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Should I Apply To A 2Year MBA or a 1Year MBA? What's Up Val?

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

January 10 2020

We are now in the Season to get started on MBA Applications for Round 1 2020 (due September 2020 onward)!

One of the most common questions I get asked (and rightly so) is, "Which advanced business degree should I pursue: the 2Year MBA or the 1Year MBA?" 

I imagine it can get a little confusing with so much information and misinformation out there. I can help clarify this :-)

A Quick History: The Highly Coveted 'Master of Business Administration' degree (MBA) was founded in the United States in the early 20th Century when the country went through a shift toward industrialization and companies began looking for scientific and business management skills- this new training and desired skills would be the go to mode of preferred graduate education for company leadership.

In 1908Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created its Graduate School of Business naming it Harvard Business School and the first 2Year MBA Program was born. At the time of its inception, HBS only accepted 80 students and began pioneering the case method of teaching. These student numbers grew to >1,000 students in no time at all. Soon after, business schools across America began adopting the 2Year MBA framework as the standard mode of graduate business teaching. Today, more than 100 years later, the 2Year MBA remains the Platinum Standard for graduate business education in the United States! And it spread...

In 1950, the first 2Year MBA Program was established outside the United States at Canada's Ivey Business School at University of Western Ontario, followed by University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1951. In 1955, the first 2Year MBA was offered in Asia at the Institute of Business Administration Karachi at the University of Karachi in Pakistan, in collaboration with The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Finally in 1957, INSEAD in France introduced the first MBA Program at a European school- INSEAD's MBA was actually the first to move from a 2Year duration to a 1Year duration, to cater to different student preferences in Europe.

Okay, enough of the history lesson. Back to today. So....what is the difference between the 2Year MBA and 1Year MBA? Let's break it down shall we:

The 2Year MBA: In my humble opinion, the 2Year MBA program in the United States still remains the epicenter of modern business education. It is a badge of prestige, respect, and advanced educational achievement. Students come from all over the world to the 2Year MBA to take full advantage of what the MBA was truly designed for- OPPORTUNITIES & EXPERIENCES: (1) for the breadth of curriculum (2 Years of Graduate Business Study), (2) more time to focus on majors (Marketing, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Strategy, etc.), (3) stronger/longer friendships with classmates, (4) leadership roles in student clubs (Finance club, Marketing club, Non-Profit club, Cultural clubs, etc.), (4) team/group projects and presentations, (5) corporate challenges (JP Morgan Investment Banking Competition, Boston Consulting Group Case Competition, Johnson & Johnson Marketing Competition, Google Tech Competition), (6) corporate networking events at b-school or company headquarters, and (7) have 2X chances of gaining employment (pre-summer internship recruiting and post-summer recruiting). One basically takes 2 Years out of their life to immerse themselves in a world and experience that is truly like NO OTHER.

The 2Year MBA is generally broken down as follows:

  • Year 1 consisting of 2 Semesters: During the 2 semesters, students take the core or foundational courses of business- leadership, management, strategy, entrepreneurship, finance, accounting, operations, etc. During semester 1, students are introduced to corporate firms in different industries (Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Kraft Foods, Google, etc.) through corporate presentations and office visits. During semester 2, students apply and interview with the firms of their choice for their upcoming Summer MBA Internship. It is a time of great anxiety but fun at b-school :-)

  • Summer Period & MBA Internships: This is where excited MBA students partake in their summer internship at the firm (Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Kraft Foods, Google), industry (Finance, Consulting, Marketing, Tech), and location of their choice (USA, Europe, Asia). Corporate companies hire anywhere from 90-95% of their summer internship class for full-time employment and offers are given out at the end of the summer.

