Thursday, October 11, 2007

Part Time MBA - to do, or not to do?

Practically every single day I get a couple of emails with the following query:

I am working with XYZ company as a software engineer/ BPO executive/ something-else but-fed-up-with-it. But for ABC reasons I cannot do a full time MBA. What is your opinion of part time MBA? Can you recommend a good one?

And some put it even more bluntly: Please give all the information about Mba part time and crosspondance courses

The funny bit is they write this after reading this piece written by me on precisely the same subject.

While my overall assessment of part time courses remains the same it has been close to 3 years since that was published. So here's an update for those still looking for answers. To do or not to do: the Part time Puzzle was published in Businessworld's annual 'Mega Indian Bschool Guide' earlier this year.

As readers of this blog were an important source of feedback and the guide has been out for over 6 months now, I am sharing with you my findings. Besides, I really can't reply to each of you personally - answering practically the same Qs!

To do or not to do: the Part time Puzzle
- by Rashmi Bansal
published March 2007

Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean? Why is George Bush such a clown? What is the secret of eternal youth? These are mysteries which may yet remain unsolved. But there’s one puzzling question I do have some answers to.

“Should I do a part time MBA?” is a subject weighing on many minds. Assuming you can’t – or don’t wish to - give up your job to pursue a full time course, is it worth spending time, money and effort on? Given that no part-time or distance courses offers placements, will it offer a tangible boost to your career?

The answer is: it depends. Part time courses definitely lack the prestige factor of full time MBAs. But choose carefully and you will reap benefits.

When Zubin George joined JBIMS’ 3 year part time MIM (Masters in Information Management) he was a developer with Innovative Systems. He’s now moved to Citigroup’s information technology division in a management role.

And he has no regrets. “The quality and depth of learning was far greater than what I would have got from a full time course. The kind of questions raised and the quality of answers from the faculty were outstanding”. In other words, more practice than theory - direct application value. That must be why, despite the grueling after-work and weekend timings the classes had a healthy attendance statistic of 65-70%.

Managing work and studies is always the dilemma for the part-timer. The PGPSEM (Post Graduate Program in Software Enterprise Management) program offered by IIM Bangalore is no exception. 33 year old Abhinav Agarwal completed his PGPSEM in 2006. “There are students who manage to excel at work and get straight As but then something’s gotta give. Their personal life suffers”.

Classes are held on every Friday and Saturday but there are also weekly tests and of course, assignments. Is 2.5 years of this self inflicted stress worth it?

Yes, asserts Abhinav. “Over 500 of us have completed the PGPSEM program since it kicked off in 1998.” Unfortunately, no formal survey has been conducted to assess its co-relation with individual career growth. But anecdotal evidence suggests many direct and indirect benefits. “I was a product manager with Oracle,” says Abhinav. “I am now a Principal Product Manager. And yes, I do believe the PGPSEM has accelerated the process.”

There are many interesting twists that PGPSEM has introduced in some careers. Arun Narasani, also from the batch of 2006, started ‘Brain League’, an Intellectual Property services company. The company was incubated at IIM Bangalore’s NSRCEL (Nadathur S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning ).

Another student who was working with Oracle when he entered the PGPSEM program, joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins midway. He is now a VP at a mobile applications company funded by the same VC.

“Besides what you learn in class I definitely see a networkng effect,” says Abhinav. “You meet a hundred odd people from outside your company and your immediate line of work”. That’s certainly an aspect of the 18 month Executive MBA at S P Jain that Siemens engineer Rashmi Das enjoys. Interestingly, she is based in Bangalore but travels to Mumbai once every 10 weeks for the 10 days of classroom contact sessions. The rest of the time course delivery, quizzes and assignments are conducted online.

Rashmi is extremely pleased with the faculty, the quality of case studies and group work. One semester into the course she says, “Meeting people from other companies and altogether different industries has broaded my perspective.” It’s a similar story with Sunil Malik, Senior Manager Public Relations and Corrporate Communications at XIM Bhubaneshwar, after he enrolled in the broadband assisted long PGCBM (Post Graduate Certificate in Business Management) offered by his own institute.

While Sunil happens to be on the XIMB campus, other participants log in from Reliance centers in their respective cities every weekend. Assignments and quizzes are conducted online, and so are ‘endterm exams’. The highlight of the 12 month course is a 7 day campus visit during which participants meet and interact on the XIMB campus. As far as impact on career goes, the immediate effect can’t always be pin-pointed but participants are confident of a boost in the longer run.

Akhil Agarwal, a CA rankholder and a CS to boot, was part of the inaugural batch of the XIM PGCBM (2005-6). Midway through the course he switched jobs (from Reliance to ICI Paints), with a significant shift in role and salary. But this, he believes, is a break he would have got whether or not he enrolled in the XIMB course.

