What Is Your M.B.A. Worth? - Page 4 of 6

What Is Your M.B.A. Worth?

management training and development programs, they require M.B.A.’s to have significant functional experience and specific skill sets before hiring them. This, as well as increased competition, is forcing her and other M.B.A.’s to consider lower-paying, lower-prestige positions. She is relying heavily on the Harvard Business School alumni network and personal and professional contacts to ferret out new job leads. Even though things are difficult, she insists the degree is worth it because she believes, “It’s no longer sufficient to have just an undergraduate degree if you want to advance to levels of upper management in corporate America.”

Wanda Newman also felt pressure to get an M.B.A. in order to advance her career. The 42-year-old product development and marketing manager is working as a consultant for Thompson, Cobb, Brazilio & Associates in Washington, D.C., while she prepares to relocate to New Jersey with her fiancée this summer. Newman, who has more than a decade of experience in marketing and product management at companies such as Nextel Communications, Network Solutions Inc., and MCI, worked full time for NeuStar Inc. until its Washington, D.C., office relocated to Sterling, Virginia, last year.

While she doesn’t have a full-time job now, she says the degree she earned from the University of Maryland’s Online M.B.A. Program in June 2001 has paid dividends already. “I’ve been able to command more in salary, and I feel it’s been a lot easier to get consulting assignments,” she says. And since she has started her job search she notes, “Headhunters and hiring managers engage me in conversations quicker. The degree, coupled with my experience, opens doors faster.”

Newman is confident she will find full-time employment before the end of the year because she is diligent about using the network of contacts she developed while earning her degree, as well as the new contacts she continues to form at events like the National Black M.B.A. Conference held in Nashville. “I arranged five interviews while I was at the conference in September and I’ve also used Internet job boards and have worked with some executive recruiters to find the right opportunity.”

As well respected in the marketplace as an M.B.A. is, it is not necessarily the right thing for everyone. “You really have to examine why you’re trying to obtain the degree in the first place,” says Cobb. “The value of the M.B.A. degree is really more rooted in the skills you learn in whatever program you attend—[skills] that enable you to add more value in the job for the organization for which you are functioning (or hope to function), in the specific position you are seeking.” If the M.B.A. doesn’t help you do that, then you probably haven’t maximized its value, and the company you want to work for probably won’t hire you. So what’s your M.B.A. worth? Like life, it’s often worth only what you’re willing to make of it.

With millions of people out of work due to the slumping economy, it’s been difficult for even the most