The Master of Business Administration degree is considered one of the most important and respected degrees for people from a wide variety of different types of business to pursue. But with today’s tight employment office, does it make sense to get an MBA or would it be better just to go into the job market?
“While the job market is strong, there is never a bad time to further improve one’s skills,” said Ashley J. McGee, Director of MBA Administration, School of Business Administration, The University of Mississippi. “Earning an MBA is going to give you the opportunity to advance within the field and flexibility to move across industries. There is value in having that MBA in your pocket and, most importantly, on your resume.”
Ole Miss has the option of a one-year campus MBA program. McGee said students who are already in the “zone” of schoolwork, can set aside only one more year and build their knowledge and network to allow for greater opportunities.
“Additionally, we offer an online program which allows students the ability to continue their education while also being in the workforce,” McGee said. “So, for many people, they don’t have to choose between work and education; they can do both at the same time.”
Dr. Faye Gilbert, dean of the College of Business and Economic Development, University of Southern Mississippi, agrees an MBA today is still relevant even in a tight labor market.
“Similar to many other disruptions in the marketplace with millennials, the traditional two-year, full-time MBA, which would cost you $142,000 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is still worth it to many,” Gilbert said. “But at Southern Miss, our MBA will cost you about $12,000 and you complete it in two years while you still work full-time. The millennials may not want a full-time MBA program without working. They do want options in skill development in a just-in-time manner.”
Other options for improving business skills are also popular. Southern Miss has a Graduate Certificate in Business Foundations that is pre-MBA. The program can be completed in one year by taking four 8-week online courses in management, accounting, marketing, and finance. Gilbert said those classes are filled with physicians, nurses, non-profit managers, construction managers and economic developers. They want the basic business skills they need to run their organizations without necessarily going on to obtain an MBA.
“If we weren’t providing the MBA, we wouldn’t have skills on our faculty to begin the transformative certificates that have subsets of that MBA overall available to people to take when and where they need them,” Gilbert said. “The certificate is completed online and is asynchronistic. You don’t have to be present in a classroom or call in at the same time, but can pick when to study.”
While having an MBA listed on their resume may be a goal of some students, Gilbert said the Graduate Certificate in Business Foundations is a way for the college to meet help people who need skills to be able to operate their businesses.
About 70 percent of MBA students at Southern Miss are professionals who work full-time and 30 percent are traditional students. The majority of their students are still from south Mississippi, but they are beginning to draw students from much farther afield.
“We were ranked by bestcollegereviews.com at #41 because we have an MBA with an emphasis in sports security,” Gilbert said. “We are the only college in the country with an MBA with in emphasis on sports security. Even though our online MBA has been in existence only four years, we are trying to meet key markets where we find them as opposed to expecting them to come to us. MBA programs are changing, but the basic skills are still quite relevant to keeping up with managing business organizations well.”
Dr. Kevin P. Pauli, MBA Director and Associate Professor at Mississippi College, said the idea of an MBA is really an extension of experience. It is not working or going to school. It is both.
“The idea of getting an MBA is to enhance what you are doing and to build on your experience,” Pauli said. “Fundamentally, it is giving you an additional credential to set you apart from others as you move up in the organization. We offer both fully online and hybrid MBA classes in an 8-week format. Hybrid classes meet once a week and have another session online. To me, an MBA is not just memorizing facts. It is about doing more than that: it is about thinking, analyzing and networking. That part is especially well served in those classroom sessions.”
The majority of Mississippi College students are already working and coming back to school to get an additional degree. Taken on a part-time basis, most finish it in about two years.
Traditional full-time MBA programs have been on decline. Some universities have closed full-time MBA programs.
“Because the job market is good, people are not leaving work for two years to get a degree,” Pauli said. “Even Harvard is seeing a decline in its full-time in-class MBA program.”
Mississippi College’s MBA costs about $18,000, is AACSB accredited, growing, and is structured for those working full-time who are looking for that extra credential that will get them a promotion and/or a new job.
“The MBA is designed to help people re-examine business,” Pauli said. “It gives them a chance to think of the bigger issues. Business people can get caught up in the day-to-day details of what is happening in their business and town. Part of what the MBA does is to change your perspective. MBA programs help students to look at the world differently, to think about what things mean, to develop new analytic skills, and to begin to exercise those skills.”
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