How MBA Programs Work

Types and Costs of MBA Programs

A full-time MBA program is quite costly, although many schools offer some form of financial aid, grants or scholarships. You may also turn to outside organizations for merit-based fellowships or to the government for a low-interest student loan. In some cases, particularly for executive MBA programs, employers will pay for part or all of an employee's MBA education.

The MBA at UCLA's Anderson School of Management is about $59,000 per year for a first-year student who's a resident of California. This amount includes room and board. A nonresident can expect to pay around $8,000 more [source: Anderson School of Management]. (This estimate, like many provided by universities, only covers the nine-month school year and not the summer break.)

You can find alternatives to the traditional, full-time, two-year MBA. For example, many highly specialized MBA programs have arisen. You could obtain an MBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University. Some schools, like the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have eliminated their general MBA programs in favor of a raft of specialized programs or institutes. While these types of programs are rarely found at highly ranked schools, they can be very beneficial to people with specific career goals in mind. It's also a form of study that has long been a part of European MBA programs.

Let's look at one highly rated school, Duke's Fuqua School of Business, and its various options. Duke, of course, has a two-year full-time MBA program -- in this case, called a Daytime MBA, which costs about $50,000 per year for tuition, books and other fees. Factor in living expenses, and the cost rises to an estimated $66,728 for a first-year student who expects to graduate in 2011 [source: Fuqua School of Business].

Executive MBA, or EMBA, programs cater to businesspeople with extensive work experience -- often 10 years or more -- from around the world. These programs can be very expensive: Duke's runs more than $140,000.

Executive MBAs often require students to work independently, using lecture material distributed online. Duke's program is made up of five 16- to 19-week terms. Each term features 10 to 12 weeks of Internet-based course work, but the students will also find themselves attending classes together and collaborating in cities around the world.

Duke's business school also offers a "Cross Continent MBA." Like a distance MBA, this program combines Internet-based classes with short residencies in different cities.

So-called weekend executive MBA, part-time MBA or nondegree-granting MBA programs are designed to allow business professionals to continue working while taking classes at night and on weekends. Similarly, there are online MBA programs, which often require a great deal of writing and posting on communal message boards, on which students and professors interact and exchanges ideas and arguments.