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Use MBA as Career Insurance?
Old 01-03-2012, 08:18 AM   #1
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Use MBA as Career Insurance?

I have a dilemma and was hoping for some like minded ER people to weigh in to help in my decision making. I have about 2 years until I plan on separating from the military. My plan currently is to get in with the FAA as an air traffic controller (I know I have posted about this several times already). My chances are fairly good that this will work out but basically I have actually lost sleep over having all my eggs in one basket. I do have a bachelorís degree in business aviation but in todayís economy Iím not sure how far that would take me.

What Iím debating is getting my MBA. I have mapped out a plan to do this and talked it over with DW. I am confident I can complete it prior to separating so that is a non issue. It is also solely online so location is no issue as well. Lastly it is regionally accredited so it is not a cookie cutter degree. The cost is very low due to an active duty military discount. The total tuition for the degree will be $13,100, well below many other programs, let alone ones with a high accreditation like this school.

So here are the problems myself and to some degree DW are debating.

1. Although $13K is cheap for an MBA, it is still $13K which is nothing to sneeze at. Also, my plan is to save as much cash as possible for any unemployment time between military separation and getting hired elsewhere. This would take a pretty good chunk of change out of the emergency fund unless I take student loans for this. Should I take student loans for this to keep my cash available for an emergency? I hate debt but this might be the smarter choice in this instance. In this case, if I got hired quickly, I could pay off the student loan right away since we wouldnít burn through all the emergency fund cash.

2. I may never use the MBA. If I get hired in with the FAA, the MBA was almost for nothing. I feel like the MBA is more of career insurance than anything and Iíd hate to waste the cash if not necessary. I realize an MBA does not guarantee a j*b/career, but it would open a mountain of doors that I wouldnít be able to otherwise access.

So what are your thoughts on my two issues? What would you do?
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Old 01-03-2012, 08:55 AM   #2
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IMO the value of an MBA is the relationships you develop and the people you meet. The more exclusive schools apply entrance criteria as a filter, to get you into a more exclusive network of exceptional people. The tuition is your price of admission. "We're going to make you rich, so you give us a cut up front..."

I would guess most online MBAs are not worth the piece of paper they are printed on.
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:46 AM   #3
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I'm similarly skeptical about the on-line aspect of your plan, but if you have the time and energy to get an MBA for $13k, I would guess that it would be worth it in the long run.

Even if you end up at the FAA as you hope, I would think that having the MBA would put you in a better position to work your way up the FAA ladder. I know that the principal reason that I got my MBA is that I could see that it was simply a matter of time before I would be competing for certain positions within Megacorp with contemporaries who had the same things that I had plus an MBA and I would be at a competitive disadvantage.
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Old 01-03-2012, 11:37 AM   #4
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Thanks so far for the responses. To clarify however, the online MBA is from Oklahoma State University, so it is not an off brand online-only university. There is no doubt that the degree is worth more than the paper it is printed on since it is a nationally recognized university. The point about missing the networking aspect is a good one, but since this is more for a backup degree that doesn't bother me too much.
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Old 01-03-2012, 11:55 AM   #5
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I have an MBA that I got by attending classes and doing some online classes, when it made sense. I had an Assistant Dean tell me about how important the networking aspect of an MBA was.

I asked him who he was in touch with from his cohort, now that he had his degree for more than 5 years. Answer: No one. Did he ever get a referral to an open position from anyone in his cohort? Answer: No.

The networking aspect can be useful while you are earning your degree and for a short time afterward. The most important things you get from a Masters degree are your ability to communicate clearly, and critical thinking.

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Old 01-03-2012, 12:01 PM   #6
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IMO, a MBA isn't going to provide much backup unless you have much more specific plans for utilizing it in your future career. For example, you said that you have a Bachelor degree in Business Aviation. If you went on to say, for example, that the research you've done and the contacts you've made all indicate that finance is an essential part of careers in this field and you will go after an MBA with an emphasis in finance, then I'd endorse your effort. But a general MBA from a mid-tier school isn't aimed specifically enough and won't be much of a back-up.

What are you doing in the service now? What are your job skills and what is your experience? What specific license, certification or degree could you obtain that would (in the opinion of recruiting / employment experts) significantly enhance your employability?
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Gotadimple View Post
I have an MBA that I got by attending classes and doing some online classes, when it made sense. I had an Assistant Dean tell me about how important the networking aspect of an MBA was.

I asked him who he was in touch with from his cohort, now that he had his degree for more than 5 years. Answer: No one. Did he ever get a referral to an open position from anyone in his cohort? Answer: No.

