Benefits of higher education Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

The business world is more competitive than ever today. Companies compete for market share, and people compete for jobs. It’s not as easy as it used to be, and often a higher education degree can be the difference between you and another person vying for the same job.

Jennifer Garrabrant knows that all too well. That’s why she’s currently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program offered by Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) at several Ohio campuses, including Cincinnati. So far, she’s seen her pursuit of higher education result in numerous promotions at work, and she’s not stopping there.

Smart Business spoke with Garrabrant on how she’s been able to juggle a job with school and what skills she expects to have once she completes her degree.

How has pursuing a higher education degree helped your career?

I received my bachelor’s degree in business administration from MVNU in July 2006. In October 2006, I started the MBA program with an expected completion date of July 2008. My education is definitely going to help me reach my career goal, which is to become a college professor. With that in mind, I’ll go straight into a Ph.D. program after I complete my MBA.

Achieving that does not happen overnight. I’ve still got a long way to go before I get there. In the meantime, I’m working full-time in the banking industry. I started out as a teller and, within nine months, was promoted to customer service representative (personal banker). Two years after that, I was promoted to assistant branch manager. One of the requirements for that position was a business degree in finance, business administration or a related field. So my degree had a lot to do with helping me get promoted at my current place of employment.

What are the skills you’ve attained that you can now use to attract an employer?

I have gained many skills throughout my educational experience, including research skills, which are gained through working on many research projects; written communication skills, which are gained by using practical, real-world applications through case studies, short and long essays, etc.; oral communication skills, which are gained through giving multiple presentations in each class; organizational skills; management skills; computer skills; and interpersonal skills, which are gained by working on group projects and presentations.

Other skills I’ve attained include communicating effectively, coaching skills, leading by example, project planning, analytical and problem solving skills, motivating people toward a common goal and team building skills.

Would you recommend higher education to other adults?

I would strongly recommend higher education to other adults. Having a bachelor’s or master’s degree will make a person much more marketable to employers. Many of the positions I came across throughout many job searches required a bachelor’s degree. I’m also beginning to see that many companies are looking for people with a master’s degree. Higher education is very important, and you’re never too old to go back to school. There was one gentleman in my Bachelor of Business Administration program whose goal, after completing his degree, was to retire!

How have you been able to juggle school with work or other responsibilities?

Working full time and going to school full time has been very challenging as it requires a great deal of time and commitment. Were it not for the Adult and Graduate Studies program offered by MVNU, I don’t know that I would have been able to continue my education. The Adult and Graduate Studies BBA and MBA programs are designed specifically for working adults. I only attend class one night a week for four hours — usually from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. — and only have to worry about one class at a time. Depending on the program, it can take from 19 to 21 months to complete. There’s a heavy workload — some classes more than others — and a lot of on-your-own study time. There’s also a low student-to-professor ratio, which allows for more individual attention.

How would you compare yourself now to when you entered the program?

I’m much more confident now than when I started my BBA program. Most people have a fear of speaking in front of others, and I did too. I used to be terrified to talk in front of a crowd of people. But because I had to make several presentations in my classes, I’ve become a lot better, and that’s just one more skill I attribute to higher education. I’ve also learned what it means to lead by example, to solve problems by thinking creatively, to motivate people toward a common goal and to build a team that works efficiently and effectively together. I’ve grown not only in business knowledge but as an individual as well.

JENNIFER GARRABRANT is a student in the Master of Business Administration program offered by Mount Vernon Nazarene University. For more information contact MVNU in Cincinnati at (513) 722-2085.