Going Back to School During Tough Times

by Mr. Cheap

There’s a saying that when the economy turns bad, techies go to grad school which has definitely been true for me.  After the dot-com boom ended in flames, I headed back to school for my Masters, and by coincidence, soon after I started my PhD things turned south.  It worked out just about perfectly for my Masters, as 16 months later I graduated and companies had started hiring again.

I have friends graduating, and finding academic jobs is VERY tough right now.  It’s a better time to be starting a program than finishing one, and if I was at the end of my undergrad I’d  consider carrying on to a Masters if I had the opportunity (and have been encouraging my PhD friends to consider doing a post-doc).

MBA programs are graduate school for business types.  They’re typically advertised as worthwhile after you’ve spent a few years in the work force, then want to put your career advancement on steroids.  Enough people bought into this that they’ve flooded the market with MBAs.  If the program content is good (makes you a better businessman) or if it’s now the minimum qualification needed to advance (an MBA is the new BA for upwardly mobile executives) it may still would be worthwhile going through a program.

Some people, talking informally, will suggest that the real value of an MBA program comes not from the classwork, but from having a chance to spend extended periods of time with people who are serious about moving up the corporate ladder.  Classmates today will be your network tomorrow, referring jobs to each other (as you reminisce about spending an all-nighter preparing an accounting project or getting drunk together on a Friday afternoon after your last exam).

There are MBA programs at a number of Canadian universities (Queen’s, York, Toronto, Ryerson) and internationally, with varying levels of prestige (and tuition).  Each asserts that their program will more than pay for itself in increased salary over the course of a career.  I think this is probably true for people who know that they want to be managers and spend a couple decades playing corporate politics.  If someone is happy doing specialized work (like a techie), and isn’t interested in becoming management, they should probably do graduate work in their own area.  I’m suspicious that entrepreneurs would be better served using their tuition money as seed capital for a business venture, but John T. Reed often refers to concepts he learned getting his MBA at Harvard Business School that he feels made him a better real estate investor, so there might be value in non-corporate areas of your life as well.

One of my friends is involved with The Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto.  She’s working on a program which lets students get a taste of what an MBA would be like, by offering 8 three hour classes during evenings in the month of May.  Professors from the school lecture on their area of specialization and let a student know what it would be like if they took a program at the school.  It costs $3000, but half of this amount is credited towards tuition if the student then takes CERTAIN full programs at the school.  It’s like a less expensive “trial version” of an MBA.

While I’m totally biased, I definitely think this is a good way for someone living in Toronto to get a taste for what doing an MBA would be like.  If they’re on the fence, this could tell them (at a much lower cost) whether it’s worth making the time and money investment in an MBA or not.  Often companies are willing to foot the bill for education if you can sell them on how it would benefit the company over the long term.

Full detail about the program (and how to apply or get more information) is avaiable here.

The Financial Blogger is currently working on an MBA and has a number of posts on the subject.

For any readers who have done an MBA, how did you enjoy the program and did you think it was worth taking it?

Be Sociable, Share!