Monday, October 26, 2009

Part-time MBA: cohorted or non-cohorted?

There are many different types of part-time MBA programs that may be offered by major universities. I won't be focusing on executive MBAs in this discussion because I believe that the executive MBA is a totally different experience from your standard MBA. Let's keep the focus on part-time MBAs and compare how business schools may structure these part-time MBA programs.

First, we have some part-time programs that are cohorted while others are non-cohorted programs. Let's take a look at what this really means:

In a cohorted programs, you're in a cohort with other students. You will take all the necessary courses together, so you'll get to know the people in your class really well. You will have minimal interactions with students outside of your cohort. As a member of a cohort, you will start and end the program with everyone else in your cohort. You won't have much flexibility in your course schedule since you'll be required to take courses in a fixed schedule. Expect to get your MBA in 2-3 years. Can you do this if you're a busy physician? Yes, but you can expect your life to get extremely busy as you add courses into your schedule.
You get to take a variety of courses at your own pace. As a result, you may encounter new people in every course. You won't be tightly connected to any particular group of students, since you're all taking different courses at different paces. You get a tremendous amount of flexibility and you may even choose to skip a semester and take an academic break. You may get an MBA in 2 - 5 years, depending on the program. This provides greater flexibility for physicians, but you'll miss out on networking opportunities because you may have difficulty really connecting with fellow classmates.
If you look at some online MBA programs, some follow the cohorted model while others follow the non-cohorted model. Distance learning technologies have made the virtual classroom a great way to learn and interact with other students. Of course, the virtual classroom will never replace the face-to-face interactions you'll get in a real classroom.

Before you make any decisions about a part-time MBA program, ask yourself, "what do you hope to achieve by getting an MBA?"  Do you value networking? Learning? The application of business frameworks in medical management? Entrepreneurship?

At the end of the day, the cohorted MBA is probably the best model for anyone wishing to pursue a part-time MBA. A full-time MBA is the best option, but if you're willing to settle for second best because you need to make a living and support a family, then the second choice should be a cohorted part-time MBA.

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