  • Year 2 consisting of 2 Semesters: During the final 2 semesters, students focus on their majors coursework. For example, at Northwestern Kellogg's 2Year MBA, I triple-majored in Marketing, Finance & Management and took my major courses predominantly during my second year in Chicago/Evanston. Additionally, if you were not happy with your summer internship, you have the option to interview with a whole host of companies that come to recruit in Semester 1 of Year 2. One spectacular feature of the 2Year MBA is the option to do a STUDY ABROAD at a partner b-school of your choosing anywhere in the world! I chose to study at the London Business School during my Year 2 Semester 1 at Northwestern Kellogg- it was wonderful to become an alumnus of another school, meet new classmates and professors, take up new subjects and enjoy local culture, cuisine and tourist activities :-) At London Business School, I focused on Finance, Management and Economics- I studied 'Private Equity & Venture Capital' under Eli Talmor, Director of Private Equity at LBS! I loved it and love him :-)

Global 2Year MBA Schools:Harvard Business School (#1 Management), Stanford GSB (#1 Entrepreneurship), The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (#1 Finance), Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (#1 Marketing), MIT Sloan School of Management (#1 Information Systems / Operations), London Business School (#1 International), HEC Paris (#2 International), ESADE(#4 International), Rotman School of Management University of Toronto (#1 Canada).

The 1Year MBA: The 1Year MBA is essentially the 2Year MBA condensed into an accelerated 1Year format (without the summer internship) to meet the needs of different students and geographies. You see, some candidates feel that taking 2 Years out of their life or their employment is too much to ask OR they feel the price-tag for a 2Year MBA is too high. Also, some feel they don't need to explore 'other' career opportunities during grad school as they have been sponsored by their companies to attain their MBA- so they sign up for a 1Year MBA and return to their firm with a promotion. To solve all this, meet the 1Year MBA, where students get a full-time MBA education in an accelerated 1 Year time frame (certainly a more aggressive and condensed format). In the 1Year MBA Program, MBA students only spend 1 Year out of the workforce, and it's roughly half the price of the 2Year MBA. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management has the top ranked 1Year MBA in the United States, while IMD School of Business in Switzerland and INSEAD in France have it for Europe.

The 1Year MBA is generally broken down as follows (*schedules vary from school to school):

  • Semester 1/Period 1-2 (September to December) : MBA students undertake their core courses and join students clubs. Additionally, MBA students immediately begin working with the Career Centers to help them achieve their career goals (career changers or staying within your field).

  • Christmas Break: MBA students rest....if they can :-)

  • Semester 2/Period 3-5 (January to July): MBA students undertake their elective courses towards their majors or specializations. MBA students also interview with their firms of choice for post-grad employment, unless you are happily sponsored and returning to your old firm!

You can very easily see how the 1Year MBA format does in fact squeeze in a lot for its duration. It's a tight time frame indeed. Time is money and there is two ways of analyzing that: (1) the 2Year MBA has more time or you to take advantage of every single opportunity a full-time MBA presents, which is SPECTACULAR and (2) the 1Year MBA is less time away from work so you can get back to your career and make your $Millions :-) Looking back on my own MBA experience, I would have personally never considered a 1Year MBA, nor did I apply to one. For me (and my Managing Director at Lehman Brothers and Harvard Business School 2Year MBA Alumnus), the 2Year MBA was always the Platinum Standard...and continues to be! I only applied to 2Year MBA Programsbecause I wanted that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of immersing myself in a new community for 2 Years. And believe me when I tell you I took advantage of every opportunity made available to me :-)

So which MBA Program is worth it for you dear candidate? Well this depends totally on WHAT YOU WANT YOUR MBA FOR? Do you seek to maximize every single opportunity the MBA was designed to give you? If so, the 2Year MBA is the preferred choice and remains so. In my humble opinion, if you can make the 2Year MBA work somehow, take it- it will change your life as it did mine! However, if you don't need all the bells and whistles that the 2Year MBA affords you, then by all means go for the 1Year MBA :-) It really depends on YOU! There is no 'which is better', just 'which is better for you!"

If you're still confused, just message me :-) Let's have a chat.


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