The needs of prospective MBA students are changing, seeing a rising demand for a flexibility—whether this is part-time MBA formats, online MBA programs, or the Mini MBA.
The Mini MBA offers something very different—an accelerated business program, with an emphasis on the student's specific needs. For those interested in studying longer term, or those looking to supplement their business education, the shorter, more flexible sample MBA format can be the perfect complement to a full-time MBA.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mini MBA offers a solution for professionals looking to upskill and stand out in a hard-hit jobs market. It's another example of the traditional methods of business education being disrupted. The Quantic MBA and ThePowerMBA being two other examples.
But what exactly does the Mini MBA involve? And is it worth your time and money?
What is the Mini MBA?
The Mini MBA, as the name would suggest, is a fast-track format of the MBA, concentrating what would be one or two years of content into around 40 hours of tuition.
“It's like a balcony view of the business landscape, offering a view of how all the pieces work together,” comments Jacque Anderson, assistant dean at Opus College of Business at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota.
Their program provides an introductory insight into business, preparing students for what might be a further exploration, or just a foundational understanding of the area.
The Mini MBA exists mainly in two formats—a one-to-two week long accelerated program, or a weekly extended program that takes place, often online, over a number of months.
The shorter format offers concentrated, informative training, and can act as a taster for a full-time MBA program or a quick win for professionals looking to boost their business knowledge. The Mini MBA in Business Leadership offered by the University of Salford Business School is a five-day immersion for senior executives and managers aspiring for career progression. The Opus College of Business at the University of St Thomas also offers a five-day program focused on business and leadership strategy.
Mini MBAs can also focus specifically on one area of business, and don't have to be delivered by traditional business education providers. Professor Mark Ritson offers a six-week Mini MBA course in Marketing, for example.
Then there are longer programs. The Mini MBA: Business Essentials at Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick teaches students about the power of the consumer, the impact of globalization, and the pervasiveness of the digital era. The 12-week self-paced program has two cohorts entering in 2021, starting in February and May.
The London School of Economics offers an online MBA Essentials certificate which takes 10 weeks and covers the core pillars of business (strategy, finance, and people), and gives students an understanding of the challenges their organizations may be facing.
The extended format tends to spread over the course of 12-14 weeks, delivered in weekly classes of three to four hours. Self-paced students are in control of their learning.
How much does a Mini MBA cost?
An MBA isn't a cheap affair. A top tier MBA can set candidates back over $100,000, which can leave them scrambling for the best paid jobs post-graduation to pay back their debt.
The average yearly cost in the US for a two-year MBA program is $60k, while Executive MBA students can expect to pay over $100k.
Andrew Crisp of CarringtonCrisp—marketing research and consultancy for higher education—observes how fewer companies pay for places on MBA programs for their employees—formerly an assurance for students of both funding and employment after graduation.
The cost for a Mini MBA course varies depending on where you take them—they are, unsurprisingly, significantly cheaper.
Tuition fees start at around $1k—the price of the University at Buffalo School of Management Mini MBA certificate—and go up to just shy of $6k—the cost of the Mini MBA at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in California.
Top Mini MBA Programs
Why should I do a Mini MBA?
The Mini MBA is geared towards three main types of candidate.
The most common is the prospective full-time MBA student, offering candidates the chance to sample the flavor of a business degree before fully committing.
Brad Bays, senior MBA director at Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Ohio, notes that the majority of Farmer’s Mini MBA students go on to study the full-time MBA.
It gives candidates a far more comprehensive understanding of what an MBA involves than a prospectus or an open day. At Miami, follow-on is further incentivized by deducting the $3k cost of the mini program from MBA tuition. The school also rolled out a Mini MBA program in response to COVID-19 for its over 220,000 alumni, free of charge.
The second common type is the candidate looking to enhance knowledge in a specific area. While undertaking a full-time MBA gives you a comprehensive view of all areas of business, for those looking for more specialized focus, the Mini MBA is ideal.
The Mini MBA in Marketing splits marketing into 11 different modules, finishing with an exam at the end of the course, suited specifically to those for whom marketing is an interest.
The third type is the student looking to enhance their own business competency, while remaining in a specific role—a lawyer or an architect, for instance, looking to enhance their business understanding of the industry.
“It’s about learning the language of business, and understanding the systems thinking for business,” reiterates Jacque from St Thomas.
What do employers think of it?
Employers are under no misgivings as to the differences between full-time and Mini MBA programs. "Any recruiter will know they aren’t equivalent,” Andrew Crisp notes.
Companies, however, are increasingly drawn to the accelerated, online format to enhance the skills and business acumen of their employees.
The Mini MBA program at Farmer was set-up from demand by a local law firm, who wanted to expose their younger recruits to “a layer of business education.” Brad from Farmer says this law firm saw the course quickly accelerating the understanding, and the careers, of their junior intake.
Mini MBA Fact Box
Is it worthy of the ‘MBA’ name?
It’s not surprising that many business schools reject the idea of the Mini MBA—it lacks the breadth and depth which makes a full-time MBA so valuable.
Stuart Robinson, MBA director at Exeter Business School, objects to the idea that you can condense all of the knowledge of an MBA into a 40-hour program.
“You either do an MBA, or you don’t,” Stuart protests, arguing that the existence of the format devalues the qualification of a full-time MBA.
He similarly objects to the idea that you can do a Mini MBA “in something”—the very idea of an MBA is that it is a general qualification with a wide focus of business administration in general.
The providers, however, tend to argue that it is not an alternative or a replacement for a full-time program, but rather offers something supplementary to a full-time degree.
Peter Methot, director of Executive Education at Rutgers Business School, notes how their portfolio of Mini MBA programs is topping up business knowledge.
“In our digital marketing program, almost everyone that comes has an MBA—they just earned it before digital marketing was part of the curriculum,” Peter comments.
The Mini MBA clearly is not the same as an MBA, nor is it trying to be.
Universities are unsurprisingly "degree-focused", explains Brad from Farmer, as it is far more sustainable for them to promote full-time programs.
Business education trends, however, hint at the erosion of the MBA in a traditional format, forcing it to adapt to people’s needs and interests. Lifelong learning, for example, is increasingly popular as professionals seek education alongside their career, rather than having to put their career on pause.
An increase in remote-learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, is showing how MBA students can reap the benefits of flexibility over the physical commitment of a degree.
The Mini MBA is not replacing the full-time MBA, but it is showing how the needs of its students are changing. If you're looking to build your business knowledge in a super-flexible way, and/or experience what a traditional MBA degree may be like, then a Mini MBA is more than worth it.
This article was originally published April 2019. Updated January 2021.