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How To Choose An MBA Program: A Practical Guide

By Charlene Lattea, WVU Online | Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Choosing an MBA program is a big decision. We’ll explore the different considerations you should make when choosing where to apply, how many schools to apply to, and more.

So, you want to get an MBA.

Choosing the right school is a personal process, and you will need to know exactly what you need to get out of your MBA program.

You should research the main types of MBA programs available and decide which ones to target.

Spend time developing your list of schools before you apply to any programs! Also, make sure to include a mix of schools with different benefits to offer.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of choosing the MBA program that is right for you.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

Decide Which Type of MBA Program You Want To Pursue:

There are many kinds of MBA programs to explore, and they vary in cost, location, length of time, and how classes are offered. Here we will briefly break down each one to help you understand what kind of business administration degree it is and if it may be right for you.

1. Full-Time MBA

A full-time MBA is the most traditional and attracts high-quality applicants with diverse professional backgrounds. You’ll be taking classes during the day (or possibly at night) and most likely in-person rather than online.

This degree is best suited for people seeking a big career change. You will network with classmates and other business professionals from around the world. The only downside is that this degree will take all your time for about two years.

2. Part-Time MBA

This degree could be in-person or online. In a face-to-face program, you take classes on nights and weekends. If you’re an online student, you complete coursework remotely, often attending live lectures via the internet.

The part-time MBA is for those who need flexibility to continue working while earning their degree. It may take as long as three or four years to complete. However, you can work on this MBA at your own pace.

3. In-Person or Online MBA

An online MBA allows you to take classes from anywhere you have an internet connection while continuing to work full-time. They are usually less expensive, and you will have the same learning opportunities you would find on campus.

The Online MBA is for working professionals who want convenience and flexibility. You will have no problem getting all the professional skills you need, but you may never actually meet your classmates or professors face-to-face.

4. Executive MBA

The Executive MBA is for working professionals who want to learn new managerial and leadership skills. It also focuses on current trends in business. Classes are part-time, and it usually takes about two years to complete.

The Executive MBA is for business professionals who already have a few years of experience. You will interact with classmates who also have established careers. One of the downsides is that you will have limited time to devote to classwork.

5. Specialized MBA

No matter what kind of MBA program you choose, you will usually be able to select from a wide range of specializations. You should find one that will give you the skills you need to increase your job opportunities in a specific field. Some of these include accounting, business analytics, healthcare, human resources, finance, and more.

A specialized MBA is for applicants who already know which industry they want to enter after they graduate. You’ll take courses alongside classmates with similar interests and career ambitions.

6.Global MBA

Global MBAs allow students to study business through an international lens. Also called International MBAs, they attract many students from overseas and are usually full-time. They may have study abroad requirements.

Global MBAs are for those who dream of one day working for a business overseas. You will take core classes until your second year of study when the global aspect becomes more prominent.

7. Accelerated MBA

Accelerated MBA programs are generally 12 to 16 months of full-time work. Some may be just one year. Structures vary, but students often take classes during the summer or during shorter, more intense academic terms.

This kind of program is for students who want to earn their degree as soon as possible. You will have to carry a heavy workload, but they cost less because they take less time. The downside is that you may feel rushed.

8. Joint and Dual MBAs

These programs combine the MBA with a second graduate degree, such as law, the arts, or a healthcare-related field. You can usually apply some course credits to both degrees. They take longer than the traditional MBA, perhaps three years.

Dual MBAs are for students who want a less time-consuming and costly credential to supplement their MBA. Before choosing a Dual MBA, think seriously about whether you need two graduate degrees. You have to be highly motivated.

Start Researching MBA Programs and Schools

The process of choosing an MBA program is time-consuming, but you need to do some research to determine your top schools. You don’t want to make the wrong choice!

Consider the following list of criteria when researching possible MBA programs and schools:


This is perhaps the biggest challenge you will face. Remember, private schools – especially ivy league schools and the top programs – have much higher tuition rates than public schools and lesser-known programs. Look for any financial aid you may be able to get and try to find a balance between program cost and program quality.


Do you want to attend college out of state or stay local? Going out of state is usually more expensive. If you know the area where you plan to work in the future, think about attending a school in that region. With an online program, you will have fewer costs, and you can choose from a wider variety of schools. However, you may have fewer networking opportunities.


