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05 Jun

Planning Your MBA Journey

MBA timing

One of the most common questions asked by potential business school candidates eager to advance their careers is, “How long does it take to earn an MBA?” A traditional MBA typically takes about two years to complete, but several factors can affect how long it takes any individual to finish his or her degree. Below, we’ve laid out the key factors to evaluate in order to create a plan that works for you and choose the MBA program that best meets your needs.

The “Typical” MBA Journey

Just as no two students are the same, every individual journey to an MBA is different. So while typical MBAs take two years to complete, a student who takes a lighter course load might take up to five years to finish their degree.

Like their on-campus counterparts, online programs like the Online MBA at Santa Clara University are usually designed to be completed in as few as two years. Students in SCU’s program, for example, take 70 total units of coursework in that time, as well as participate in at least eight co-curricular activities and two on-campus intensives with their cohort. It’s a busy and challenging schedule, but one that a dedicated student can complete.

Maintaining Your Progress

Not all MBA students are able to complete their degrees in just two years, and that is completely acceptable. Work and family commitments might make it difficult for you to take the recommended course load. What’s most important is assessing your other responsibilities and setting realistic expectations for yourself for completing your MBA, and then communicating those expectations to your family and friends, so they can support you in reaching your goals.

Another factor that could impede your progress toward your degree is a failing grade. Many MBA programs are designed so that each course builds upon the previous one, creating a clear trajectory toward earning the degree. Your timeline may be extended if you have to repeat a class that is a prerequisite for later coursework.

And of course, your MBA journey can be disrupted by unexpected life events. Personal challenges, such as illness or family emergencies, can demand that you step aside from your studies momentarily to give them your full attention.

Online MBA programs with robust digital interfaces can help you traverse this often-complicated path. SCU, for instance, makes this easier via its online learning management system, known as “Camino,” which not only provides access to everything you need for your individual courses, but also allows you to track your progress at a glance, showing you how far you have come and showing you specifically what you still need to complete to graduate.

Course Cadence at SCU

All Online MBA students at SCU must complete 14 core courses (42 units) that focus on the basic skills required for business success, including accounting, financial management, leadership, and ethics. Students also complete 26 units of free electives determined by their own professional interests and goals. And to round out the 70-unit program, students take a two-unit “Challenges in” elective, a case-style course structured around a specific topic.

Online MBA students are also required to apply their knowledge in a real-world context by completing eight co-curricular activities during the course of their program. These activities—which must be accompanied by a written reflection—can include everything from presenting at a conference to volunteering with a nonprofit. This co-curricular requirement is designed to help students move beyond their comfort zones and gain practical experience with their developing business acumen.

Finally, your MBA journey in SCU’s online program is bookended by two weekend-long on-campus intensives, which include scheduled talks, meetings, and networking with some of Silicon Valley’s top business leaders. During these intensives you’ll have the chance to network and collaborate with your cohort and meet with faculty, building the relationships that will allow you to get the most from your MBA experience.


It’s certainly not required that you finish your MBA program in two years, but staying focused allows you to move forward toward your career goals as quickly as possible. It will also allow you to graduate on schedule with your cohort, which can enrich your networking opportunities. To learn more about the role Santa Clara University’s Online MBA program could play in your journey, contact an Admissions Advisor and get started on planning your future today.