Not all programs are equal Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007
In today’s fast-paced business culture, companies need employees who are highly educated in all aspects of business, as well as certain specialized areas.

One way to ensure that your employees have the education they need to make your business succeed is by having them enroll in and complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

“An employee with an MBA will be in a better position to manage people, work in teams, know when to follow and when to lead, and know how to ask the right questions and to get the information needed to make good decisions,” says Dr. Gail Naughton, dean of the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University.

Smart Business spoke with Naughton about MBA programs, how to choose one and how an employee with an MBA can be a valuable asset.

How could an employee who holds an MBA benefit a company?

MBA students are equipped to deal with issues relating to both managing people and teams, and managing innovation and growth. While undergraduate programs tend to focus on preparing students for entry-level positions in specific areas, much of an MBA program focuses on the integration of the specific business function areas into the bigger picture. Companies often have outstanding scientists, engineers and technology people who are in a position to lead and supervise others, but are thrown into a management position without proper education and training.

Rather than going for the quick-fix seminars and training, MBAs will have a variety of course work in their program stretched out over a longer period of time. They get to deal with a variety of examples, assignments, business case studies and interact with other students to better prepare them for the multitude of situations they will face in their companies. MBAs are better problem-solvers and not only focus on answers, but how to ask the right questions and to research the situation.

What should a company look for in an MBA program?

Much of this depends on the type of business, the nature of the company, its needs and its presence outside of the local area. However, I would suggest that they look for a local program accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) that has a strong international/global curriculum. A local program will be most in tune with the conditions and parameters of the local economy and the international/global focus will allow students to build the skill sets needed to compete in international markets. Even if a company does not compete in an international market, much of its competition might. A company should also look for an MBA program with high admissions and graduation standards. Students learn not only from their professors, but also from each other, so having bright and motivated classmates greatly enhances the value of the MBA experience for students.

Can programs be specialized to meet a company’s specific needs?

Certainly. At SDSU we’ve done programs at various San Diego companies, including Qualcomm and Hewlett-Packard. We are able to tailor examples, assignments and cases to fit a specific culture. However, we also recognize that companies need to be flexible and adaptive to change, both internally and externally, so that part of a company’s specific need is dealing with uncertainty, innovation and growth.

What factors need to be considered when a company is choosing an MBA program?

Several factors may be important. Would employees prefer something in-house or at a campus? After hours or during work hours? Face-to-face instruction or distance education? What is the frequency of class meetings? What support will the company give to its students? Sometimes, it’s valuable to interact with students from other companies, who often can offer a different perspective or confirm situations similar to what students experience at their own company. A company should also consider program costs since the time to recoup its investment may be greater for the relatively expensive programs.

How does an MBA benefit the employee?

In a recent Graduate Management Admission Council survey of alumni of MBA programs, 97 percent of the respondents were satisfied to extremely satisfied that their education was personally rewarding, while 94 percent were satisfied to extremely satisfied that their degree was professionally rewarding. For this same group, 87 percent were satisfied to extremely satisfied that their degree was financially rewarding. Plus, any employee with an MBA from an accredited institution is going to be in a better position to understand the company’s big picture and how different divisions need to work together in the best interest of the organization.

DR. GAIL NAUGHTON is the dean of the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University. Reach her at (619) 594-1575 or