A good rule of thumb when pursuing a major life change is to prepare yourself with as much knowledge as possible regarding your new situation. The same applies with a change as intensive, time-consuming and rewarding as earning a Master’s of Business Administration.
Obtaining an advanced degree requires a well-developed plan from the beginning. In fact, the more you know about your school options, their program(s) and your own boundaries beforehand, the more likely your studies will be effective once you’re enrolled in the program. Below are three things to determine before entering an online MBA program:
1. Your end goal
Being aware of what your goal is upon graduation – to advance beyond your current position, to switch industries, to grow to the executive level or otherwise – can help you tailor your educational experience so what you study in school aligns with your preferred job market. Washington State University’s Carson College of Business understands that as an adult student with particular career goals, you likely would rather not spend your time studying in depth about topics that aren’t relevant to your industry. So, in addition to a general MBA track, the Carson College offers online MBA students four concentrations to help better align their education with their career goals: Marketing, Finance, Hospitality Business Management and International Business. These tracks focus on teaching you what you need to know to meet your career objectives:
• The marketing concentration aims to provide a solid background on advertising concepts and how they can lead to a successful business. Throughout this concentration, you’ll study psychology, consumer behavior and communications.
• The finance concentration aims to teach you the ins and outs of domestic and international financial markets. You’ll study the strategies for successful investments, how to manage a portfolio and how to make financial decisions in the face of globalization.
• The hospitality business management concentration aims to provide you with business proceedings specific to this industry. The coursework discusses management within the service industry, organizing international tourism and managing and marketing for hospitality businesses.
• The international business concentration focuses on teaching business concepts elevated to the global scale. You’ll study how social, cultural, political and economic differences shape cross-border commerce and how to manage both international marketing and companies as a whole. This track also comes with a 10-day study abroad opportunity.
As mentioned earlier, if you haven’t decided your career aspirations, but want to earn an advanced degree, the Carson College of Business also provides a general MBA track that allows you to study a broader base of business knowledge and also pick the electives that are the most important and potentially relevant to you and your career.
If your career goal is to progress to the executive level, the Carson College also provides an online Executive MBA. This program is designed to provide you with knowledge of business theory and strategy beyond the managerial level and educate you on the skills needed to achieve C-suite status. In addition to sharpening your skills, the program offers networking opportunities to help you, your fellow students and alumni build your professional networks. For example, EMBA students and alumni can also participate in the 3-day WSU Executive MBA Leadership Conference.
2. The credentials of your chosen school
No two graduate schools are alike, so you want to make sure the one you choose provides the best return on your investment. The programs, teachers, career services, networking opportunities and resources can vary greatly from school to school, so be sure to do your research to help you get an education that best matches your career aspirations.
Graduate coursework can be tougher and more dynamic than undergraduate, so it’s important to find a school and program that provides the resources to help you succeed. Thus, take your time when reviewing the credentials of your selected schools and try to obtain the most comprehensive overview you can.
Despite all of the information you’re able to acquire on your own, it can still be difficult for you to determine which school fits your lifestyle and educational goals. After all, the only way to truly know the quality of a school is to evaluate its teachers, classrooms and curriculum firsthand.
Accrediting institutions provide this type of insight for prospective students like yourself. These independent bodies, often private nonprofits, at least in the U.S., evaluate schools by a strict set of standards. For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the world’s oldest international accrediting body of business programs, evaluates a school’s mission, expected outcomes, strategies and resources. It thoroughly vets a school’s curriculum to make sure it provides the knowledge necessary for future business leaders. The organization also looks at more than past accomplishments of a school and its graduates – it evaluates how the school’s current policies gear students toward an innovative future. In addition, the AACSB requires accredited schools to be distinct in their approaches to education and student success. The AACSB’s Eligibility Procedures and Accreditation Standards for Business Accreditation details exactly how this organization evaluates different colleges.
The Carson College of Business is accredited by the AACSB in business and accounting at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. This is an honor bestowed on only 1 percent of business schools across the globe.
Accreditation doesn’t just help you in your college search, it can also benefit you during your future job hunt. As explained in U.S. News & World Report, schools with this type of recognition are more likely to be well-known among employers, which can potentially work in your favor when applying for positions.
“All things being equal, an employer will judge your education based on their own personal familiarity with the institution that provided the degree,” Chris Cullen, a university brand consultant, explained to the publication.
Reviewing accrediting bodies’ documentation on how they review a school can help you determine the program you would like to enroll in. By comparing this information with your own educational goals, you can start to narrow down which college is the right choice for you.
College rankings can be helpful since they are also determined by independent bodies and based on a variety of criteria. They are similar to accreditations in that they are often well known in the worlds of both business and academia. However, unlike accreditors, most institutions that rank colleges don’t have a say in whether or not the schools receive federal funding.
While accrediting institutions evaluate a school based on a strict set of academic standards, rankings from organizations like The Princeton Review and news outlets like The Wall Street Journal or U.S. News & World Report are based on qualities such as existing resources, extracurricular activities and peer reputation. While you should not base your decision on these criteria alone, seeing a potential school rank on these lists is a testament to the quality of life you would experience as a student.
In addition, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and similar publication rankings are likely to be familiar to potential employers. Seeing your school rank consistently in these publications could give employers a positive view of your education and credentials.
The strength of your professors is arguably one of the biggest determinants of your success in graduate school. As such, you want an institution where the faculty are not only well-versed in their field but also in educational theory. A reputable college or university will provide a brief overview of its educators, describing their history both in their field and in academia, to assure you and other potential students that their program’s faculty is exceptional. While this doesn’t give you an understanding of a professor’s teaching style, it does grant you an idea of the experience they bring.
Typically, you can find profiles of your future teachers on the school’s website. The Carson College offers faculty profiles for both its online MBA and online EMBA programs, giving you insight into the quality of our school.
3. Additional resources
Strong resources outside of a school’s online program can be a great asset to your education – they allow you to acquire new knowledge and skills in addition to improving the ones you study in the classroom.
That’s why, during your search for the perfect online MBA program, you should look at the other academic resources a school provides. In addition to providing industry insight, tools like a program’s blogs, videos and webinars can give potential students like yourself additional understanding of your chosen degree. For example, the Carson College’s blog provides news and tips on subjects ranging from managing work and school to current trends within the world of business. Meanwhile, our videos and webinars let you preview our courses, learn more about the school’s history and hear from different faculty, students and alumni involved in our program.
If you’re interested in international business, look for schools that provide opportunities to travel. The Carson Colleges offers its online MBA and EMBA students the opportunity of a 10-day tour of Asia, visiting various businesses and observing how people in these societies are adapting to the changing, international economy. If you attend, you’ll also have the opportunity to network with other students in the program in person as well as professionals living and working in other countries.
If networking is one of your goals, don’t be afraid to ask admissions if there’s an online community of current students or alumni that already exists. Joining these online groups lets you network in the same manner you’d network in a physical classroom setting. Finally, check to see if your potential schools hosts or sponsors any seminars or conferences. The Carson College’s Leadership Conference allows EMBA students to spend three days learning from and networking with their peers, faculty, alumni and industry leaders.
Check out the events page of the college or university’s website to see upcoming opportunities and speakers that might be of interest to you. If you can’t attend these in person, inquire if you can stream them or attend via video conference.
Understanding your end goal, a university’s credentials and its additional resources available to its students helps you choose an institution that best suits you. Take time to research potential universities and its programs so you invest your time and energy in an education that helps prepare you for personal success.