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Testing the MBA programs

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With the growing popularity of online classes, it seems as if anybody, anywhere can earn a master’s degree in business. According to one business-school leader, more than 100,000 MBA degrees were handed out last year alone.

Employees who have advanced business education and skills are valuable assets to a company. However, whether you are an employer thinking about hiring an MBA grad or subsidizing a current employee’s MBA tuition, you need to know that an MBA isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition for businesses.

Debra J. Ringold, dean of Willamette University’s MBA program in Salem, says it is most important to look at the curriculum standards of the teaching institution. Find out if the school has been accredited by a major organization such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. There are similar groups, but their requirements of core classes, skills and rigor varies. “It’s like a seal of approval,” Ringold says.

The popular trends in MBA education are degrees that emphasize business ethics or leadership. But beware, Ringold says, because these programs might skimp on other core skills such as finance, marketing and managerial expertise. The best MBA degree is still the broad or “generalist” MBA, she says.

“It’s clear some programs are the flavor of the month,” she says.

But specialized MBA applicants should not be tossed aside in the resume pile. They may be exactly what you are seeking. For example, as the health-care industry grows larger and sustainability issues become more pressing, business schools are responding by offering MBA degrees specific to those areas, says Alain Gracianette, chair of the MBA program at Marylhurst University.

Ultimately, it’s about “what is going to give your company a competitive edge,” he says.

Knowing what that edge is will help you pinpoint what kind of MBA program your company should be looking at and where to get it at the best price, says Gracianette. Just because a program is more expensive than others doesn’t mean it’s better quality or gives you what you need, he says.

When looking for a job candidate with an MBA, a company should consider the applicant’s job experience, internships and undergraduate education, he says. Just because somebody has an MBA doesn’t mean they’re up to the business tasks at hand, adds Gracianette.

In the global marketplace, “You want not just thinkers,” he says, “but also doers.”


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