When embarking on a postgraduate course (e.g. MBA), most students have one of the following objectives:
- To further or change their career and
- Increase their earning capacity and/or jump a career level.
- Start your own venture
Once you have decided on your purpose, the next question is How do I do it? Today, most of the reputed universities offer their courses in three modes: Full-time, Part-time or Online.
When deciding to complete a program while working, you may want to ask yourself some big questions: Can I sacrifice my one or two years of salary? Is the opportunity cost worth it? Do I have enough savings to sustain my bills and expenses for the duration of the program? Is working while studying part-time more achievable? Can you afford to take time off work? How will you study and work and still meet family commitments? How soon you want achieve the degree? What is the required time to complete a full-time or a part-time course in your chosen university? Can you commit to attending campus?
These are all important factors that require careful consideration. We have summarized various factors in the table.
|Duration||Usually 1 to 2 Years.||Usually more than 2 years. If there is no online component, it could take more time as classes would be scheduled in the evening or weekends.||Same as full-time. Sometimes less (e.g. there could be no exchange component or internships)|
|Delivery||Traditional and fully On-campus.||On-campus. Some component may be online.||Fully Online delivery. Classes may be delivered virtually. Students can take classes from home or from a virtual centre.|
|Intakes||Scheduled 3 to 4 intakes in a year||Scheduled 3 to 4 intakes in a year||All year round as classes are delivered on-demand.|
|Pedagogy||Set timetable for course work. Follows a regimented approach every year.||Set timetable for course work over a longer duration as classes are less frequently conducted than full time course. It is expected that the students apply the knowledge of what they have learnt at the university to their work while writing assignments and solving cases.||No set timetable. On demand coursework. t is expected that the students apply the knowledge of what they have learnt at the university to their work while writing assignments and solving cases.|
|Academic support||High. Students can interact with faculty.||Medium. Less opportunity for students to interact with faculty||Low. Little or no opportunity for students to interact with faculty.|
|Content||Set Textbooks and case studies. Students have full access to library||Textbooks and online content. Access to library during contact hours.||Online content. Access to specific journals if they are uploaded online. High dependency on the university’s infrastructure.|
|Networking with alumni||High. Students can interact with alumni during networking events throughout the year.||Medium. Due to work commitments, students may not be able to attend all networking events. Also depends on the commitment level of the students.||Low. Very little opportunity for students to attend networking events. Not being present on the campus does not create a sense of belonging.|
|Networking with industry||High. Multiple events are organized through the year. Being on campus students can attend this any time.||Medium. Students may not be able to attend all events due to work commitments.||Low. Little or no visibility to the networking events.|
|Fees Impact||High. As it includes all facilities provided by the university and students have to cater for accommodation and other expenses such as travel for exchange program, excursions etc.||Medium. Students have to mainly pay the tuition fees. Usually, the exchange program and excursions are optional as it is believed that the students obtain this exposure during their ongoing work experience.||Low. Online delivery of course content creates leads to a low fee structure covering tuition fees and infrastructure costs.|
|Work placement support||Required. Since students have usually left their jobs to study full time, they would need full support from the placement committee to find their next job – after all this is one reason, they decided to do this course.||Not required. All or most of the students are working. Hence, after course completion, they would immerse themselves back into their ongoing work and apply what they have learnt.||Not required. All or most of the students are working. Hence, after course completion, they would immerse themselves back into their ongoing work and apply what they have learnt.|
|Extracurricular work||High involvement. Exchange programs and excursions are an integral part of the course and develops the student’s personality.||Part-time students have limited contact hours during the course and have no involvement in excursions and course work as it is believed that the benefits arising out of these activities are obtained during work experience.||No involvement. Students can interact with the outside world while completing their assignments.|
|Work experience requirement||Nice to have. Students can relate their case studies to actual business problems in share their knowledge.||Essential. The purpose of part-time programs is that students while working on assignments and case studies can apply their real world experiences.||Nice to have. If students have work experiences, they can relate to their course work. Else, they will have to gain that experience by interacting with the real world (e.g. visit a workplace while working on an assignment)|
|Internships||Yes. They are a key component to finding your future employer||No. Students are already working and utilize the knowledge gained by applying it in during their work.||No. Students are already working and utilize the knowledge gained by applying it in during their work.|
|Overall experience||Campus living, high interaction with professors, industry experts and alumni.||Low level of interaction with alumni, industry experts and professors. Students can apply their knowledge on-the-go||Little or no level of interaction with alumni, industry experts and professors. Students can apply their knowledge on-the-go|
So, which method is right for you?
Looking at these factors will help you choose the right option suited to you. But to summarize:
Go for a full time course, if:
- You have no work experience
- You have work experience, but want to go back to academics
- You are thinking of a change in the career
- You have savings to deal and bills and other family expenses for the period of the program
Go for a part time course or an online course, if:
- You love your current job too much and cannot get a sabbatical
- You require the degree to further your career in the same organization
- Need to be working to pay off your bills and take care of family expenses
- You can give that extra time commitment in addition to your work
- Cannot travel for a long duration if you landed a course in a different part of the world
Finally, I would say choose a method which is right for you. Something you can commit to, you would like to be engaged with, and delivers value for your money.