What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MBAs and Reputations

Oh Great Internet Brain,

Since I've dealt with many an MBA in my day, but never really considered one myself, I'm at a loss to answer these questions. If the Great Internet Brain could be of assistance, that would be fabulous.

I know that some business school MBAs are highly sought after (Harvard, Weatherhead (Case), U of Chicago, etc), but those are probably out of reach for me (both distance and cost). Are there sub-tiers of acceptance? Would a State U MBA be worth more than a smaller college MBA? And where does an MBA from someplace like the University of Phoenix fit in? Are there places and programs I should run away from (other than the diploma mills)?

I'm sure it's also dependent on the focus of the program. While I think accountancy would be cool, that really requires a BA in Accountancy. So this would be for either Management, Marketing, or Communications. But is there a focus that is more preferred than others? A for instance would be could be a marketing manager, but having a Marketing MBA isn't as preferable to a Business Management MBA for the position.

Any information you have, articles I should read, magazines I should get, websites to read, etc, would be greatly appreciated in this manner. Mostly what I'm seeing in my searches are sales pitches for specific programs, not so much the hard data of why I would want to go there (other than, "don't you really want to have this (name) behind your degree" or "we'll work with you" etc). And none of the information that would say, "sure, you can get a great MBA education there, but nobody is going to hire you" or vice versa.



- CGL - said...

_The Economist_ puts out an annual list of MBA rankings in March? April? I can't currently recall ... But whichever it is, it's worth looking into. They rate schools on an international scale, though, so you'll need to sift through for US (and ideally: local) schools in their list. If your local library doesn't have it, it's worth trying to buy the back issue from The Economist directly (approx. $12).

RE: Accountancy ... So, I am in the midst of back-to-school mayhem for a BA in Acccounting, myself, and here is the word from professionals I respect: (1) Load your schedule with as many finance classes as you can; finance sets apart math-savvy accounting candidates from bean counters. (2) The MA/Accounting is not a particularly useful degree because (a) tax laws change regularly and (b) because of (a), it is not necessarily an excellent use of your time to become expert in a microcosm of Accounting. (3) An MBA is a very, very big time/money sink; while it *can* make the difference in your eventual employability, it can also make you poor, exhausted, and not substantially closer to a dream job. It is worth considering a detailed pro/con list prior to taking the plunge.

Hopefully this helps -- good luck!

Steve Buchheit said...

Thanks, CGL. While I think I could do Accounting pretty well (I really like numbers, which I know is trange for an "artist"), but I'm not sure it's the career path for me.

I've also reached out to many people I know who have advanced business degrees to get their opinions. So far, from what I can tell, at my age (later 40s), the name of the school isn't as important as having the degree and the experience you can bring to the job.

If you're younger and don't have many years of working experience, the name of the school matters a little more. But pretty much anything past the first ten doesn't really matter.

The earning potential of an MBA has been drastically reduced, which I wasn't really interested in, but there it is.

Right now I'm exhausted from the current path, and actually the degree programs I've looked at would be less work (this fall would be 24 hours of clinical time, and another 8 hours in class, plus at least 40 hours at the current day thing). I have preliminary approval for tuition reimbursement from the day thing. So that would help with the costs.

What I really hate is to have gone so far down the road with Rad Tech only to have this problem. There are a whole passel of other things going on that I haven't spelled out here which are driving me toward this decision. And if one of them turns out to not happen, I'll be very pissed (I keep getting reassurances).

John the Scientist said...

Steve, I don't know who you asked, but I think they are dead wrong.

I hold an MBA from a top-50 school and work for a Fortune 50 company. I used the MBA to change careers from pure scientific research to the business side. I majored in marketing and Strategic planning.

In my world (Fortune 100 companies, NYC area) the name of the school matters. A lot.

I know a woman in Manhattan who got an MBA to help her career. She was an adminiatrative assistant before the degree. She wasn't a great student, and only got into Iona college. Her position after the degree? Administrative assistant. To the same guy.

Low tier MBAs are worse than low tier JDs job prospect-wise. You have no network of highly placed alumni AND your peers didn't psuh you. You are overqualified for low level and small company work, but the sharks at the big firms don't take your degree seriously.

Take a look at the rankings. Anything lower than about 70 in the US or 100 in the world is useless. One of the major indicators used in the rankings is a comparison of pre-MBA salary to post-MBA salary. (I was making $20K as a post-doc before MBA, so my school LOVED me when I got a job :D). In order to be ranked highly, they have a network of alumni and paid staff to get you those interviews, groom you, and make sure you are successful. And the cost is commensurate, but still, in my experience, the MBA is a go big or go home proposition.

I can elaborate more if you like.

John the Scientist said...

Oh yes. I forgot to add that an MBA in Accounting is useless for an entry-level job. The MBA is an executive degree. It is far more useful to get a CPA for Accounting. In fact you need both to get a higher level job in a big firm - CPA first, work a few years, then MBA.

Steve Buchheit said...

Hey John, yea, I think following accountancy (just because I'd like to sing the Monty Python song going in to work everyday) probably isn't a viable career track for me.

The thoughts about the Big Name school comes from reading a number of ranking sites, the opinions of several business magazines, and two people I asked directly (who hold MBAs, one from one of the top 10 schools). All said if you're coming right out of school, yes, they help a lot. Since I have over 20 years in business, have held management positions, was a committee chair, that the big name isn't so important as it'll be my experience that would carry me with the degree just backing that up.

My goals here aren't so much to earn big bucks (and all those sources also say that the time for that has past, unless you go to the top 5 or 10 schools). My goals are to remain employed until retirement and that means doing something other than design.

There is a top 20 school (depends on the ranking source) locally, Case Western Weatherhead School of Management. It's a little far to commute and the price estimate is $80-90,000. Since I would graduate at 50-52 years old, there's not that much time to get a good ROI if I do that on loans (this again came clear after I wrote this post as I talked with friends). A second tier school is closer (John Carroll), it has a good local reputation, but doesn't extend to far outside NE Ohio.

I was looking at a MBA as a replacement for the current career reboot (Radiological Technologist) as the schedule for the next year is rather intense and the players aren't being as flexible as they said they would be. As a plus, the day job would have paid up to $5,200 a year (if I got As), right now they're not paying anything for my school.

But I've been interviewing more than just MBAs. For several people in the design industry in my local market confirm my read of the employment market (agism is rampant, salaries are going down, firms only want young and dumb kids because "they know the internet and that social media stuff". So I'm back to having to do something completely different.