The networking aspect can be useful while you are earning your degree and for a short time afterward. The most important things you get from a Masters degree are your ability to communicate clearly, and critical thinking.

-- Rita
Although you may need to ask some folks with real jobs outside of academia.
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:06 PM   #8
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IMO, a MBA isn't going to provide much backup unless you have much more specific plans for utilizing it in your future career. For example, you said that you have a Bachelor degree in Business Aviation. If you went on to say, for example, that the research you've done and the contacts you've made all indicate that finance is an essential part of careers in this field and you will go after an MBA with an emphasis in finance, then I'd endorse your effort. But a general MBA from a mid-tier school isn't aimed specifically enough and won't be much of a back-up.

What are you doing in the service now? What are your job skills and what is your experience? What specific license, certification or degree could you obtain that would (in the opinion of recruiting / employment experts) significantly enhance your employability?
In the military I currently manage a group of 125+ personnel. In addition I have ATC and airfield management certifications. My thinking was that already managing and leading a large amount of people in a large organization like the U.S. military proves my ability to manage. The MBA would prove my ability to understand business, therefore creating what I would think would be a pretty marketable resume for some type of management position. Where and doing what? I'm not sure, but at least it would open some doors for me if the FAA does not work out.
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:10 PM   #9
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I guess going back to my original question, barring any cost I would get my MBA. So in other words, if it were free I would do it without hesitation. The hesitation is the 13K cost (reduced for activy duty, normally closer to 25K). Especially if I end up not using it. Also, if I did go for it, should I pay cash and sacrafice the additional savings into an emergency fund I will need for the time I am unemploymed post-military, or take student loans and save the cash?
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:12 PM   #10
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Thanks so far for the responses. To clarify however, the online MBA is from Oklahoma State University, so it is not an off brand online-only university. There is no doubt that the degree is worth more than the paper it is printed on since it is a nationally recognized university. The point about missing the networking aspect is a good one, but since this is more for a backup degree that doesn't bother me too much.
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In the military I currently manage a group of 125+ personnel. In addition I have ATC and airfield management certifications. My thinking was that already managing and leading a large amount of people in a large organization like the U.S. military proves my ability to manage. The MBA would prove my ability to understand business, therefore creating what I would think would be a pretty marketable resume for some type of management position. Where and doing what? I'm not sure, but at least it would open some doors for me if the FAA does not work out.
I think $13K is a very small risk to invest in your future, especially if you find other fields to complement your FAA plan.

Go do it. The worst that will happen is you'll get started and figure out that it's not what you thought.

I realize that TA may carry an obligation you don't care to accept, but have you already looked at what the GI Bill can do for the tuition? And does OSU agree with the GI Bill's estimate, or can they cut you even more of a break?
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:36 PM   #11
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In the military I currently manage a group of 125+ personnel. In addition I have ATC and airfield management certifications. My thinking was that already managing and leading a large amount of people in a large organization like the U.S. military proves my ability to manage. The MBA would prove my ability to understand business, therefore creating what I would think would be a pretty marketable resume for some type of management position. Where and doing what? I'm not sure, but at least it would open some doors for me if the FAA does not work out.
Think about and explore specific careers/jobs you would apply for. Find out what experience, skills and other attributes successful people in those fields have. It may very well turn out that your MBA plans would be perfect..... or perhaps something else, such as a license or certification, would be more helpful.

Given your current responsibilities and your comments, it's unlikely an MBA could do any harm and depending on what type of opportunities popped up, could be helpful. But it will be an expense and a considerable effort.

I finished my MBA, part time, 27 years ago. It was a great experience and definitely expedited my career. But those were different times. The industry was booming and insiders willing to improve their skills, accept responsibility and work hard were moving along rapidly at MegaCorp. Things seem to have detiorated a tad bit since then..........

If you enjoy working on the MBA material and the expense is easily managable, why not?

For me, unless paying cash as you go creates an uncomfortable liquidity problem, I'd pay cash. Every time you write that check, you'll have an opportunity to consider the value of the program to you. And if you happen to not finish for some reason or another, you won't have a loan hanging over your head. Follow Nord's advise and be diligent that you're getting the best deal you can from both the school and from your employer.
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:51 PM   #12
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I know around here, in my fed job, education doesn't count for much.

But, for $13K I'd do it. Once you have it, you have it for life and as long as its from an accredited school it may eventually come in handy.

Now may be the best time to knock it out- especially if you have the time.

