other master’s degrees, professionals seek this credentialing for many reasons. 

Students in MBA programs benefit from the company they keep while in business school and graduate with robust professional networks. An MBA is often the minimum credential necessary to step into senior and executive roles. MBA holders are in demand in many industries because their expertise is widely applicable. And some students pursue this degree because they want to become more effective leaders or maximize advancement in specific functional business areas.

For all the benefits the degree confers, pursuing an MBA comes with tradeoffs. Full-time MBA programs, typically offered on-campus, traditionally required students to pause their careers while in business school. Prospective students weigh the income sacrifice against the possibility of future gains. Pursuing an MBA could be financially challenging, limiting the MBA applicant pool to those comfortable leaving the workforce.

Today, part-time online Master of Business Administration programs such as the SMU Cox School of Business Online MBA level the playing field by making it easier to earn an MBA while working full time. It features the same experiential learning opportunities and immersions as top on-campus MBA programs while delivering all the benefits of a traditional full-time MBA with the flexibility of a part-time online program. 

But just as increased earning potential is only one reason to earn this degree, flexibility is only one of the many compelling reasons to choose a part-time online MBA program. 

How Do Part-Time MBA Programs Differ From Full-Time MBA Programs?

Part-time MBA programs typically differ from full-time programs in course load, flexibility and years to graduation. In traditional full-time MBA programs, students often take four courses at once to graduate in two years. The increased course load and summer internship opportunity take them out of the workforce while they pursue their MBAs.

The per-semester course load is less intense for part-time online MBA programs. Exact course loads vary from program to program, but part-time students in the SMU Cox Online MBA program take two courses per seven-week module. The MBA curriculum breaks down into two modules per term, so part-time students take four courses per term and can finish in as few as 24 consecutive months or six terms. 

Unlike other online MBA programs, the Online MBA at SMU Cox lets students enroll in a mix of online and on-campus courses for elective courses through SMU Cox Edge. The Online MBA program is considered virtual and holds classes predominantly live online. However, Online MBA students who wish to take advantage of SMU Cox Edge’s flexible modality have an option to enroll in in-person elective courses during the open enrollment period. Online MBA students may register for any of the 170+ electives available on campus, subject to course schedule and availability.

Full-time and part-time MBA programs may also attract students from different backgrounds. The GMAC study linked above found that part-time programs were more likely to attract non-business undergraduate majors. Part-time programs also tend to attract older and more experienced applicants. This distinction is evident in the Online MBA class profile at SMU Cox, where the average student is 34 and has eight years of work experience.

The Benefits of Pursuing an MBA While Working Full-Time

You Can Immediately Implement Theory 

Pursuing an MBA while working full-time lets students apply their new technical and soft skills immediately to challenges they encounter in their workplaces. Additionally, MBA candidates who continue working full time set themselves up for promotions and other forms of workplace recognition. Classes meet virtually on weekday evenings so students can take their emerging leadership, analytics and business management skills directly into the workplace. Students also put skills into practice during domestic and international immersions, where they work in teams to solve real-world business problems.

You Can Grow in Your Career Without Interruption

Part-time students can take MBA courses without sacrificing hands-on work experience or work-life balance. Students in the SMU Cox Online MBA program receive the same education as full-time students without giving up their full-time jobs. They engage with rigorous course content and receive high-touch support from career coaches before and after graduation.

You Can Change Careers More Quickly

Many MBA candidates plan to switch industries after graduation. Twenty-six percent were interested in changing job functions in their current industries. Pursuing an MBA is a straightforward way to shift career tracks or move between industries because top MBA programs teach highly transferable skills. 

MBA graduates can apply these skills to become managers in their current fields or use them to transition onto leadership tracks in other industries. The Cox School of Business MBA curriculum teaches transferable skills such as data analysis, financial management, strategic management and executive leadership. Program graduates have what it takes to work as senior managers and executives in any industry. 

You Can Build a Broader Professional Network

Traditional MBA programs are well-known for providing students with opportunities to build lasting professional relationships with thought leaders, industry changemakers and ambitious peers. However, because traditional MBA students pause their careers to earn their degrees, the networks they develop are isolated, with little connection to their past or current work experience.

Online MBA candidates at SMU Cox build professional networks with fellow students, faculty and significant figures in the Dallas, TX business community while continuing to grow their career networks. They also gain access to the 40,000+ member SMU Cox alumni network, connect with thought leaders through live virtual classes and meet top executives during global and domestic immersions. SMU Cox’s networking opportunities rival those found in traditional MBA programs in job strength and ties to the corporate community, but the part-time nature of the program lets students put their networks to use right away on their current career paths.

You’ll Earn a Degree While Earning Income

Student loan debt is a significant concern for students across degree programs. The 2022 GMAC Prospective Student Survey found that debt prevents 19 percent of prospective MBA students from enrolling in a business school. Students who leave their jobs to earn master’s degrees often take on more debt to pay for their graduate programs and reduce their lifetime earning potential. Depending on what jobs they leave, these students may also give up bonuses, commissions on sales, future retirement savings and stock options. This and other lost income can be summed up as opportunity cost.

Part-time students enrolled in business schools online can keep their jobs and continue earning income while earning degrees. They may take on fewer student loans because they can pay a portion of tuition out of pocket or take advantage of employer tuition assistance. By reducing the long-term cost of their education and minimizing opportunity costs, part-time students receive a higher MBA return on investment (ROI) than traditional students. 

You Can Tap into Employer Sponsorships

Employers benefit when employees earn MBAs. Business master’s programs impart skills that help leaders transform businesses for the better, and MBA students who work full-time while going to school can bring those skills to work immediately. For this reason, many companies have official or unofficial tuition reimbursement policies. They understand it’s more efficient to uptrain a hard-working current employee than to search for new talent.

Companies may offer partial or total reimbursement toward tuition for part-time MBA programs. Be aware that most tuition assistance programs stipulate how long the reimbursed employee must continue working for a company after graduation – usually six months to two years.

Earning an MBA While Working Full Time Can Enhance Your Business School Experience

An MBA can help you break into new industries and reach the highest levels of business leadership, whether you go to school full-time or part-time. The right MBA program will teach you how to work through challenges facing businesses in every industry with data analytics and leadership skills. Finding that graduate school program doesn’t have to mean making uncomfortable trade-offs, such as reducing your work schedule at your current job to focus on schoolwork. A part-time online MBA program from a highly ranked business school such as SMU Cox can provide a top-notch business education and networking opportunities plus flexibility. Working full time while earning an MBA may be the best way to maximize the ROI of your graduate education.

Cox School of Business delivers an advanced education on a schedule that fits in your professional life or personal life. You can participate in synchronized, interactive virtual sessions with industry-leading faculty, learn alongside peers in domestic and international immersions designed to provide a global business perspective and accelerate your career advancement alongside accomplished, motivated peers with minimal disruption. More importantly, you can hone your developing leadership and management skills where it matters most – in the workplace – cementing management and leadership competencies while delivering enhanced value in your organization. 

Connect with a member of our Admissions team or start your online application today to accelerate your professional growth while excelling in your career.