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So, you want to earn an MBA? Better do the homework

Want to learn how to think like a CEO? Get an MBA.

“An MBA is considered the business practitioner’s terminal degree,” said Dr. John Holleman, dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Mississippi. “Many people don’t realize an MBA for business people compares to a law degree for lawyers or a Ph.D. for researchers. Because of the changing demands of the workplace and the changing landscape of business in general, with a lot of globalization and technology issues entering the workplace, getting an MBA is practically required to get ahead.”

Thousands of careerists have discovered that earning a master’s of business administration (MBA) is the right choice to make their dreams a reality. But deciding among the hundreds of schools and varying MBA programs remains a formidable challenge.

“These days, many prospective students use the Internet as the best resource for gathering initial information,” said Holleman. “Peterson’s has an encyclopedia of MBA programs (Petersons.com), and Kaplan (Kaplan.com) has comprehensive publications. I always recommend visiting the Web site, MBA.com, operated by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which is a consortium of business schools throughout the nation.”

MBA.com includes nifty, color-shaded sections allowing users to assess their careers, find the right MBA program, register for the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), apply effectively to business schools, and make appropriate decisions. Especially helpful is an article, “Assess the R.O.I. (Return on Investment),” which shows readers how to assess business school costs, including incidental expenses, and weigh the benefits of pursuing an MBA degree.

Business school faculty and administrators around the state offered these helpful tips for professionals considering the pursuit of an MBA degree:

• Determine if an MBA degree is right for you. “Are you doing this to advance in your current organization or to change jobs completely? Depending on those answers, you may have a very different decision to make,” said Dr. Harold Doty, dean of the College of Business at the University of Southern Mississippi.

• Decide whether to pursue an MBA degree part- or full-time. “If you’re 24 with two years of work experience and trying to change jobs, you may want to apply in state and to the large nationally recognized MBA programs,” said Doty. “Go full time, get your degree and jump start your career that way. On the other hand, if you’re 35, with a family to support, that’s not an option. Then you begin looking for part-time MBA programs. We have a full-time MBA program in Hattiesburg that can be completed in roughly 12 months. On the Gulf Coast, we offer a part-time MBA program.”

• Choose the MBA program that’s right for you. “There’s a lot of variation among MBA programs in business schools because it’s truly unlike certain curriculums, such as a law degree,” said Holleman. “As a result, there are many choices.”

• Research the MBA staff. “Look for faculty and administrators that care about students so you’re not just a number,” said Dr. Barbara Spencer, director of Graduate Studies in Business at Mississippi State University (MSU). “You want lots of interaction because you don’t grow just by listening to lectures. You grow by getting involved. We partner with the business community on consulting projects, whether on campus or in our distance learning program.”

• Select an AACSB-accredited school, which is considered a seal of approval. “It’s very important, vital really, for the MBA program to be AACSB-accredited,” said Memrie McCubin, associate admissions director for the Else School of Management at Millsaps College. “Then you know it’s not a degree factory. To be AACSB-accredited shows the professors are continuously and thoroughly reviewed and the program remains outstanding.”

• Research the business school’s placement success. “The job market for folks in Mississippi is changing to high-tech, requiring further education,” said Dr. Sara Freedman, MSU’s dean of the College of Business and Industry. “It’s important to help people do those jobs, and for the business school to be closely attuned to marketplace needs. If it is, the school will have a very good placement program.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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