The one-year and two-year MBAs

by Patricia

The one-year MBA has its roots in Europe, where a majority of elite European business schools, including INSEAD and Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, offer the one-year MBA only. Across the Atlantic, the two-year MBA is more common, offered by most business schools in the United States, such as University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Stanford’s School of Business.

The one-year MBA is shorter than the two-year MBA and, therefore, a less expensive option overall; for example, a one-year MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management will set this year’s incoming students back by $128, 194, while the two-year option will set them back by $191,876(in total). However, besides its duration and less expensive price tag, what other factors differentiate the one-year MBA from the two-year MBA?


The one-year MBA is still an MBA, so it covers the same core material that you would find in a two-year MBA; however, its format is usually less flexible, with fewer elective options and less opportunities to specialize. However, this varies across business schools, with some schools allowing students in their one-year MBA programs to bypass the core material and jump right into electives.

More importantly, however, one-year MBA programs expect their students to hit the ground running, so they are ideal for students who have clear career goals as well as some prior business education. In fact, the one-year MBA, at some business schools, is exclusively targeted at students who hold a bachelors in a business-related field or have significant work experience: the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California requires its applicants to have at least six years of work experience, while Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management requires its applicants to have significant work experience or an advanced degree or certification.

Job Outlook

Graduates from two-year MBA programs seem to have an advantage in the job market, according to the 2013 Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) student poll. Not only do more of them report being hired, but their starting salary, on average, can be more than $10,000 higher than that of their counterparts with one-year MBAs.

The summer internships that two-year MBA students have access to might be partly responsible for this trend since they act as springboards to full-time employment; for example, most of the new MBA hires at Goldman Sachs Inc and Morgan Stanley are sourced from internship programs, which are often only available to students in two-year MBA programs.


Due to its length, a two-year MBA affords you opportunities and experiences that a one-year MBA cannot.

 As a student in a two- year MBA program, you would have more time to network with classmates and professors, explore various subjects, spend sessions in other countries(or even a semester abroad, if your prospective business school offers these experiences), participate in extra-curricular activities, and delve deeper into your studies. All these experiences nurture your professional and personal development, giving you a more enriching, well-rounded postgraduate experience.

The one-year MBA, which spans an intense 10-12 months, places more emphasis on professional development. Because of their intense work load, students in one-year MBA programs might not have any time to explore different career paths or even participate in non-academic activities.