How Can a Part-Time MBA Boost Your Professional Career?

How Can a Part-Time MBA Boost Your Professional Career?

Studying for an MBA part time can do wonders for your professional career, and swell your salary. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 89% of part-time MBA graduates found the degree professionally rewarding and 71% financially beneficial.

While many companies recognize the value of the degree – such as the ability to translate new knowledge directly and immediately in the workplace – some remain sceptical of its value. Employer funding for professional (generally part-time) MBAs has fallen markedly over the past two decades. Two in three students of the graduating class of 1996 were backed financially by their firm, says GMAC, which runs the GMAT test. In 2015, fewer than one in two students did. Some 63% self-funded their fees last year.

What do employers love and loathe about top part-time MBA programs? They can promote loyalty. Part-time EMBAs, for example, are a way to reward and retain future leaders. “Prospective students of top-tier EMBA programs are usually engaged individuals typically seen as top talent within their organizations,” says Paula Robles Carreno, marketing chief at INSEAD. “Allowing or sponsoring them to embark on an EMBA serves as a motivator for the individual, and acts as a retention tool for the organization.”

Flexibility is another benefit. Companies do not lose their rising stars because they work full-time. They can apply what they learn directly in the workplace, rather than two years later when the knowledge is a distant memory, or in today’s fast-moving environment, possibly out of date.

“Employers often tell us that the energy the EMBA participants bring back to the office rubs off on others,” says Carreno. “Often, the learnings are shared amongst colleagues, who indirectly benefit from the exposure. Useful frameworks, tools and insights cascade through the organization. EMBA participants also bring back new ideas that can help foster innovation.”

Encouraging or paying for an employee to pursue a part-time MBA is a smart move, says Sandy Khan, founder of IN-CO, which hosts events at which MBA students meet business leaders. “They retain talent and develop high potential leaders,” she adds. “Employees also act as ambassadors on campus and can refer candidates to the company – a key recruitment channel. And it’s cheaper, as there’s no sourcing or on-boarding process.”

However Khan, who previously recruited MBAs for Microsoft, Google and Accenture, says that ensuring employees on part-time programs stay motivated is critical to their success. “It’s important that when they finish the MBA and come back that they are given a higher position and are rewarded with a better salary. Otherwise a company will lose them to the competition.”

How can you convince an employer to pay for your part-time MBA? Show that the investment in your education is an investment in the company’s success. Detail the skills that you will learn, which can benefit the firm, such as strategic thinking. “An MBA will ramp up even your current abilities significantly,” James Stevens, senior assistant dean at UC Davis’ Graduate School of Management, wrote in a blog. “By communicating this to your employer effectively, they’ll understand that they are investing in a productivity boost without needing to add additional personnel.”

The best method is to build a broad base of support in your company, and approach the department where the funds will be coming from directly, he added. There is also a wealth of graduate school scholarships available for the brightest students.

Some employers still have concerns about top part-time MBA programs. A lack of diversity can be a downside. Getting and keeping more women in senior management jobs is a priority. There is evidence that part-time MBAs enrol fewer international and female students than full-time programs. At Berkeley-Haas School of Business, 19% of part-time MBAs are from outside San Francisco’s Bay Area, the school’s home. Just 31% are women. Comparatively, on the full-time MBA, 39% of students are from outside the US and 40% are women.

The lack of internationality can be partly explained by the difficulty part-time students face securing US visas, says Phillip Kim, director of the Blended Learning MBA at Babson College.

Another problem for employers is burnout. Those who study for an MBA part-time exert significant effort. They are usually schooled in evenings and at weekends, on top of demanding jobs. Study can affect work projects, making employees less productive or requiring time off. A company will be unhappy if this occurs, particularly if they are funding the degree.

Do part-time degrees pay off? Often, students stay with their employers. An MBA sends a message: they are ready to advance their professional career. At the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, 87% of (part-time) Evening and Weekend MBA alumni advanced in, or switched, their careers within three years of graduation, while all of them increased compensation. In addition, 71% were more satisfied in their jobs.

There are extra benefits for part-time students. The courses are flexible, so you don’t have to quit your job or give up a salary. Going back into education can also reinvigorate those who have become stagnant, and catalyze a career change. And you’ll develop a strong alumni network, helping facilitate your next career move. Ultimately, a part-time MBA can be a boon for both the employer and the employed. But it will require careful research and planning, and close collaboration between all parties.

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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