You may have read about them in Bloomberg or on other mainstream news sites.  You may have heard business schools grumbling about it devaluing the nomenclature (“They’re not REAL MBAs!”).  But like it or loathe it, the mini-MBA monicker is here to stay, and so is the certificate, although how it is earned (and how much it’ll set you back) has evolved over the years.

There are a few different theories as to the origins of the mini-MBA. MBA boot offered by consulting companies such as McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen Hamilton on business essentials may have been taken over by universities — others claim they can be traced back to McGill University in the late 1940s.

In either case, the mini-MBA as we know and love it today comes in three basic flavors.

1.  The online superMOOC.   Forget networking, late night commuting and CE credits.  Some people just need a basic grounding in business practices and terminology, either for their own startups or because of a recent promotion.  

For this kind of UNC Kenan-Flagler has you covered, as do many other schools that have chosen to offer relatively inexpensive online certifications.  These can last up to eight weeks,  but the work is done remotely and the lectures are all online.

2.  The in-person crash course.  This was the original concept for the mini-MBA — a one-week crash course (or possibly up to three or four) which would allow middle managers to network, gain vital skills and terminology, and become better leaders at their respective companies.  Rutgers owns this type of mini, with over 18 offerings (although it has online offerings too), but there are many, many options here.

3.  The elite pre-eMBA.  Schools like Columbia and Kellogg have studiously eschewed the mini-MBA monicker in favor of more sonorous titles like “Essentials of Management”.  The price of these programs is truly eye-popping — from $24,000 up to $48,000 for a few weeks — but they do offer lodging and (some) meals, as well as the confidence in knowing the guy sitting next to you in the classroom has scratch to spare.  Many students use these type of programs to evaluate a school’s eMBA offerings and decide if they’re interested in an even bigger commitment somewhere down the line.


UNC Business Essentials
 Cost: $2,500 Highlights: Offered by an elite B-schools, available online only, and affordable.  Each of the six UNC Business Essentials modules takes an average of 10-12 hours to complete. The entire program can be completed in 4 months if an individual spends 4-5 hours a week on coursework.   Includes certificate. Website

Buffalo Online Mini-MBA Cost: $995 Highlights: Price, price, price.  Under $1000 for 17 credits and a certificate makes this the best deal of the bunch, by a country mile, if you don’t need a name brand school. Website

University of St. Thomas, Mini-MBA
 Cost: $2,995 Highlights: One of the original mini-MBA programs, available onsite in Minneapolis and online, affordable Website

Rutgers, Mini MBA 
 Cost: $4,995 Highlights: Available onsite in New Jersey and online, several specialization available, including digital media and biopharma.  Lasts 1 week.  Includes a certificate and CE credits. Website

Loyola University Chicago Mini-MBA Certificate Program
 Cost: $3,500 Highlights: Highly reputable school, 10-week onsite program in Chicago. 

Kellogg Advanced Management Program
 Cost: $36,000 - $48,000 Highlights: Top ranked school.  Offers both on-site and remote.  Huge cost. Website

Columbia University, Columbia Essentials of Management 
 Cost: $24,450 Highlights: Elite University, available onsite only, very expensive Website

Georgetown University, Business Administration Certificate Cost: $5,370 Highlights: Powerhouse university, taught by faculty at the McDonough School of Business, on-site in Washington, DC. Website

Ross University Executive Certificate Cost: TBD Highlights: Another very solid school, with a slightly unusual piecemeal offering — you choose four credits that then become one certificate. Website

McKinsey Mini-MBA
 Cost: TBD Highlights:  There are a few certificate offerings out there NOT from schools — McKinsey’s is one of the most interesting, since the company has had training programs like this for many years.  3 weeks in person combine with 4-8 weeks of ‘pre-work’, making this a fairly significant time commitment. Website


It depends on what you want to do with it. You can certainly get a decent grounding in the basics of business with a mini-MBA, but discerning employers aren't going to be taken in by a fancy name on the certificate. They want the real thing. 

To give yourself legitimacy in a crowded marketplace, there's still no substitute for the traditional two-year MBA program. You also get more networking benefits from two-year MBA program, which is key if you want to land that first big job. 

If you already have a career you're happy with, but want to advance and boost your reputation within that career, you could also consider an Executive MBA or Part-Time MBA program. Both of these degrees have been around longer than the Mini-MBA, and are taken more seriously by employers at the moment.

To summarize --

If you just want a low-cost grounding in business fundamentals and you're a self-motivated learner, go for the Mini-MBA or Online MBA.

If you want a steady career with a blue-chip employer and a strong network, choose the Two-Year MBA.

If you want to advance or boost your reputation at your current job, try an Executive MBA or a Part-Time MBA.


Contact us, we're happy to help! Or you can read more about how we help MBA applicants of all stripes get into top business schools around the world.

Photo by Elizabeth Perkins, miniyo73, Paul Levy.