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Is The MBA Worthwhile?

This article was written by in Career and Work, Education. 21 comments.


Loyal readers may recall that I’ve been working on my MBA (master of business administration) degree through the University of Phoenix Online. Other MBA students from more traditional graduate schools are often surprised when I describe the amount of work required for the degree. I have a little less than a year left if I continue without a break, but will the hard work be worth it?

There are still some people who believe that a degree from an online program isn’t as valuable as a degree from a traditional brick-and-mortar school. The very few people who have expressed that opinion to me have had one thing in common — they have no experience with interviewing or hiring people and base that belief on their own biases. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion of course, but when the time comes, the only thing that matters is the attitude of the person who is making the hiring decision.

A Wall Street Journal subsidiary, the CollegeJournal, published an article about the top employers for MBA students. A survey was conducted to determine the students’ ideal employers. Here are the survey results (top 100). I notice that my company isn’t listed but a couple of our majors competitors are.

The article in CollegeJournal also notes that more MBA graduates are expected to be hired this year than last year and men expect to earn $89,933 (plus a signing bonus of $18,028) while women expect $81,962 (with $15,415 bonus) at their first post-MBA job. The expected salaries about double after five years.

Here are more articles and data on MBA salaries:
* MBA Salaries on the Rise, January 2005, and related survey
* CareerJournal B-school surveys, 2004
* MBA Applicants are MIA, BusinesWeek, April 2005

Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published May 12, 2005. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 21 comments }

avatar jim

I think van makes a good point, an online course is a different animal than a classroom course… while it may be challenging and difficult, the classroom interaction is critical for an MBA. That’s why I think any full time program trumps a part time program all other things being equal.

avatar van

I respect your views but i think your expectations from an online program are not realistic. If you think everyone who is not in an ivy league school is on the same footing as you are, then u are gonna be sorely disappointed.
Do you honestly think that your MBA is going to be valued on equal terms as those from Darden,UT Austin,UCLA or Berkeley(all non-ivy league)?
Try getting an interview with McKinsey or Goldman with an online MBA.An MBA from any of the above school will atleast guarantee an interview if not the job.
I dont mean to be rude but you have to be realistic about what you are doing and not bash others opinions as “bias” if those opinions make you uncomfortable.
Wish you all the success. I am positive you will do great at whatever you wish to do.

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,490 (Platinum)

I see your point, Van. The online programs have a long way to go before they receive as much respect as well-established programs — Ivy, top-teir, second-tier, etc. I don’t expect to make a ton of money when finished with the degree. That’s not the most significant part of my motivation.

It’s the same with any degree… those who graduate from the “top schools” are better off initially. The “online” bit shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,490 (Platinum)

And Jim, yes, full time is much better than part time. Considering the degree from the University of Phoenix (which offers classroom-based courses in a huge number of campuses around the country in addition to its online offerings) takes just over two years, similar to a full time traditional degree, it is considered full time. It’s about 24 credits a year.

Based on conversations with other people who have graduate degrees with traditional classes, the classes I’ve been taking provide more interaction with other students. As with anything, your mileage may vary.

avatar blog reader

Flexo, congrats on your perseverance. It says alot about anyone who includes a graduate degree program on top of a full time job. I think future employers will recognize the value in being able to do both successfully. That fact alone should raise a few eyebrows when your resume is reviewed. It signals high levels of responsibility, maturity, and a true ability to prioritize. These are many of the things employers want to see from an MBA grad. It also give you sets you apart from the ‘traditional’ herd. Many of whom just hung around campus all day and flirted with the undergrads between classes.

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,490 (Platinum)

See, that’s the thing I truly miss about not going to a physical campus… no undergrads to flirt with. :> But thanks, blog reader. I appreciate all comments whether they agree or disagree with my point of view.

avatar FMF

My experience (I have an MBA from a “top 25″ school) says that to have an MBA that’s “worthwhile” depends on:

1. What you want the MBA to do for you. (Help you make more money? Get into a specific company? Just learn more about business?)

2. Who recruits from the school you go to.

3. What your first job is after your MBA. (After that, all anyone seems to care about is your experience and your accomplishments — as it should be.)

FMF

avatar savvy saver

Flexo – Don’t let them get you down. I am also pursuing my MBA through an online program at the University of Wisconsin. I have several coworkers that are pursuing their MBAs through more traditional programs, and I can honestly say that my program is much more demanding than theirs. A person who obtains an MBA through an online program must be a self-starter, diligent, focused, and have a lot of discipline. I just finished a semester long group project, and I think I learned more about working with others, especially in today’s global business environment, than I have learned in any single learning experience in my life. I have classmates that are all over the world, and have widely varying work experiences – much more so than if we were tied to one single brick-and-mortar campus.

