Juggling priorities: How many hours per week a part-time MBA takes

BY Meghan MalasNovember 17, 2021, 12:01 AM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

Taking business courses while working full-time is a tough balancing act for many part-time MBA students. But the benefits of networking and the ability to apply what they learn during class in real time at their job make the experience worth it, according to students. 

“It’s juggling through the priorities, and the priorities may change every week,” says Aayush Rijal, a revenue manager at Emplifi, who is an MBA candidate in the working professional MBA program at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. Although pursuing an MBA program part-time while tending to work and life obligations is challenging, he says that the experience is rewarding at the same time. 

Part-time MBA students can expect to spend about 10 to 20 hours per week on their program. However, some weeks might require devoting more or less time to school, depending on a student’s involvement with clubs and organizations, how much networking they wish to do, their experience in the subject matter of classes, how many course credits they are enrolled in for that term, and if a deadline for a major project is coming up. 

Although the time commitment in a program can vary, having a plan for how to keep up while enrolled is universally important. Fortune asked five part-time MBA students how they balance work and life obligations with their program. 

Be intentional about your program

Thinking critically and deliberately about what you want to get out of your part-time MBA program allows you to prioritize which opportunities matter most to you. You have only a finite amount of time and energy, so knowing which aspects of your program you want to focus on will help ensure that you have an enriching experience. 

“Coursework and program commitments have forced me to optimize time in a way I never thought was possible,” says Greg Morozzi, a student enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper part-time flex MBA program. Morozzi is an engineering manager at a global security and aerospace company and plans to finish his program in 2023.

“Currently, I manage a team of about 20 software engineers at Lockheed Martin, recently bought a house, and [we] have our first child on the way,” Morozzi notes. Two vital aspects that have helped him manage a busy schedule? Being upfront with his teammates at school and work about his time constraints and resisting the urge to overcommit, he adds. 

Spread your work out over the week and take breaks

Avoiding burnout should be a top priority as you mitigate school and work obligations. Allowing yourself to take small breaks when possible, even on the busier days, to take a walk or exercise will help alleviate some of your workload stress. 

“I personally like to do a little work each day to manage my time as opposed to putting in several hours of work the day before class,” says Erik Gaarder, who is enrolled in Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business working professional MBA. 

Gaarder, a student immigration coordinator at the university’s office of international affairs, also says attending program events and getting to know other students helps to remind him that he’s not alone when the workload feels overbearing. He expects to graduate in 2022.

Lean on friends and family for support

Going to school and working at the same time may mean less time to handle family and household obligations when your workload gets heavy. In those times, it’s helpful to ask your friends and family for support as you progress through your program. You will likely need the extra help with the added time commitment of attending networking events and extracurriculars, which can further enrich your MBA experience.

“I am getting my MBA to really learn everything I can, in and out of class, so I spend a lot of time reviewing class material, leading student clubs, working on MBA+ consulting projects, and spending time with all of my classmates,” Rachel Moreno Tenney Smith, a part-time MBA student at the University of Texas at Austin’s Red McCombs School of Business says. 

When Smith decided to go back to school, she was deliberate about getting everything she could out of her part-time MBA program so she could maximize her return on investment. She expects to graduate in May 2022 and works as a project consultant.

“Letting your family or support system know that you might not be available during certain terms is really important,” says Christine Jan, a student in the Berkeley Haas evening & weekend MBA program. 

Jan, who plans to graduate in 2022 and is a director of sales marketing at a wholesale life insurance firm, notes that it is a good idea to spend time making connections and getting to know peers in addition to the time spent in class or doing coursework. She blocks out specific times to study and do coursework every term after she gets her schedule, because she says that it is very difficult to find time as due dates get closer. 

Be strategic with your downtime

The hours in the day will feel increasingly valuable while you are enrolled in your part-time MBA program, so set aside time for non-MBA related obligations and make use of unexpected free time.

Maggie Morrison, a working professional MBA student at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, says there are a few strategies to help maintain balance between work, family, and school. She blocks off one day a week to allow herself the opportunity to mix in rest, relaxation, or something fun with friends or family to avoid burnout. 

Morrison, who is ​​a financial analyst for Abercrombie & Fitch, also opts for virtual readings when possible so she can always have them with her on the go. This way, if she finds herself with unexpected downtime, she can get ahead on some of her work. Additionally, she’s found that making connections with classmates, meeting with professors, and networking through student organizations enables her to have a large network to reach out to if she needs help with an assignment or if she is feeling stuck. 

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.