Dr. Randall Hansen is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home page of The Career Doctor.
If you have any career- or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue (01/18/02):
- Does the name of the university or the degree matter most for MBAs?
- Which is better for a finance career? An MBA or a master’s degree in finance?
- How an MBA program’s ranking affects the perception of its graduates
- Tips for writing a letter declining a job offer
|Q:||William Bailey writes: I currently live in Pittsburgh PA. I eventually want to live in Cincinnati OH. Having said that I am the process of deciding which MBA program to attend. If I am not going to go to a top tier school (Ivy League Maxwell School Of Business Stanford etc) does it matter which program I attend? My two choices are either University of Pittsburgh or Robert Morris College. One school is (Univ. of Pitt) is a little bit better known. When it comes right down to it do employers look at the degree or the school or both and does it all matter if it isn’t a top tier school?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Both. Unless you are going to a top tier MBA program it’s my firm belief that the most important factors when choosing an MBA program are: (1) scope and breadth of reputation (2) strength of the MBA placement (3) fit with education program and (4) costs and financial assistance.
Scope and breadth of reputation. You should do some research with various employers and recruiters as to the strength of an MBA program. Many schools now offer MBAs and while the degree is the key the school’s reputation is critical. And if you are confident that for the next five years or so you are going to live in a certain area then I would focus my attention on the schools with the greatest reputation in that area. Once you’re about five years out from your MBA where you got it won’t matter except for bragging rights in the locker room.
Strength of MBA placement. You want an MBA program that can deliver the companies and recruiters to you so that you have multiple job offers. Placement is related to a program’s reputation but a school can have a solid reputation with a weak placement program. Ask for placement results.
Fit with education program. There are numerous types of MBA programs from what I call vanilla programs (usually one-year programs) to very specialized MBA for medical professionals educational leaders etc. You need to find a program that offers the specific classes and education you need to move to your next career step.
Costs and financial assistance. The ideal scenario of course is when your current employer pays for your MBA. When that’s not the case you need to take a hard look at the costs any possible financial assistance and your expected financial returns from the MBA’think of it as a cost-benefit analysis for each MBA program.
I’ve just completed an article on this subject and it has a lot more depth of information analysis and resources than I can offer in this space. Please read: The Master of Business Administration: Is the MBA Worth the Time Effort and Cost?.
|Q:|| Peter Haykowski writes: I’m currently working in economics consulting (Big 5) in London and have done so for 2.5 years. My short term career aspiration is to get into corporate finance and I am therefore planning to apply to a grad school. The question that I’m facing is whether to go for Master’s Finance or MBA and which school to choose. There seems to be very little information about Master’s courses as there is for MBA’s i.e. rankings comparison etc.
I would therefore appreciate if you could give me advice on the above and also point me in the right direction in terms of publicly available information.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: From the research I’ve seen the choice between an MBA and a master’s degree (usually a master’s of science) in finance deals with the level of depth you in finance and economics you wish to receive. An MBA with an emphasis or specialty in finance is going to provide you with a broader business focus than a master’s in finance which appears to equip you with some very specific risk-management tools. Here’s what one program that offers a master’s degree in finance says: “Graduates are equipped for positions with financial institutions and risk management areas within corporations and government organizations.”
Another twist is whether you would want a program that has an emphasis on international finance.
I suggest you take two routes to discovering the best degree for your career goals.
First I would conduct informational interviews (read more here) with vice presidents or directors of finance at several corporations. Since the goal of an informational interview is to gain insight your focus should be on the asking about the value of the two degrees (and various programs as well) not only for gaining a position in corporate finance but also in terms of career advancement value. The benefit of doing these interviews is not only the information you receive — and possible recommendations — but the strengthening of your network of contacts. Second I would talk to the graduate directors at several of the universities and solicit their advice for the type of degree that best fits what you want to accomplish in your career. From my research I found that many of the schools that offer a master’s degree in finance also offer an MBA so bias should be minimal. Talk about internships and placement; seek information about the careers of their alumni.
|Q:||Terrance Dunlap writes: Career Dr: I am scheduled to begin my masters in business administration this spring. However the ranking of the grad program that I am attending is low; will the ranking of a graduate program effect perspective employers’ perception of me? I do not anticipate working for a Fortune 500 company but I do wish to be marketable. Thanks.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: As I alluded to in the first letter if your ambition is to work at a Fortune 500 or top global corporation a degree from a ‘known’ program (one in the top of the various rankings) will certainly give you a big edge but as I have stated in numerous occasions it is NOT the most qualified job-seeker who get the job but the most prepared job-seeker who excels in job interviews. To me rankings are purely public relations opportunities for the programs and bragging rights for the graduates.
Since your ambition it not working for a Fortune 500 company in the foreseeable future then the real key is the program’s (and the university’s) reputation in your area. Contact people in your professional organization local area chambers of commerce and people in your current company and seek their opinions of the school and its MBA. Contact the school and ask to see a list of alumni placement for the past few years.
Perhaps the bigger question for you is whether an MBA will be worth it for you at this point in your career. For these reasons I also recommend to you my latest article: The Master of Business Administration: Is the MBA Worth the Time Effort and Cost?
|Q:|| Paula Hallahuhta writes: I’ve been trying to find a web page where I can get advice how to write a letter to a company that has offered me a job. After careful consideration I have decided not to take the job and wanted to send a nice and polite letter declining the offer. I don’t have experience in this and wanted to know where can I find sample letters that I can modify.
Thank you for your help with this.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Kudos to you for being a smart and courteous job-seeker! You never want to burn any bridges because you never know when a new opportunity will arise with that employer.
Declining letters are fairly easy to write. You basically want to thank the employer for the opportunity praise the employer stress the difficulty of making the decision and offer best wishes for continued success. That’s it; short and sweet. Three paragraphs.
As with any other job correspondence be sure to edit your letter and check (and double-check) for typos.
You can go to Quintessential Careers for a sample letter declining a job offer.