His classmate Shekhar Rao, however, attributes his mid-course job shift within the telecom industry to his enhanced qualification. “I am getting double the salary today and a responsibility for which ‘an MBA’ was a necessary requirement.” The XIMB name, he says, definitely helped tip the scales in his favour. “Besides, I learnt a lot from the course itself”. And additional benefit: he can refer back to professors for advice and mentorship on problems.

The verdict then is clear: a part time program from a brand name institution does have its value. Although ‘official’ placements may not be part of the deal, the informal network does contribute to a career boost.

While part time MBAs don’t command the same kind of respect as full time ones, some companies do value them more than others. Case in point: 20-25% of the 2006 PGPSEM class comprised of Wipro employees. Infosys also actively supports the program and recently helped IIMB expand it to Chennai.

Says Rashmi, “If you are working in the regional development centre of an MNC, a part time or Executive MBA may not have that much value. But it will really help you in an Indian software company, particularly product managers.” She also believes that one should have 5-6 years of experience and be extremely self-motivated to truly reap benefits.

Much also depends on the attitude of your company. Around 50% of students in part time courses like PGPSEM are sponsored. But it’s not clear how many companies are simply using their sponsorship as a retention strategy, and how many have actually chalked out a post-MBA career path for their employees.

Of course, none of these courses come cheap. While the 3 year Bajaj course sets you back by Rs 1 lakh, S P Jain’s Executive MBA costs Rs 2.65 lakhs (excluding
travel cost to Mumbai for contact sessions). XIMB’s broadband aided PGCBM is Rs 1.5 lakhs for 12 months. Similar certificate courses are also offered by XLRI, IIM K, IIFT, NMIMS etc in collaboration with VSAT provider Hughes Direcway.

In conclusion, ‘cause and effect’ are palpable but not always as tangible as in the full time program. But the very act of stretching onself, of seeking knowledge and opening up to new ideas and opportunities is what perhaps makes a difference.

Speaking of success in terms of ‘formulas’, a participant on an online MBA forum obseves, “Whenever a chemical reaction happens where A mixes with B to produce C, this catalyst helps speed up the process so that C is produced sooner... The catalyst CANNOT alter the chemical reaction to produce D instead of C”.

Given quality raw material, a good part-time MBA could be that career catalyst.

Tomorrow: The dope on Distance Learning MBAs


  1. Part time MBA would not provide noticeable benefits or boost to a career in the short term. Its real value will become obvious in the long term - because such a course changes the perspective of the individual to a completely holistic business-oriented one from a individual-contributor employee one. It makes one a better professional able to appreciate the context of the organization and the environment (economy etc) much better and hence be a better manager. Such a knowledge if acquired defintely will make a better performer and hence lead to a faster career growth.

  2. I do agree with you..Infact I wrote a similar post a few months back on part time vs. full time MBA and have got close to more than 150+ queries (I have to support my family, cant go for full time..etc..)

    One should look at MBA as learning a set of tools to analyze the biz, rather than a degree to fetch huge salaries.

    And it all depends on one's ability to make the most out of MBA..hv seen part timers making it big as well as full timers staying mediocre..

    As they say in management lingo - It depends.

  3. i want to do,but i am not complete the graduation. i am surly do this job after my education complete.

  4. Any idea on u21global ? How is it rated in the market & also is it worth paying so much for that part-time MBA ? Any insight would be useful.

    thanks for the great post!

  5. part time MBA would not benfit for my career in short term

  6. MBA is all thats needed..people are so blinded by this...even a part time would suffive as the last minute option!

  7. Getting an MBA is more of a process than getting the degree. It doesn't matter whether you achieve it part-time or full time. It's not about learning books or giving exams. It's about getting the experience, sharing your thoughts, seeping in knowledge from expert professors, networking, networking & networking. I would suggest considering following tihings while choosing the institute
    a) quality of professors. You learn the most from the first-hand experience of these professors.
    b) on-site & off-site networking opporutnities provided by the institute
    c) quality of the class. If you have professionals from diversified industries, fields the better overall perspective & attitude you develop. And the most important thing they all become your life long network, the most important asset you build.
    d) Cost. You are paying out of your pocket. Spend that money wisely. Also time spent at useless institute is money spent.

  8. I am happy to see this article with the comments you received from the readers of your blog. The article covered most of the part time/distance learning courses. However I disagree with few things in the article. I know that few of my peers are able to reap benefits after doing the distance learning course (eMEP from IIMK). As you rightly mentioned it depends on the attitude of the company. The attitude of person also plays an important on how he/she needs to plan the post-MBA career path. The onus is on the individual to be aggressive.

  9. Thanks for vis-a-vis comparison. It was detailed enough to make infomred decision...

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