Good luck and hang in there!
erin aka Savvy Saver

avatar Darren R. Sussman

Granted, I’ve never been in a position to hire someone who would have an MBA, that not being my business and all, however I can say that from my own experience interviewing people, the education is one of the last things I look at (if I look at it at all). It’s always experience that is the top thing on my list. A person with no experience isn’t going to look that good to me, no matter what school they went to. Now, I suppose that if I were trying to choose between two people with no experience, then I’d probably look to education to make my decision for me (all other things being equal), but the truth is that education is usually just a line at the top of the resume that I skip along with all the other lines at the top of the resume as I skim down to the experience section…

avatar CFischer

Again, not to discourage, as I believe that more education is never a bad thing – however, the MBA degree is more about networking and the school you attend than anything else. After the Top 30 B-school programs, the starting salaries drop dramatically for MBA graduates. I also question how much insight instructors at UoP online have, versus the professors at HBS, Wharton, etc.

Some biases have basis in reality.

avatar PF&CC

Here’s a video to watch about the declining value of an MBA. I’m with you though — I’m 1/2 way through my MBA program.

http://businessweek.feedroom.com/iframeset.jsp?ord=287947

avatar PF&CC

Here’s a video to watch about the declining value of an MBA. I’m with you though — I’m 1/2 way through my MBA program.

http://businessweek.feedroom.com/iframeset.jsp?ord=287947

avatar Eric

I was wondering what it is that you want your degree to do for you, i.e. why are you studing for an MBA?

Also what is your current position/title at your place of work?

My own opinion of an MBA is that it is not for me(with the possible exception of the cream of the crop business schools, e.g. HBS and Wharton), as I have a BS in Business Administration. I’m currently considering a second degree in mathmatics en route to a 3rd in finance/financial mathmatics/financial engineering.

avatar Damon

I disagree with CFischer. You can probably assume that I’ve gone through an online degree program. My Bachelor’s was through an online university. I also attended UoP for a few classes and I can tell you that the amount of reading, writing and communicating in those classes was more than I had in typical on-site campuses.

MBAs may be somewhat different, but not to a great extent. The statement that networking and the school you go to are all-important, that’s just hog-wash. I’ve known plenty of idiots who graduated from UT Austin (I live in Austin) who make some incredibly stupid decisions here at work. I think the most important thing is the quality of the instructor and the amount of effort you put into the class. Unfortunately your resume won’t list specific instructors, only schools.

The only advantage I can see to attending a traditional university now is that you’ll get fewer people looking down their nose at you. It’s all relative though, you get an ivy-leaguer and they’ll look down at normal schools. You get a regular student from UT or other decently-ranked school and they’ll smirk at your community college efforts. And I’d venture to say the folks who are critical of the online degree programs here have not ONE SINGLE BIT of experience with the online degree. They are making their decisions based on feelings and impressions, not on facts and experience. Now THAT is a person I would not want to hire, regardless of their education or experience!

avatar reggie

I also am attending the UOP for my MBA and I hear what you guys are saying about good schools and ok ones. For me I guess since I have aundergraduate degree from UOP it was really easy signing up for my masters. I have 18 credits and I have 10 more classes remaining. To be honest I already have a bachelors in Information technology and I don’t really see any improvements in my career path. One thing that has improved is that I recieve the occasssional call from a recruiter such as Intel but when they review my resume I don’t have an expertise so I get passed up for the more proferssional jobs. Sadly enough I am getting the MBA just to get it and hope that 5 years or 10 years down the line I will see $100,000 a year. i just assume I would rather have it then not. I just know that in this time in my life I don’t have any demands on my time and its just best to just get it out of the way. What I am disappointed about is that with me nearly having a masters I ahve not been given anymorw responsibilities than I was getting b4 I had my bachelors. I am an african-American and let me tell you I think its just better to start up my own business then to waste time waiting on phone calls and second and third interviews only to be disappointed.

avatar cemj99

Reggie,

You are absolutely right. It is better to focus on your own business rather than waiting by the phone for another interview. I’m an African-American too and I faced job discrimination on a regular basis with my employer. I have an MBA and a Master’s degree in Network and Communications Management. I work in a telecommunications company. I would interview for jobs and the feedback I would get is “we are looking for somebody to fit our culture” meaning, they don’t want a smart black man to make them look stupid. I just got a promotion 13 months after receiving my first master’s degree. During that thirteen month period, I finished up my MBA and developed my business while in school. I have a conglemerate that owns rental property, vending machines, a travel agency, and we’re about to open a daycare. Honestly, I didn’t go to business school to work for somebody because I already knew the deal in corporate anyway. I just wanted some fundamental skills to help grow my business and I wanted a company to pay for it. I got that in corporate but I’m not going to sit around and wait for a job and not utilize my business and technical knowledge.

