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A Cohort MBA Program: What Is It and What Are the Benefits?

cohort mba

If you’ve been doing your research on MBA programs, then you have most likely come across some of these terms:

“Cohort model.” “Cohort-based learning.” “Cohort structure.”

While it doesn’t take much to grasp the general concept of a cohort program, it’s worth taking a moment to understand how they can impact your experience as a graduate student. Graduate cohort models can vary in terms of the number of students and the amount of diversity, but the overall structure is generally the same no matter where they are utilized. If you are seriously considering returning to school to earn your MBA, it’s important to consider all of your options and fully understand the structure of the programs that are under consideration.

What is a Cohort Model?

Learning cohorts are a team, group, or community of people with shared interests and goals who progress through an educational experience together. Their benefit is based upon certain educational theories of how people learn and the desire for support, teamwork, and shared resources. One of the key factors to emerge over the years is the value of learning from your classmates as well as from your professor. Based on the success of the cohort experience, more programs are adopting this platform.

Simply stated, an academic cohort consists of a group of students working together in the same program, progressing through the same academic curriculum and finishing their degree together. In a traditional graduate program, students select courses independently of their classmates and each semester may end up with a different group of students. Depending on the school and program, cohorts typically range anywhere from 15 to 35 students.

Benefits of a Cohort MBA Program

The goal of a cohort is to build an environment that emphasizes collaboration and team building over competition; a valuable asset in today’s workplace. Compared to a proceed-at-your-own-pace model, cohort programs invite student participation, foster creativity, build leadership skills, generate a sense of community, and proceed at a predetermined pace. The model offers many benefits including:

  • A shared learning experience that features enriching discussions of real-world business issues among a diverse group of professionals.
  • Collaboration, leadership and teamwork skills, necessary for success in today’s workplace.
  • Interactive learning that enables students to think independently and develop their own conclusions and ideas.
  • Cultivation of professional and personal networks that may continue long after the degree has been awarded.
  • A clearly-defined timeline and format allowing working professionals to pursue an MBA without giving up their day job.

Is a Cohort MBA Program Right For Me?

In addition to their popularity, studies have shown that cohorts in higher education offer additional benefits that many professionals are looking for1. Answering the following questions will help you decide if a cohort MBA program is the ideal learning environment for you.

Do you work well in a team or group environment?

As you were working towards your undergraduate degree, you most likely attended a school offering hundreds of courses and classes filled with students pursuing different majors. It’s unlikely that any two students would follow the same exact schedule of classes, especially for the entirety of their degree program. It is not uncommon for a student to feel somewhat lost in the shuffle in this type of learning environment. If you coordinated your class schedule with some of your classmates in the same major that you worked well with, then you, in essence, created a cohort to support each other through the coursework.

The cohort model provides a community experience with a much greater focus on a shared learning experience throughout the entire program. Students motivated by a group setting and a collaborative learning environment are likely to be drawn to the cohort model for their graduate education.

Do you show initiative?

The cohort model shows great promise for highly-organized and motivated students actively seeking to be invested in their education and to take charge of their learning. It works well when all members are doing their equal share of work and contributing to the discussion.

Are you a critical thinker?

The cohort model helps students to develop their own voice, think critically, and move beyond passive learning to produce engaged professionals armed with innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Are you concerned about returning to school after being in the workforce for a while?

The cohort model is particularly beneficial for students re-entering a higher education setting after some time in the professional world. The ability to build relationships in cohort courses makes re-entering academia less stressful and provides the support many feel they need.

Are you concerned about balancing workload with life responsibilities?

This is a common concern among many working professionals as they pursue their MBA, whether or not they are part of a cohort model. However, with cohort models especially, there are unrivaled levels of academic advisement and support from peers and faculty. The members of your cohort will likely share similar work-life challenges and will benefit from working through them together in order to successfully complete the program.

Ramapo College’s Cohort MBA Program

Ramapo College of New Jersey offers an accelerated 20-month MBA program for working professionals. The program is built on the cohort model combined with a hybrid delivery plan where ⅓ of coursework is completed online and ⅔ is completed in-class. Each cohort is comprised of 30-33 students who move through the program in tandem.

Each cohort advances through the curriculum together and collaborates closely on projects, leading to a strong network of supportive peers and colleagues. Our graduates can attest to the lifelong personal and professional relationships that they developed at Ramapo College.

1Maher, M. A. (2005). The evolving meaning and influence of cohort membership. Innovative Higher Education, 30(3), 195-211.

Categories: MBA