Just how valuable is the MBA you earned online? The answer partly depends on how you measure its value. In terms of your own personal enrichment and professional development, price may be no object. Perhaps the time and money you saved by selecting an online degree plan instead of a traditional graduate program are enough to satisfy your own sense that your diploma was worth the expense. But what about prospective employers and job recruiters? How do they perceive the online MBA? How do they advise that you maximize the highest possible return on investment (ROI) from your degree?
What Is the Fundamental Value of an MBA?
Many employers examining your resume are not as concerned with the finer points of how you earned your MBA as they are with whether or not you have one. According to U.S. News & World Report’s most recent annual higher education issue, “A significant portion of employers won’t even ask about the format in which the degree was earned, says Adam J. Samples, regional president of Atrium Staffing in New Jersey. Others will only dig deeper if they have a specific reason to.” This same report also quotes Richard Garrett, an executive at Eduventures, who notes that, “[M]ore and more employers don’t have a knee-jerk negative or positive reaction when they hear the word ‘online.'”
What Makes One MBA More Valuable Than Another?
Nevertheless, you probably know from your own MBA program research that not all programs are created equal. As a rule, do hiring managers value the same aspects of an MBA program that you do?
To answer this question, let’s conduct a thought experiment. Imagine that you’ve made it past the first round of screening and have been invited to an onsite interview for that dream job. What questions might you need to answer about your MBA experience?
1) What accreditation does your school carry? The gold standard for business school is an accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Even if you did not attend an AACSB-accredited institution, its regional accreditation, as well as other factors contributing to its positive reputation, will not be ignored. Emphasize these factors as evidence of the quality of your MBA.
2) How different was the curriculum of your school’s online MBA? Some interviewers may be under the impression that an online MBA translates to “MBA lite.” They may believe that online classes are less rigorous, that an accelerated program means you have the option of skipping certain key courses, or that your instructors were not drawn from the same core faculty that teaches in your school’s on-campus MBA program. How can you correct these assumptions? Simply by telling the story of your MBA.
3) What options did your MBA give you for specialization? Your official transcript should show which advanced courses you completed as part of your MBA program. Interviewers may still have questions about how much the program facilitated your developing expertise in specific areas. All MBAs are expected to have a working knowledge of accounting, business informatics, economics, finance, marketing, and organizational behavior. Nevertheless, you should be able to articulate how your online MBA rewarded your interests, helped you build on your talents, increased your capabilities, and helped you focus both your job search and your career goals.
4) Who is in your networks? The MBA experience entails much more than simply attending classes and turning in homework. As an MBA student, you are part of a cohort of learners, all of whom come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, with distinct contributions to make to the program’s learning environment. As an MBA, you may also have access to internship programs, summer study-abroad programs and other opportunities to extend your education via real-world application.
Finally, as a graduate, you should have access to an extensive alumni network as well. Let interviewers know that your online MBA experience went beyond passively viewing video lectures. It promoted engagement just like a traditional MBA program does, just using different — and, in some cases, more technologically advanced — tools.
Making a case for your MBA may feel unnecessary at first, but rest assured — if your case is strong and authentic, it will earn the respect of hiring managers and recruiters alike.
What Does My MBA Say About Me?
Ultimately, this is the most vital question you have to consider when assessing the value of your MBA. Recruiters and employers are not mechanically sorting candidates based on an ideal hiring algorithms. They are hiring people, and qualitative measures are also important to them.
One of the great advantages of pursuing an MBA is that recruiters maintain a consistent presence on business school campuses. These recruiters know that MBA programs attract the best and brightest, and they further understand how fierce the competition for the best and brightest can be. As such, your intangibles — those aspects of your demeanor and elements of your experience not readily documented on a resume — can be your distinguishing feature.
In some respects, the online MBA can be more attractive to recruiters, according to renowned talent acquisition consultant Sandy Khan. Writing in Poets & Quants magazine, Khan identifies the following ways in which MBAs can “build a convincing library of stories” that emphasize how their online MBA experiences are testaments to their initiative and leadership potential:
- Because the online MBA is often self-paced and self-directed, you are a proven self-starter who takes ownership, and you hold yourself accountable.
- The online MBA’s relative newness means its business model is still evolving, and the best practices for online education are changing almost daily. Taking on a program of this nature shows you are forward-thinking and willing to accept new challenges.
- Because the online MBA requires familiarity with new communication and collaboration tools, you have exceptional technological aptitude.
- Earning an MBA while fulfilling the obligations of a full-time job demonstrates excellent time-management skills.
- In choosing to earn an MBA while working full time, you took advantage of opportunities to immediately apply what you were learning to your workplace, improving your contribution to the company.
- The distance/remote learning environment of your online MBA program required more effort on your part to initiate and sustain relationships both within your cohort and with your instructors. As a result, you appreciate the value of such relationships and are not purely transactional in your approach to business.
- Your diverse online MBA cohort helped you develop a global mindset that would be an asset to any company.
Learn more about the unique value you can accrue by joining the growing online MBA community at Baylor University.
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