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Should You Consider an MBA?
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According to the GMAC survey, the average starting annual base salary for MBA graduates vary by program type, with full-time MBA graduates averaging $80,000, part-time: $75,000 and Executive: $92,500.

Expert opinions vary on which mode of delivery - traditional versus online - is preferable. Proponents of traditional MBA program emphasize the importance of “total immersion.” In this type of program, students have continuous in-person access to teachers and other students. They have the opportunity to a network of business contacts.

“I believe…the full time format at top MBA programs is the best learning and leadership experience in all of higher education," Danos said.

Leslie E. Vance, Ph.d, and Mentor in Information Technology at Western Governors University (an online university), said that regionally-accredited MBA programs have to meet the same academic requirement regardless of the mode of delivery.

“In an online MBA program, the student works in an educational environment which more closely mirrors today’s business reality...a world-class executive must be able to collaborate with colleagues who are separated by thousands of miles and several time zones in order to achieve business goals,” Vance said. “A prospective student who is thinking ahead in their career will want to be sure that the MBA program they choose enables them to study in an environment which more closely mirrors today’s business reality.”

Online programs can be conducted purely online or in a combined online/traditional format. An example of this program is the Duke Global Executive MBA, which includes lengthy periods of residency with intense instruction followed by extended periods of distance learning.

At the University of North Carolina, students can enroll in a variety of program options, including the “OneMBA” program. In this program, executives meet one weekend per month near Washington, DC and have four weeklong residencies with partner schools in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

And while full time program options may seem costly for a mid-career changer, many students finance full time programs with loans and scholarships.

According to Dean Paul Danos at Tuck School of Business, “Finances alone need not deter the applicant. Most students at top schools invest in their futures and borrowing is usually a part of the financing of their two years in the program. However, the upgrade in career options, the amounts earned in paid summer internships and the salaries upon graduation more than offset the initial costs.”

Is the MBA for You?

Storrie advises potential MBA students to consider why they want an MBA,
how it fits into their long-term career interests, and then match their
interests to the right program. Prospective students should explore career
options and find out what skills are important for the positions they
desire. It is important to research what different MBA programs have to offer by reviewing their literature and talking to MBA grads of those programs about their experiences.

“In this scenario,” said Storrie, “the MBA graduate has the best chance of feeling they received a great education and it took them a step closer to achieving their career goals.”

But, according to Brady, “Regardless of the school or even emphasis of the program, the degree means very little three to five years after graduation; the focus moves entirely away from credential to performance…if the degree will help improve their performance, go for it!”

Sharon Reed Abboud is a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer.

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