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Shorter MBA Programs Sharpen Their Focus

A few years ago, it would generally take business school students two academic years to finish an MBA program. Not anymore. Now many MBA programs are offering 12-month options. These MBA programs are especially popular in a tight economy among professionals who can't afford to be away from the workforce for too long.

MBA programs are not only getting shorter, but also more specialized. In the past, a few business school degree programs focused on areas such as entrepreneurship, international management or health care. Nowadays, some MBA programs focus on mobile marketing and oil and gas exploration. Others are customized to serve specific companies.

"Over time, we will be shrinking the two-year and expanding the one-year program," says Sally Blount, the dean of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, during an interview with the Financial Times. At Kellogg, Blount explains, there are close to 100 students in the one-year MBA program, compared to 500 students enrolled in the two-year MBA program.

"One of the things that interests me is how the MBA has become associated with market making," Blount adds. "At Kellogg, only 20 percent of graduates go into financial services. Kellogg has figured this out. Our challenge is what comes next."

Which MBA programs offer 12-month options?

A quick online search shows throngs of 12-month MBA programs. In the United States, MBA programs usually offer both one-year and two-year paths. Overseas, students may simply find the one-year option. Besides Kellogg, other schools offering 12-month MBA programs are:

  • Cass Business School, City University London
  • Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University
  • Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
  • Olin Graduate School of Business, Babson
  • Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University

The 12-month program at Cass in London is like the full-time MBA in the United States, compressed into one year. The model seems to work. "The MBA has turned my career around, whilst providing me with the necessary skills, confidence and network to grow as a person," Cass MBA graduate Stacey Simon says.

Students interested in enrolling in some 12-month MBA programs in the United States must meet additional requirements. The Johnson accelerated MBA is targeted at students who have already completed other advanced degrees. At Graziadio in Southern California, students seeking admission to the one-year MBA must have recently completed core business courses with a grade of B or higher. Babson requires applicants to its one-year MBA to possess an undergraduate business degree.

The Beedie School of Business at Canada's Simon Fraser University compresses its two-year MBA into a one-year program by eliminating the down time between semesters and organizing international field study trips. "It will require passion, commitment and hard work on your part," the Beedie MBA program website states, adding: "Invest a year -- and reap the rewards for the rest of your life."

Which organizations provide highly specialized business school education?

Highly focused business school education is cropping up quickly at universities and corporations to prepare students for specific careers or retain talented employees. Among the organizations providing highly specialized business school education are:

  • Rutgers University
  • The University of Dundee
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • IBM

The Rutgers Mini MBA: Mobile Marketing Program introduces students to mobile tools, technologies, best practices and industry regulations to enable executives to optimize mobile content and track return on investment. The MBA in international oil & gas management at the University of Dundee combines business and petroleum industry education, so graduates may make a difference in energy companies as soon as they obtain their degrees.

Enterprise reportedly puts recruits through a 12-month program to teach them how to sell. "It's their secret sauce," Arthur Dong, a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, tells

IBM has partnered with Northeastern University's college of business administration to offer an online MBA for managers in India, announces Thomas E. Moore, former dean of Northeastern's business school, in Chief Learning Officer magazine. "Compared to a 14 percent attrition rate among high-potential employees not selected for the program, those selected experienced a 5 percent attrition rate," Moore says, adding that IBM is already offering an online MBA program for managers in China.