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MBA Programs

What Makes MBAs Tick?

What Makes MBAs Tick?

Photograph by Getty Images

Anyone who has spent time on a business school campus can probably pick out the full-timers from the part-time MBA students. The ones hunched over laptops and surrounded by teammates in the breakout rooms are the full-time students. Those racing from the parking lot to make an evening class, or trudging back at the end of an extremely long day—well, that’s the other group.

What drives both groups of students? The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) today released its surveys of nearly 19,000 prospective MBA students worldwide in 2011 and 2012, fleshing out what makes each group go through the ordeal of B-school. About two-thirds of the respondents were planning to attend full-time, while a third were planning to attend part-time. The part-timers were older (27 percent are 31 or older, vs. 13 percent FT) and included more women (47 percent vs. 40 percent FT).

How They Plan to Pay

Those considering full-time, two-year MBA programs are more likely than prospective part-timers to plan on: scholarships, fellowships, or grants (56 percent FT vs. 37 percent PT); taking out loans (59 percent FT vs. 52 percent PT); and getting parental support (46 percent FT vs. 22 percent PT). They’re less likely to plan on using personal earnings (44 percent FT vs. 55 percent PT) or getting employer support (20 percent FT vs. 47 percent PT).

What Keeps Them Up at Night

Prospective full-timers are less likely than part-timers to have reservations about their program’s demands on time and energy (22 percent FT vs. 45 percent PT) or limiting the time available to spend with loved ones (19 percent FT vs. 36 percent PT). They’re equally likely to have reservations about their degree requiring more money than they have (51 percent) or leaving them buried in debt (53 percent).

Why They’re Doing It

Interestingly, prospective part-timers are motivated by a lot of the things we typically associate with the reasons people enroll in full-time programs, only more so. The part-timers said they were motivated by adding the MBA credential to their résumés (64 percent PT vs. 56 percent FT); improving their job effectiveness (53 percent PT vs. 46 percent FT); and getting a promotion (49 percent PT vs. 31 percent FT). And the full-timers? They were more likely to be motivated by a shot at international employment (42 percent FT vs. 27 percent PT) and the chance for entrepreneurial opportunities (43 percent FT vs. 36 percent PT).

How They Choose Schools

Full-timers are more likely than part-timers to put a premium on internships (66 percent FT vs. 29 percent PT); work projects (42 percent FT vs. 25 percent PT); clubs (55 percent FT vs. 30 percent PT); case competitions (34 percent FT vs. 17 percent PT); and part-time work (43 percent FT vs. 28 percent PT).

What They Plan to Do With the Degree

Prospective part-timers are more likely to say they intend to remain with their current employer (39 percent PT vs. 15 percent FT) and change job function (48 percent PT vs. 44 percent FT). They’re less likely to seek self-employment (20 percent PT vs. 28 percent FT); work outside their country of citizenship (13 percent PT vs. 29 percent FT); or change industries (30 percent PT vs. 39 percent FT). Apparently consulting doesn’t have the same appeal for part-timers that it has for full-timers: Only 20 percent of part-timers say they plan to take consulting jobs, vs. 31 percent of full-timers.

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Lavelle is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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