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Should You Get a Full-time MBA Online or In Person?

Sep 1, 2022
Helping you decide which MBA program format is right for you

By Rachael Perrotta

If you’re considering earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA), you may be wondering whether an online or in-person full-time MBA program is the best fit for you. Sue Oldham, Associate Dean of Vanderbilt’s MBA Operations, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of these 2 options and how to decide between them.

Sue Oldham

What formats are available?

Full-time MBA programs are typically 2 years and either fully in-person or online. In-person MBA programs require students to live near campus and attend classes and other events in person. Online MBA programs occasionally invite students to campus for orientations and other programming events. Oldham says interest in online MBA programs has risen in the wake of the pandemic, as students become more familiar with online learning. 

Oldham emphasized that regardless of whether students earn an MBA online or in person they will all earn the same degree.

“That academic credential is still there,” Oldham said when comparing the two programs.

What is the difference between online and in-person programs? 

According to Oldham, one of the main benefits of an in-person MBA program is the variety of co-curricular activities, such as leadership, community service, international immersions, and teamwork opportunities, at your fingertips. The chance to get involved on campus and in your school’s nearby community can provide valuable experience that may be more difficult to obtain in an online MBA program.

“These are really key skills that employers are always looking for,” Oldham said.

In-person MBA programs also foster camaraderie that is hard to cultivate online. Especially after the pandemic, Oldham says more people are realizing the value of in-person interactions and learning, and more people are craving such exchanges.

“It’s the extra stuff: the hallway conversations, when you’re moving from class to class, running into people and having those side conversations. It’s all of the in-person social activities,” Oldham said.

Living near campus also facilitates a balance between academics and personal life, providing designated study and collaboration locations separate from your living arrangements. On the other hand, online MBA programs give students increased flexibility to balance more responsibilities. 

This flexibility, Oldham explained, makes online MBA programs more accessible in terms of living arrangements, family life, cost, and time commitment. Students are able to live where they choose and largely mold their schedule to fit their needs, unlike the more structured, in-person MBA programs.

“[The decision] is unique to each person and your life story and what your family situation is,” Oldham said.

What type of full-time MBA program does Vanderbilt Business have?

Vanderbilt offers an in-person, full-time MBA program. She says the combination of in-person instruction and a relatively small cohort of MBA students reflects the school’s values of community, interpersonal connection, and collaboration.

However, Oldham added that Vanderbilt is continuously considering how to improve their programs and planning for new ones. She says the school is using lessons from the pandemic to increase flexibility in future programs. 

“We learned from COVID-19 that technology has changed tremendously, and it’s a lot more acceptable to do things online,” Oldham said. “We are definitely looking at what we can offer that goes beyond just the traditional in-person [option] because we know it can be done.”

 To learn more about the Vanderbilt MBA program, click here.

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