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Chioma Isiadinso

Should I choose a one-year or two-year MBA programme? I have quite a bit of flexibility at the moment because I’m working freelance but which would be better?

Potential student, 25

Chioma is chief executive of Expartus, the business school admissions consultancy, a former admissions manager at Harvard Business School and author of The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets. Her answer appears below.


Deciding between a one-year and a two-year MBA programme is a personal decision that each applicant has to reach after careful consideration. Both programmes can provide their students with significant value and a solid business education. However, when it comes to deciding which option to pursue you should consider key factors that matter to you. There are some common themes that influence this decision that I have noticed over the 12 years I have been advising applicants.

The first is the issue of geographic location. It depends on where you want to pursue your MBA. The majority of US business schools are two-year programmes. In Europe, the opposite is the case, and one-year MBA programmes are the norm. If you are committed to getting your MBA from the US and you want a one-year programme, you will find that your options are limited to a few schools such as Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. European business schools, with the exception of Iese Business School, London Business School, and HEC Paris, are primarily one-year or 11-month MBA programmes so your options to study in two year programmes there can also be limited.

Financial consideration can also play an important role in your decision to choose a one-year programme over a lengthier one. If you balk at the idea of forgoing a salary for two years then a one-year MBA may be the better option for you. You may find the two-year MBA option appealing if cost is not a factor for you (two-year MBA programmes are 40 per cent more expensive than the one-year MBA programmes) and you have the financial ability to finance a two-year MBA.

Many people pursue the MBA with the intention of making a career change. Students are able to make career changes in both programmes. However, it can be more challenging to make drastic career changes in the one-year MBA programmes when you are switching job industry, function and geography. The additional time spent at two-year business schools offers career changers ample opportunity to explore varied career interests through coursework and internships as well as a wider window to cultivate lasting friendships and deepened networks.

Your temperament is another factor that is worth considering when deciding between a one-year and a two-year business school. If you are someone who is focused and you have a clear plan of how you wish to maximise your MBA experience, you can achieve your goals within the shorter MBA programme. On the other hand, if you are someone who wants to sample a lot of different things before deciding where you wish to focus, you may find the longer timeframe of the two-year programme to be the ideal environment for you.

Business school success is not tied to whether you attended a one-year or two-year MBA programme. Both types of programmes can prepare you for a successful career in business. Your question gets at the heart of what’s important in the application process – soul-searching and honest self-reflection. Know yourself and what you want and stand by it. The considerations I have covered are just some of the usual factors that applicants use in deciding between programmes. You may wish to consider other factors not covered here. And that’s fine. Be true to yourself and take the time to find out which programmes best suit you. I wish you a successful business school journey.

Read more articles on applying to business school:

How to assess the value of an MBA

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