To address the posts concerning the University of Phoenix. Yes, its a challenging school with a lot of work but reality is, a graduate from UofP will not get the same interviews from an Ivy League schools. In fact they won’t even get looked at. Unfortunately, if you are in the job market, you have to realize that there are biases concerning schools. Some organizations only recruit from about 10 schools. That’s just the way it is. There is not much difference in the curriculum of most schools but there is in the caliber of students. Hiring organizations simply are lazy and use selective schools to filter job candidates. If you go to a school that is not a top 25 school, I recommend using your talent to start your own business. I graduated from Keller Graduate School of Management and I know I learned a great deal. I also knew going into the school that I would face bias because it wasn’t a top tier school.

avatar Herb

I don’t think it’s that orgs are lazy, it’s just a fact of life that top tier schools attract better talent on average. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t smart people that go to UofP, it’s just that they consider the odds of finding a qualified candidate are better at certain schools than at others. Nobody has enough time to search every school for hires; so let the school’s admission process and curriculum do some of the filtering for you. Going to Harvard, you know you’re going to find a large pool of qualified candidates. Going to PodunkU, you might find 1 or 2, but you’re going to search through hundres of resumes to find them. It’s also that going to a top-tier school costs lots of money, which weeds out the semi-serious people. It’s the same concept as hiring someone with a BS instead of just a diploma; going to college is expensive and hard work and those that do it are more likely to be serious and qualified than those who don’t. It doesn’t mean you have to go to college to be smart, it’s simply a matter of orgs playing the averages. And besides, a degree of any kind only really means anything for your first job; after that it’s all about experience and qualifications.

avatar 2million

What a great discussion. I have a traditional MS and to be honest have been critical of the online graduate degree programs. I think the majority of experiences I had that shaped me couldn’t repeated in an online degree program. That said I don’t have any experience with an online degree program so perhaps there are DIFFERENT experiences that can enhance your experience. Regardless, good luck finishing your MBA program. Completing anything like this that takes time and sacrifice is a significant accomplishment.

avatar anon

Great discussions so far. I’m currently enrolled in the BS program through UOP. I can say that in my line of work, it’s important to have a degree period. As others have mentioned, it shows the ability to be able to complete something from start to finish… something you’ll need to be able to do in the work force. However, I don’t know that I’ll pursue my MBA though and online school. I’m thinking of the traditional approach for something like that. Undergrad degrees are one thing, but MBA’s get more respect and attention when they come from a more refined and recognized instituion.

avatar az_roadrunner

good discussion,

I started my MBA in Jan 2005 and should complete it in June 2007. I looked at several universities and online programs … I decided against a 100% online program because I felt I may not get the same level of quality education. That left me to a local “on-site” program, or a hybrid program (one that has “on-site” classes but also offers online too). After narrowing out a few other schools who I didn’t think were very strong, it came down to 2 schools:
1) Arizona State MBA program offered only “on-site” 2 eves a weeks and some Saturdays.
2) Keller Graduate School of Mngmt offered a hybrid program.

I chose #2 for the following reasons:
1) Flexibility — At the time I started, I was a single father and ASU program didn’t have the flexibility that the Keller program had. My kids have sporting activities on Saturdays and if I knew I was going to be busy w/kids or work activities during a certain period, the strict schedule at ASU could present a scheduling problem … but I could work around that with Keller by taking an online class for that particular period.
2) MBA focus — I knew I wanted to focus on finance in my MBA. The ASU evening (and the same for the exec) program didn’t allow one any electives in Finance (you only had 2 finance/accounting courses in the whole program). The Keller program allows one 6 electives to focus their MBA on (in addition to the 2 core finance/accounting classes)… and they have many in Finance including a CFA preparation course (run through Becker, the same place that trains accountants for CPA’s)

I could have gone to ASU — at the time I was deciding, I took the GMAT and did well on it. While I knew that ASU had the name/prestige and that I might face “bias” for not going to a well-known school, in the end, I felt Keller worked better for me for the reasons stated above.

What have I found out since I’ve started?
1) I talked to a local branch manager of a national bank where I have an account about my decision. He did some research among his colleagues and got very positive feedback about the strength of the Keller program — apparently the bank has had their own people go to Keller. My point is, before you start the MBA program, ask those who are in an industry that hires/works with MBA’s about their opinion of the school.
2) I know and work with people who went to the ASU program. I was surprised to learn that they did’t study as much as I do (only about 8 hrs a week outside of class while taking 2 classes!) and, from talking with a couple of them, it didn’t seem they had any stronger (in fact I’d say it was weaker!) understanding of the concepts taught in the program. My point is — just because one goes to or hires from a traditional, well-known, brick-and-morter school doesn’t mean one will get a superior education or find a superior employee.
3) I asked a mid-level manager I knew at a Fortune500 company about the difference in the program. He felt that from a perspective of getting hired, unless you went to a top-10 B-school program, it didn’t really matter where you went to school for MBA, as long as it gave you the requisite knowledge needed to function as an MBA-grad. The point is: unless it’s a top-10 B-school, it matters more what you get from the program than it does from where you went to school.

avatar Arun

Good discussion.

What do you folks think about part-time MBA’s ?
And that too from one of the top 25 schools ?

My company is not paying for it. But is it really worth spending 70k on a part time MBA ?

WOuld it really help ?

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