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The value of an MBA

An advanced degree has added weight when coupled with experience.

By Tina BorgattaPublished: May 01, 2010

In the wake of the recession, there’s no better time to evaluate your competitive positioning in the work force. Is it time to consider going back to school? Does an MBA give you a leg up in the job market? Thomas Toole, the founder and CEO of Management Recruiters of Laguna Hills/Orange County, has been placing professionals in key positions for more than 20 years. Here’s what he had to say about the value of an MBA.

Borgatta: Speaking from the view of an executive recruiter or prospective employer, when you find out that someone has an MBA, what does that tell you about that person?
Toole: They may have a higher intelligence. They value education and may have obtained the MBA to have an advantage. It may also be a red flag – perhaps they couldn’t get a good job after earning a bachelor’s degree. As with any candidate, the individual should be interviewed to determine the person’s understanding of real-world business problems and relationships.

B: Does it matter what type of MBA program an individual has completed – online courses vs. class instruction?
T: Traditionally, classroom types have been desired, especially from top 10 grad schools. But in today’s challenging economy, real, verifiable and related experience easily trumps advanced education in almost any business environment, with jobs in teaching and medicine being the exceptions. The combination of current experience, while at the same time pursuing a master’s or MBA program, is the strategy to follow.

B: How has the value of an MBA increased over the years?
T: The largest companies – Fortune 200 firms, for example – still have entry feeder positions for which competitive MBAs are mandatory. For these target positions, a classroom-based MBA program is a very good early strategy. But experience is most important. Just five to 10 years ago, there was heavy competition for strong MBAs. Today, however, there are fewer jobs and tighter budgets. People are now looking for and paying for performance. Many employers view people with exclusively a book-learning background as lacking in real-world experience. They need someone to step in and perform – almost immediately.