Your MBA program’s curriculum will have a lot to do with your future success. It should have courses that will prepare you with all the skills you will need, including accounting and finance, marketing, project management, and communication, as well as organizational skills, and "soft skills" or people skills.


Accreditation ensures that programs meet strict academic standards. This can influence your future employment, so be sure to choose an accredited school! Look for regional and programmatic accreditation, as well as national or even international accreditation.

Entrance Requirements

Most MBA programs have minimum requirements for admission, including the GMAT, GRE, grade point averages, and more. Keep in mind that work experience is often considered, or even required, and you will also need letters of recommendation and personal and professional references as part of your application.

Academic Reputation

It is best to consult regional rankings because it is difficult to compare MBA programs from different regions or countries. Look for accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE), and especially the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Know Your MBA Admissions Profile

Now, it is time to assess your own qualifications and your admissions profile. This is the next step in determining which MBA program to choose and how competitive you will be with others during the admissions process.

Consider the following factors:

Academic Record

Your academic record includes your undergraduate transcript and GPA, and your GMAT, GRE, and other test scores, as well as any other academic certifications, awards, honors, scholarships, professional certifications you have received. To be qualified, you need to be in the highest two-thirds of applicants to a given program. If you’re in the upper one-third, you’re competitive.

Work Experience

Schools are usually looking for MBA candidates who have between three and seven years of work experience. Some of the most common backgrounds include consulting, financial services, communications, or government service. You need to show that you have increased your responsibility significantly, or that you have business knowledge, or business exposure.


Schools are also looking for diversity in order to bring different viewpoints into their MBA programs. Be sure to communicate that your achievements are extraordinary and that your background can add to the program’s diversity. Being in an overrepresented or underrepresented industry, demographic group, or global region or country will affect your competitiveness.

Leadership Potential

It is important to present a thorough account of all your leadership experiences, both within the professional environment and in the outside world. One important element of your leadership potential is your capacity to make an impact in the future. Make sure you evaluate your profile to make sure there is a focus on leadership.

Start Researching MBA Programs and Schools

The first step in figuring out what type of MBA to pursue is to determine what you want to get out of it.

Ask yourself these questions to define your needs and priorities.

  • Where do I see myself ten years from now?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What location would I like to be in?
  • What kind of program flexibility do I need?
  • Do I want to specialize? If so, in what area?
  • Do I need a program that provides internship opportunities?
  • How important are extracurricular activities such as clubs and professional organizations?
  • Do I need networking opportunities?
  • What kind of environment do I want? Small and close-knit or something larger?
  • Do I want a school that is considered top-level, with name recognition?
  • Do I want a highly competitive program?

Put Together A List of Business Schools

Now, it is time to start assembling your list of business schools.

First, eliminate any programs that lack the features you absolutely cannot do without or ones for which you are not qualified.

Then decide what programs you are qualified for. This means you meet their basic requirements.

For which programs are you a competitive candidate, exceeding the basic requirements?

Do you have a good balance of schools on your list? As you start to submit applications, keep reviewing and revising it if there are new developments.

How Many MBA Programs Should I Apply To?

Now that you have your list of schools, you may ask: How many programs should I apply to?

The typical prospective student will apply to five or six programs.

The number you should apply to is up to you. Whatever number you decide on does not close off other opportunities. Stay open to the process!

Apply to two or three schools in each category of your list – Reach, Target and Safety.

To find out more about these three important categories, read on!

Reach Schools

A Reach school is one where your acceptance is not likely, but if you submit a great application, there is a "reasonable" chance you might get in.

Target Schools

Target schools are the ones where your application has a pretty good chance of acceptance. Compare your credentials with those of their students by reviewing class profiles on their websites.

Safety Schools

Safety schools are ones where you are likely to be admitted. Your GPA, experience, and test scores are higher than average for these schools, which makes your chances better.

Explore WVU Online's MBA Program

The future for MBA graduates is very promising. As you build your career, you may want to improve your skills with a degree from WVU Online.

The WVU John Chambers School of Business and Economics offers an Online MBA program for working professionals who want the convenience and flexibility of online learning from a nationally recognized university.

Contact the Coaches at Our Learning Engagement Center
After reading this article, if you are unsure about your goals, or how to identify your interests and skills, be sure to reach out to one of our WVU Online admissions coaches. They are trained to help you look at your individual situation and make the right choice for your future.

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