Mini-MBA Versus Traditional Degrees: 5 Differences To Consider Before Choosing

In the 2020-2021 academic year, there were more than 250,000 MBA students
worldwide, despite rising costs and pandemic changes.

Whether you’re a professional seeking additional skills to qualify for promotion or a veteran transitioning to business after the military, traditional, two-year MBA programs and Executive MBAs remain the most sought-after option for continuing education (Forbes).

But for many, a traditional or executive MBA may not be the right decision; a more efficient option could close the skills gaps or provide the foundation for a career change or advancement. Enter the mini-MBA.

What is the difference between a mini-MBA and a traditional degree? Here are five differences to consider before choosing your business education.


  • Mini-MBAs require less time than a traditional MBA

Mini-MBAs are not vastly different in curriculum from their traditional counterparts. In fact, great business courses teach the same concepts used at schools like Harvard. But these mini-MBA programs take significantly less time and money to complete. 

While a two-year program is a full-time educational endeavor, mini-MBA programs can be full-time or part-time. Programs like the Invited MBA are taught over 12 weeks, with learning spread out on evenings and weekends. These part-time programs are great for learners who don’t want to quit their jobs or put their lives on hold to gain a business education.


  • Mini-MBAs are generalized programs

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a traditional MBA is the ability to specialize based on industry or skill set. From marketing to entrepreneurship, a niche, advanced degree benefits many rising leaders in their pursuit of C-Suite and managerial roles.

But according to the Princeton Review, “General Management” is consistently the most popular option for Masters of Business Administration students.

Mini-MBAs are generalized programs, meaning they cover the foundational elements to business. If you are looking for ways to enhance your business knowledge and apply new skills or become a people manager, a mini-MBA may be what you are looking for. But if you need a niche specialization, the traditional two-year degree aligns more closely with your goals.


  • Mini-MBAs focus on skills development 

Accreditation bodies like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits most traditional, full-time MBAs. These organizations are required to hold programs to a specific standard; however, these standards are not the only ones worth meeting. While medical and technical programs should be regulated, an accredited MBA is rarely a professional requirement for a job. 

Many nonaccredited programs are more affordable and flexible compared to traditional degrees, and a mini-MBA or other business course may be the right path for you. Oftentimes, unregulated programs focus more on skills development and building a portfolio of experiences to support your goals.

Pursuing an accredited program is a personal decision and not a requirement for all aspiring business students.


  • The cost of a mini-MBA is significantly less than a two-year MBA

The Education Data Initiative calculates the average tuition cost of an MBA degree to be over $66,000. While some programs may be more around $100,000 and others slightly more affordable, it’s difficult to complete a Masters of Business Administration without taking out loans or going into debt, especially if your company is not supporting your continuing education.

Alternatively, business programs like mini-MBAs cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands. They generally offer scholarships as well, making this option an affordable one for participants. The Invited MBA, for example, costs less than $2,000 and offers scholarships of up to $1,000 as part of its commitment to making education more accessible.

Think about the return on investment for whatever business program you are considering – will that degree or credential create opportunities for advancement, promotion, and a higher salary? If the answer is yes, the financial investment might be worth it. But if you’re unsure, a mini-MBA could be a great alternative to the traditional MBA.


  • Mini-MBA faculty is often made up of successful CEOs and entrepreneurs rather than academics

MBA faculty play an important role in your experience in a program. If you have great professors, you are likely to retain information better and enjoy a course more. Universities and traditional MBA degrees employ a mix of academics and professionals to teach business students. 

Mini-MBAs, on the other hand, often have successful professionals on their faculty board. The difference here may not be a game changer for you. But learning from professionals and C-Suite executives who have started their own businesses and achieved success in their industries, is a valuable asset to a program. Because classes are also generally smaller, the opportunity to network with these professionals is a huge advantage to a mini-MBA program. 


There is no wrong answer when choosing a business program. Instead, it’s important to find an education option that helps you meet your goals. When considering programs, ask yourself:

  1. What is most important to me – time commitment, cost, deliverables, university credibility, or delivery format?
  2. How much time do I have to commit to this? 
  3. What will advance my career?


If you have additional questions after reflecting on your goals, reach out to the admissions team at programs of interest and talk to alumni that have completed the business programs you are considering. Then, you will be able to confidently decide whether a traditional MBA, Executive MBA, or mini-MBA is right for you.


Katelyn Powell is a social media and content strategist, lifelong learner, and career development enthusiast living in Houston, Texas. She is passionate about equitable access to education and the Oxford comma. When she’s not writing or binge-reading true crime, she enjoys afternoon naps and providing wedding photography to Texas brides.

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