Would the $13K be better in your emergency fund in case you can't land a job quickly?
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Old 01-03-2012, 01:38 PM   #13
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It sounds like you already have very good experience. I would think that can land you a decent job without an MBA. Who you know and how they think if you is much more important than the letters behind your name.

I think it's important to remember a university is a business, the degree is their product. It's a high cost product and will be marketed accordingly.

I think often, the type of people that are willing to go through the MBA programs, are the type of people that were going to do well anyway. Corellation does not imply causation and all that.

The opportunity costs of your time and money are significant in this case. What are the expected incremental benefits over not doing it? Do they justify it?

I personally would only consider an MBA if it were possible to attend a top tier school - HBS, Sloan, Kellog, Booth, etc. I am not confident a lower tier degree would yield more pay over self-improvement outside of school. In fact, 2 of the 4 people with my title at my last company had middle tier MBAs. We all got paid the same and did the same work. Nobody cared about their letters.

Also, it really comes down to the career path you want to follow. I've worked with programmers that have MBAs. They just write code, and I always wonder what the point of earning their degree was. It seems to me they must have headed into business school without an area of specialization or target career path in mind. It seemed like a waste.

Getting an MBA is something I have considered on and off for awhile now. So far the decision has been not to, and I am sure my bias comes through. I think I could get into a top tier school, but I am not confident I want the career that comes with it. 50+ hour weeks, full work / life integration, decades managing people... It all sounds very tiring.
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Old 01-03-2012, 01:44 PM   #14
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Also, look at the stats on the school:

University of Oklahoma (Price) | Best Business School | US News

20% employed upon graduation? Average base salary of 60k? I know teachers earning that, and they get 3 months off of school every year...
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Old 01-03-2012, 01:46 PM   #15
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I have an MBA that I got by attending classes and doing some online classes, when it made sense. I had an Assistant Dean tell me about how important the networking aspect of an MBA was.

I asked him who he was in touch with from his cohort, now that he had his degree for more than 5 years. Answer: No one. Did he ever get a referral to an open position from anyone in his cohort? Answer: No.

The networking aspect can be useful while you are earning your degree and for a short time afterward. The most important things you get from a Masters degree are your ability to communicate clearly, and critical thinking.

-- Rita
+1
I also have an MBA. I hear that they are required to get that pizza delivery job.
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Old 01-03-2012, 04:44 PM   #16
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Also, look at the stats on the school:

University of Oklahoma (Price) | Best Business School | US News

20% employed upon graduation? Average base salary of 60k? I know teachers earning that, and they get 3 months off of school every year...
You are absolutely correct that education is a business, and Master degrees have become quite popular. When you pump out a lot of Masters degrees, the value of the degree goes down. That's why the stats look as they do.

The value of a Master's degree from a top tier university is extremely helpful for one with little work experience. But when you've worked for 10+ years, what matters is what you have done, not where you have studied.

When you look at the accreditation standards of top tier schools, and mid-tier schools you'll find they are exactly the same. Of course, Harvard isn't accredited, but that doesn't seem to matter to those who hire inexperienced talent from the school. Further, when you look at Harvard's curriculum and compare it to curriculum at other schools, you'll find it is exactly the same.

As a purchaser of education, you can pay for the name, or you can pay for an education. In the end, it is simply a business decision.

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Old 01-03-2012, 07:21 PM   #17
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Also, look at the stats on the school:
University of Oklahoma (Price) | Best Business School | US News
20% employed upon graduation? Average base salary of 60k? I know teachers earning that, and they get 3 months off of school every year...
Pffft. According to my alma maters, I'm chronically unemployed.

I've watched dozens of officers go through dozens of MBA programs, from Harvard to UH. The school and the professors and the curriculum are just the thin sheen of polish on the... underlying material. The most important ingredient is the student.

And in the case of this one, he'll make a little education go a very long way!
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:26 PM   #18
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I'd go for it. The cost is very reasonable, it will be a wonderful experience and you will learn a lot, expand your skills and be more marketable.

And it is true that I am not in touch with anyone from my MBA program, but admittedly I moved away and have been out of touch.
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:02 AM   #19
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If the underlying material is all that matters, why not just study it on your own?
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:18 AM   #20
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MBAs are now very common and therefore their value is discounted in the market,. They do not provide "career insurance". Having said that, studying for an MBA may give you some excellent new insights and ideas that may open your mind to more opportunities. What you make of those opportunities is up to you. The cost of this MBA is low, so if you have the interest, I would say go for it. There will never be a better time.

I got a middle tier MBA 12 years ago (face to face) and it has transformed my career. Or more precisely, it gave me the tools I needed to do so.
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