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BY Joel Junker

On-line/Distance Learning MBA Programs for JMOs

Frequently I answer questions from junior military officers about on-line/distance learning MBA programs.  Most want to know if companies value them and, if so, which schools provide the best options.  My answers always depend on the individual’s goals, undergraduate and other graduate degrees, and military experience.  However, for the purpose of this blog post, I want to provide some general insight on how our client companies view online/distance learning MBA programs and which ones offer the most value.

1.  The on-line MBA is becoming more accepted by companies.  In the past, I have heard a few clients place less value on the on-line/distance learning MBA compared to the classroom part-time or Executive MBA programs.  This, however, has been changing, as more respected universities begin to offer on-line/distance learning degrees.  Last week, Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE,  announced he will purchase ownership in a new for-profit on-line MBA program.  I imagine this will add even more credibility to online programs.  This is good news for the JMO because most of you need the flexibility an on-line program provides.

2.  However, if provided the option, choose a quality part time or Executive MBA conducted in the classroom.  Some JMOs who are on shore duty in the Navy,  in the Air Force near a good MBA school, or have an Army assignment away from an operational unit, may have the opportunity to attend an Executive MBA or evening/weekend MBA program.  If this applies to you, I recommend you research this option and take advantage of it.  This is not to diminish my first point, but rather to highlight the fact that companies value the interaction with instructors and other students which cannot be 100% duplicated in on-line or other distance learning programs.

3. Choose a quality reputable school.  Your options for on-line/distance learning MBAs will vary from the for-profit University of Phoenix type MBA to the Duke Fuqua School of Business.  There are times I do recommend the University of Phoenix program, but when given the option, I highly recommend more traditional schools.  The curriculum at a traditional school is typically more in-depth and challenging.  Since most JMOs cannot afford or qualify for the Duke program, our candidates have found great success with Indiana, Arizona State and Auburn distance learning MBAs.  You can visit the websites of those universities to learn more about their programs.

4.  The courses you take are just as important as the quality of the school.   Most MBA programs have a core curriculum and then allow for approximately 4 electives.  Our clients value courses that involve accounting and finance, or that address managing profit and loss and budgets.  This is not to say that the other courses are not important, but instead to highlight that our clients hire JMOs to be future key leaders in their company where they will likely make financial decisions and possibly manage the profit and loss of a business area.  Finance and accounting provide a strong foundation for success in these areas.

Before making any decision on whether or not to get an MBA, other Master’s degree, or choosing which school and curriculum is best for you, I highly recommend you speak to a JMO recruiter about your marketability and which options would add the most value to you.  Occasionally, JMOs call me about opportunities to get an MBA and I make the suggestion that they wait until they start their business careers, have a company pay a portion or all of it, and get it from a quality school.  Other times, I feel a candidate must get an MBA in order to be marketable for a transition.  It always depends on a candidates’ unique background.

Joel Junker