Is One-Year MBA Better Than Two-Year?

05/24/2012 01:49 pm ET | Updated Jul 24, 2012

A typical two-year MBA in a private B-School would cost around $100,000. In times of economic uncertainty, high unemployment rates and undergraduate college debt, wouldn't you look for a faster, cheaper and better MBA?

One-year MBA programs could be a good option to consider. It is already a well-established model in Europe and is increasingly gaining traction in the U.S. "One-year programs are especially attractive in lean economic times... as many prospective students are mindful of the opportunity cost of leaving the workforce for an extended period", notes a Financial Times article.

In my earlier post, I noted that interest of American students for business programs seems to be waning not only due to perceptions of a bleaker economy and higher cost of education. A GMAC report that number of GMAT test-takers in the U.S. had remained stagnant over five years, however, they grew by nearly 47% in Asia.

This stagnancy of GMAT test-takers further aggravates to decline for two-year full-time MBA programs. Another GMAC report found that the percentage of institutions reporting decline in number of applications for full-time two-year MBA programs swelled by more than five times from 12% in 2008 to 67% in 2011.

While one-year MBA programs have not remained immune to general decline in applications for MBA, they have experienced lesser decline. For example, in 2011, half of all one-year MBA programs in the US reported decline in applications as compared to two-thirds for two-year MBA programs.

One-year MBA offer a unique value proposition and a financially viable opportunity for individuals with significant work-experience. Several B-schools like Kellogg at Northwestern University, Johnson at Cornell University, Mendoza at University of Notre Dame and Daniels at University of Denver offer one-year MBA along with the traditional two-year MBA programs.

If duration of one-year MBA is not appealing enough, some B-schools are also offering flexibility with innovative delivery formats like online. Recently McGraw-Hill Higher Education partnered with Cleveland State University to launch the Mobile Accelerated MBA (MAMBA) program -- 100% online, one-year MBA, accredited by AACSB.

One-year MBA is not for all. It fits more to individuals who have significant work-experience and do not want to make a drastic career-shift. As Garth Saloner, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business in Financial Times says "For the one-year program, the student's track record plays a larger role. However the students in our one year programs often have a clear idea of where they are headed given their experience and they place extremely well."

A career shift may require an internship experience which one-year MBA lacks. "In this tough job climate, when many companies are only making offers to students from their MBA summer internship cohort, that can leave one-year student at a disadvantage when it comes to the job hunt", states an article in Businessweek.

An MBA degree still remains a sure path for a career in business and management, however, the transformation of an MBA program to a faster, cheaper and better alternative with one-year format offers more financially viable option for those who know where they are headed.