Going the Distance: When is Long Distance MBA a good option?

In last part of this discussion about Long Distance v/s Full Time, we tried to capture what is on the mind of a working professional when he/she is planning a major career shift. Since one size doesn’t fit all, in this article we’ll try to explore and see when it is a good option to go for a Long Distance MBA.
Please note that by Long Distance MBA, we broadly mean all the long distance learning programs which are done on a part-time basis. This includes, but is not limited to, the following types of programs on offer:

  • 3-year long part-time MBA programs:

In these programs, you get the study material, assignments, exams etc. delivered to you and then you’ve to do the studies yourself. This has minimal or no interaction with a guide. In simpler terms, it is akin to something like what private studies mean.

  •  2-year long part-time MBA programs:

This is almost similar to the above mentioned programs in its functionality but is covered in 2 years instead of 3. It might include more hours of interaction with one or more guides.

  • 1-1.5 year long weekend learning programs:

These programs are getting more popular recently. These are offered by some leading institutes in collaboration with an education partner like HUGHES. The education partner has multiple learning centers across many locations. In this program, you need to attend virtual classes once or twice a week on the learning center. Most people opt for weekend schedules due to their job obligations. Some institutes also include 1 or 2 weeks on-campus interaction with these candidates. Some of the foreign universities also offer such programs in collaboration with a local partner.

  • Executive MBA programs with weekend classes:

Some institutes also offer on-location Executive MBA programs targeted only to working professionals. They might also have some minimum work-ex criteria for admission to these programs. The classes are held only during weekends and are on-campus like regular classes. These are mostly fast-paced programs largely focused on corporate management requirement.

  • Executive MBA programs offered by employers in collaboration with an institute:

Some leading employers also collaborate with reputed institutes to offer quality management learning to their employees. This way, they can cultivate and retain talent within organization. Sometimes, it is also offered on full-time basis with a provision of sabbatical and with conditions of retaining their employees for a minimum time. But these programs are beyond the scope of this discussion.

Having covered the kind of programs that one might consider broadly while thinking about opting for long-distance or part-time MBA, let’s have a look at some of the situations when it is good to go for these programs.

  • Financial Considerations

Agreed, part-time MBA is no match to the benefits and the learning that a full-time MBA has to offer. But this comes at a hefty price, what with the costs of gaining higher education in today’s world. Adding to this the RoI figures are also frightening in the current market scenario. RoI is short for Return on Investment, you’ll know this term when you seriously start considering your MBA options. There is just too much risk involved with so much at stake if decide to take the plunge and go for full-time MBA.
By now, you also are leading a comfortable lifestyle with a job that provides you the cushion of a reasonable earning. You might have taken some loans for your first house or car, or even for your marriage. You are habitual to learn off your plastic money and weekend splurges. Your life is planned in a way that it seems almost impossible to leave it all for an unclear future after 2 years of college-life. You also might be supporting (or planning to) either your parents-siblings or even have started your own family. You just can’t shake off all the liabilities and go on living a dream involving only you. You feel too guilty for that.
Bank loans are there to support the educational expenses but it’s easier said than done to get an educational loan. Ask anyone who has tried it personally.

  • You’re too old

Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest reasons a lot of working professionals give up on their dream for full-time higher education. A couple of years into the job and the routine sets in your system. Your family is also behind your back now is pestering you that it’s time for you to settle. Everyone around you (including yourself) starts questioning your capability to go back to college. This fear is particularly difficult to overcome simply because it’s not recognized. But it always remains underneath. So if you’re also gripped by this unsaid fear (or if, actually you’re by the time you take this decision), it’s better to opt for the alternative.
Some people have some liabilities to deal with before they can even start to think about giving it all up and start from the scratch with going back to college. This can take years and it might actually be a good option to go for the executive education route because a full-time MBA might not be that relevant anymore.

  • Personal/Family Obligations

Not all the families will be all supportive and gung-ho about your decision to leave your flourishing career to take a risk like going back to college and starting afresh. If you already have started your own family by now then you yourself might not want to leave your family for 2 years and go back to a fully residential college program sans your family. How your family will survive these 2 years can also be a daunting thought specially if you haven’t planned it well already.
When the risk becomes too high and you’re about to put those close to you on stake, along with you, you might want to consider a middle-way approach of part-time MBA.

  • Relevance

If you already have reached/crossed a certain level in your career when it won’t make much difference or relevance to go for a full-time degree, you should consider avoiding it. Instead, a relevant skill-development program in your field of expertise will do more to boost your career, especially if you’re already headed in right direction of your chosen career. You might already be overqualified for the skills that you would develop through a degree and it won’t do much justice to the risk you would be taking by leaving the job, that you anyways like doing. This is particularly important if you’re considering the degree to fast-pace your current career only. Relevance is always a good consideration before making a life-altering decision.

Write to me if you’ve any questions about this or want to discuss any of the choices. Stay tuned for more on this.

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