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One-Year MBA? Two-Year MBA? Pros and Cons

Preference for one-year MBA programs – common at European business schools, but traditionally less so at U.S. schools – is growing among prospective U.S. and Canadian applicants, according to an article this week in the Wall Street Journal. Lean economic times make the benefits of shorter programs, including lower tuition and less time and earnings lost while studying, appealing. But the WSJ article argues that these accelerated options may carry other costs that students considering them should bear in mind.

In 2009, 71 percent of U.S. and Canadian respondents to a survey by business-education research company QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd. preferred programs lasting 19 to 24 months, the WSJ reports. This year, that figure fell to 57 percent. Meanwhile, preference for programs lasting between 10 and 18 months rose, up to 29 percent of respondents from 21 percent in 2009. Some U.S. schools are responding to this increased demand, such as Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, which announced earlier this year that it plans to double the size of its one-year option. (Check out our Admissions Director Q&A with Kellogg’s Kate Smith for more on this.)

Other schools believe that the drawbacks of one-year MBA programs outweigh their benefits, according to the WSJ report. “Thinking that you can learn all the basics of management in just one year is simply impossible,” Jordi Canals, dean at University of Navarra’s IESE Business School in Spain, told the WSJ. He maintains that it takes at least seven or eight months just to learn the fundamentals of business. IESE offers only a two-year program.

Kellogg requires students in its one-year MBA program to come in having already studied fundamental business courses so that they are ready for higher-level courses, electives and club activities, Betsy Ziegler, Kellogg associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students, told the WSJ.

But that doesn’t address the issue of the summer internship, an integral part of two-year MBAs, the WSJ article points out. Many top firms make the majority of their associate hires through their internship programs, leaving students in one-year MBA programs at a significant disadvantage.

Read more about the pros and cons of one-year MBA programs as compared to two-year programs in the complete WSJ article, “The Risks of a One-Year MBA.”