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One-Year MBA Programs: Is it Right For You?

October 06, 2023 :: Admissionado Team

One-Year MBA Programs

One-year MBA programs are increasingly popular for their fast-paced, intensive approach to business education. These programs promise the same degree as traditional two-year programs but in half the time. With lower costs and quicker reentry into the workforce, a one-year MBA can be an attractive option for many students. However, it’s essential to understand both the benefits and the potential drawbacks before deciding if this path is right for you. This article delves into the key aspects of one-year MBA programs, helping you make an informed decision.

The Attractions of One-Year MBA Programs

One-year MBA programs offer several compelling advantages:

  1. Time Efficiency: Completing an MBA in one year allows you to reenter the workforce sooner, minimizing the time away from your career.
  2. Cost Savings: With only one year of tuition and living expenses, the financial burden is significantly reduced.
  3. Quick ROI: Graduates of one-year programs often repay their MBA loans faster due to their shorter duration and quicker return to earning a salary.

Who Should Consider a One-Year MBA Program?

As attractive as they are, one-year programs are not for everyone. Ideal candidates for one-year programs are those that know exactly what they want and are already on their way.

So one-year programs are fantastic for MBA candidates who want a career jump and acceleration in what they already know. In other words, these candidates have good experience, and want to learn more and break the barriers holding them back within the same career path. One-Year MBAs are exceptionally great programs for candidates who will return to the same company at a better role, or candidates who want to gain the knowledge and network from an MBA and bring it back to a family business or entrepreneurial venture.

Major Differences Between One-Year and Two-Year MBA Programs

While on paper these programs are very similar to the standard two-year MBA program, there are four key differences:

1. Focus:

Since time is tight in one-year programs, they tend to focus intensely on giving students the opportunity to get specifically what they need without anything superfluous. So unlike two-year programs that have electives and a variety of courses that allow students to explore and dabble (in special management programs, electives, classes in other schools/departments, internships), one-year programs provide a laser-focused curriculum on one specific area of interest. You know, the one the students came in for specifically.

2. No Internship:

Along the same lines, since there is no summer/break in the one-year programs, few of them offer an internship. And that makes one-year programs unsuited for most career switchers; especially for those who want to move into consulting or finance where the internship is the sine qua non of moving into desired companies without prior experience.

3. Types of Students:

Since one-year candidates often stay in-industry, it should come as no surprise that the class makeup is a bit different. These students are often a bit older, a bit more experienced, and are accepted (on average) with slightly lower GMATs than full-time candidates.

4. Fewer Networking Opportunities:

Less time in a program means less time to network. Ask anyone who’s been to B-School and they will tell you that the second year is a total blast, since most candidates have already gotten offers. So year two is a huge opportunity to socialize, hang out and have fun. But it’s about more than fun, of course. All of that socializing is really just networking in beer goggles… erm… disguise. Making friends and connecting with your classmates means deepening the professional network that will be available to you throughout the rest of your career, which is one of the most invaluable takeaways of B-School.

Top One-Year MBA Programs in the U.S.

Several top-tier business schools in the U.S. offer one-year MBA programs:

  • Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University: Kellogg’s program begins in June, allowing students to join their second-year classmates in September. It offers over 200 courses and integrates one-year students with the broader MBA community. 
  • The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University: Running from May to May, Cornell’s accelerated program focuses on management and has a strong post-MBA salary record, although employment rates are slightly lower than their two-year program.

Other notable one-year MBA programs include Emory, Babson, Katz, Cox, and Olin, which offer strong regional reputations and competitive employment rates.

U.S. Mid-Career One-Year Programs

In addition to “regular” one-year programs designed for candidates with a moderate (3-6 years) amount of work experience, there are several one-year mid-career executive MBA programs offered by Top US programs geared towards older, more experienced candidates. Schools like Marshall’s IBEAR program, Stanford’s MSX program or the Sloan Fellows program.

Each one is unique but they share many similarities:

  • Students are much older (30-35 on average)
  • Students are much more experienced (10-15 years)
  • Students are much more international (75%!)

These are a bit easier to get into than the full-time programs of their respective schools, but are still very prestigious. The main attraction here is to place candidates together in a class with those with the same level of experience. For older candidates, these programs are near perfect: Less time out of the workforce, smaller opportunity costs, and a more cohesive and experienced class, yet still extremely prestigious, allowing you to reach your career goals.

Considerations for Career Changers

While one-year programs offer many benefits, they can be challenging for career changers due to the lack of an internship. That internship gives you some extremely valuable experience in your field, something to point to when you’re interviewing for positions with top companies, and (if all goes well) will lead to a job offer after you graduate. And so when you come out of a one-year program, you’re competing against people who DO have experience in that field. But if you do find yourself in a one-year MBA program and looking to switch careers, it CAN be done. You’re just gonna have to make it happen:

  1. Networking: You gotta work on making those connections while you’re in the program, both with students and professors. Go out of your way to meet a lot of people in your field. And be smart about organizing events—that’s a great way to meet people, and gain some good leadership experience to point to that others may not have. So go for it. Take charge of organizing the Real Estate Summit or what-have-you and show you can get it done.
  2. Targeted Coursework: And again in terms of meeting the right people, you’ve GOT to take the right classes. You’ve only got one year, so don’t waste time. Take the classes that directly relate to the field you want to switch into, and connect you to people who can have some influence in that field. Don’t dilly-dally on soft stuff. Push yourself. Do some serious research before you start your program so that you’ve got the whooole year beautifully planned out.


One-year MBA programs provide a fast-track option for obtaining an MBA, offering significant time and cost savings. However, they are best suited for individuals who have clear career goals and do not require an internship for career transition. By understanding the unique aspects of one-year programs and carefully planning your academic and networking activities, you can maximize the benefits of this accelerated path and achieve your professional objectives.