The strong job market has brought into sharp relief the sacrifices that a full-time MBA demands — pausing one’s career, and missing out on salary gains and promotions. For time-poor executives who want to maintain their earning power, an alternative exists: a mini MBA.
These short, non-degree awarding programs cover a broad range of business topics — finance, marketing, strategy, and more — and provide an introduction to each subject. The crucial difference being that while an MBA degree can take multiple years to complete, mini MBAs programs take days or weeks to finish.
These courses come in different guises. The Carlson School of Management, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, offers the “MBA Essentials” program. This course provides an introduction to the critical business disciplines housed within an MBA, such as HR, leadership, supply chain and analytics.
This enables participants to return to their organizations with an ability to better understand connections between functions as well as communicate more fluently with their partners in other departments.
“Our MBA Essentials program provides a valuable experience for working professionals and leaders who want to strengthen their business acumen in a short amount of time,” says Kristin Marentette, Director of Marketing, Finance and Operations at Carlson School Executive Education.
Upon completion of the course, graduates receive an MBA Essentials Certificate, which they can show to their employers.
“This enhancement to skill sets can be very attractive for employers who are looking to upskill their workforce and prepare the next generation of leadership,” says Marentette. “Individuals with the MBA Essentials course on their resume can also signal to prospective employers that they are committed to learning and developing their skills.”
Further, graduates who apply for and are accepted into a Carlson MBA program within one year get a discount equal to 50 percent of the mini MBA fees, which are $5,000.
“They serve different learner needs, but the MBA Essentials course can provide a spark of interest to participants who may be considering an MBA,” Marentette says. The Essentials course provides an introduction to multiple subjects, while an MBA degree goes into greater depth.
Mini-MBA programs: helping participants get a leg up in their careers
While executive education has traditionally been about training the most senior leaders, the “Mini-MBA” program at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey was designed with the middle layer of management in mind.
“We believe that learning has to be relevant, flexible and valuable,” says Peter Methot, Associate Dean of Rutgers Business School Executive Education. “To that end, we continue to work towards removing the barriers for learners.”
The Mini-MBA was launched in response to strong demand from local employers for programs that facilitate upskilling and reskilling.
“Employers’ expectations of training credentials as well as learners’ willingness to postpone career opportunities are shifting,” says Methot. “We believe that flexible, relevant and stackable credentials like a Mini-MBA will only continue to develop.”
The Mini-MBA at Rutgers equips learners with skills related to a specific topic — for example, digital marketing, supply chain management or team management — and can be completed in as little as one week or spread out over several months.
The main aims for participants are to step up another level in their career, or support them in managing their new responsibilities.
“Employers often sponsor participation in Mini-MBA programs for their employees as a means to assist their professional development and advance internal expertise in specific areas,” says Christina Murphy, Associate Program and Marketing Director at Rutgers.
One hallmark of the program is a “capstone” project that enables participants to apply what they are learning to a real-world business scenario.
“Some participants select their current company or organization as the focal point for this project,” says Murphy. “They are able to offer their employers recommendations and ideas that can positively impact business results.”
Can a mini-MBA lead to a new job?
For some mini-MBA participants, these programs can lead to a new career path. “Quite a few of our program alumni have noted that adding the Mini-MBA to their resume or LinkedIn profile has sparked interest during the job recruitment and interview processes,” Murphy says.
She adds that “we’ve witnessed a number of alumni who have gone on to pursue their graduate degree as a result of completing a Mini-MBA”.
The Mini-MBA Executive Development Course was launched in 1949 by the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montréal to provide a look at major learning pillars taught in MBA programs.
Nearly 75 years later and through popular demand, the school has added new courses in advanced and integrated management and rebranded the program as the “Mini-MBA Series”.
The program is delivered by faculty teams through Zoom and across Canada, using a variety of methods including lectures, role-play, case studies and executive panels. Some of the professors also teach on the business school’s MBA degree programs.
Gabriela Navarrete-Rolls, Mini-MBA Manager and Advisor at the McGill Executive Institute, says there is point when the full-time MBA may no longer be an appropriate learning option — both because mid-career managers might not want to learn alongside more junior students and because of the high velocity of change in business.
The McGill Mini-MBA is composed of peers who have a high level of prior workplace experience, which fosters richer interactions and networking.
But it’s no substitute for a degree program. “A Mini- MBA never claims to replace the depth of a longer degree program,” says Navarrete-Rolls. “However, it serves a much-needed purpose in offering a toolkit of management ideas, models, benchmarks, and practices taught in leading MBA programs delivered in a compact timeframe for managers on the go.”