Tag: business school guidance

Everyone has a busy schedule these days. Whether it’s running kids to soccer practice, taking a full class load, or working 9 to 5, the days are full. It can feel impossible to find any extra time, but a jam-packed schedule shouldn’t cancel out a meaningful career move. It’s possible to find work-life balance and pursue your passion — especially if that passion is a life-changing degree.

This is where an Executive MBA program stands apart from the rest. An EMBA combines the benefits of an experience-based and teamwork-focused program with a schedule that works around students’ lives. Even with a lot going on, students can build the MBA leadership skills that matter most.

More flexibility, more options

If you’ve been wondering about the benefits of an Executive MBA, start by considering its flexibility. For working professionals, a traditional MBA program — typically involving two years of full-time coursework — is a tall order. An EMBA, however, is all about a flexible schedule. Once a month, students attend classes on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Work-life balance is possible with such a concentrated time commitment, so you can still be a working professional, a parent, a caretaker, and whatever you need your life to be, all while being a student as well.

Between classes, students have team meetings, complete take-home exams, or tackle relevant assignments. With these tasks completed outside of the classroom, students can be fully focused while sitting in class with their cohort. Simply put, a flexible program is extremely efficient for MBA skills development. You can still have a life while building the necessary skills.

Even with only three days in class a month, students can find many ways to support their success. Students have the benefit of working in a diverse cohort-basedprogram in two teams, one for the first 10 months of the program and another for the second 10 months. There’s also plenty of one-on-one coaching time to provide individualized mentoring, so encouragement is never far away if a student is feeling lost or overwhelmed.

Those working full time won’t be asked to set aside their work duties, either. At Olin, we want to build meaningful connections between students’ places of employment and the program because an EMBA benefits employers, too. As they progress through their program, full-time working students can expect to learn new skills that can be immediately applied to their workplaces. Employers will benefit from an employee excited to deploy their new skillset to their team, and students will benefit from their employer’s support of their learning — a win-win for all.

The benefits of an EMBA are many, and they stem from one idea: With a flexible programand the support they need, students can achieve so much more.

What sets Olin apart

Students often ask themselves, “what kind of MBA is right for me?” An EMBA program that offers a curriculum with a foundation in experience and data will give students the most benefit in future careers. This is why Olin offers an experiential, values-based, data-driven curriculum.

What does this mean? We want students to get hands-on practice when it comes to weighing facts and figures in the context of principles and impact. MBA leadership skills rely on these foundational ideas so that students can become well-rounded leaders whose decisions are supported by both facts and principles. Students will leave the program understanding the role of data in decision-making, no matter the scale.

This also means a unique learning experience. An Olin EMBA combines world-class faculty, an executive cohort, personalized leadership coaching, and executive career coaching — not to mention immersive experiences, like international residencies. All of these elements emphasize personal investment and one-on-one help.

Prepared to take on the world

What can students expect after they complete their EMBAs? Whatever their interests, they’ll have the skills and experience to achieve their career goals.

It starts with the confidence that an EMBA builds. With strong personal connections built between cohorts, mentors, and professors, students naturally learn from everyone around them. The result? They quickly build confidence in their business skills and acumen. They learn how to strategize and plan for their next steps, all with the support of those closest to them.

With confidence in their new skills, students often step into leadership roles upon completing their program. Students leave prepared to lead teams and infuse them with all the new knowledge they’ve gathered. It makes sense that companies are excited to send their employees to the Olin EMBA program. They know the benefits of an EMBA will be far-reaching, from the employee to the team and to the company overall.

If you’re a full-time working student or parent asking “is an MBA right for me?,” Olin has the answer. The Olin EMBA program combines flexibility, support, real-world experience, and world-class faculty — all in just three classroom days a month. No matter how busy your life may be, the math adds up.

Pictured above: Members of WashU Olin EMBA class 47 at the US Capitol during their Washington, DC, residency in 2017.

Olin Professor Stuart Bunderson teaching an EMBA class at WashU Olin.

If you’re a working professional and considering continuing your education, a large part of your decision to continue studying and what program to pursue is the ROI of an MBA. You want to know what the benefits and potential career impact of an MBA are for you as an individual, not just as a statistic. Once you’ve decided that continuing education is for you, you’ll want to pick a program that fits your needs.

The WashU Olin Business School offers many types of MBA programs. Before you get overwhelmed, consider whether to pursue an executive MBA or a full-time MBA program. In both programs, students can expect to receive a values-based, data-driven, leadership-focused curriculum.

Our full-time program has a subset called the global immersion, in which students travel abroad for six weeks and learn about conducting business in different cultural climates. The full-time MBA program allows students to fully dive into the experiences Olin Business School has to offer through the curriculum. If you’re working, taking care of your family, or have responsibilities that take up most of your day, however, a full-time program might not be the best fit for you.

A better option can be our part-time, leadership-focused Executive MBA program, which meets once a month for three days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Students can expect three additional residencies or immersive experiences. The part-time nature of the EMBA allows working professionals to continue working at their jobs while attending university on a flexible schedule compared to the full-time program, in which your “job” is to go to school.

How can pursuing an executive MBA degree affect your career path?

First, students are working with executives from different areas and industries in their cohorts. There is a lot of diversity in the different histories, industries and educational backgrounds of the other students. When diversity is introduced into the student cohort, it helps everyone reconsider their current ways of solving problems because they’re challenged by this new group of intelligent people.

Additionally, the Executive MBA program offers both leadership coaching and career coaching for students. Students can create and implement their own leadership trajectories for their careers. Through executive career coaching, students learn how to communicate their brands to become better leaders.

Finally, the executive network of the student cohort and business partnerships leads students to form a strong group of friendships and alliances with other companies and industries—helping students ultimately build lasting networks that help cultivate more talent going forward. With these partnerships in tow, students can return to their workplaces and make an immediate impact. Students apply what they learn on the job and help grow their own organizations or teams.

The ROI of an EMBA

We’ve hinted about it before, but graduated cohorts have found measurable ROI from their executive MBAstudies. In one of our most recent cohorts, we found that over 50% of that cohort had either been promoted or had switched to a new position during the program. This speaks to the immediate impact of what they were learning; students were able to create value in their workplace and either become promoted or feel confident enough to find their own path.

Olin’s Executive MBA program is about to enjoy its 40th year. Our educators have been constantly crafting, honing, and updating this program to keep it current, fresh and leadership-oriented. We’ve had so many great success stories over the years. Some students have been successful at running their own startups, and others have taken higher positions within their existing companies or their competitors through references from their cohort and professors.

It all comes back to that immediacy of people being able to take what they learn and apply it right away. We often talk about students “having better Mondays:” They return to work after those three days at Olin ready to execute something new they learned in their coursework. Students who embrace what they’re learning can apply these techniques right away to their work and make an impact on their careers, leading to immediate ROI and continual growth throughout their professional lives.

Pictured at top: Olin Professor Stuart Bunderson teaching an EMBA class at WashU Olin.

Maybe it just popped into your head unexpectedly this morning. Maybe it has been a nagging thought for years now.

“Should I get a master’s degree?”

It’s a question that crosses almost every professional’s mind, particularly for those looking to advance in a career, shake up their job prospects, or check something off their bucket list. Of postgraduate degrees, one of the most popular has quickly become the MBA—and for good reason.

A recent study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that nine out of 10 MBA and business master’s graduates felt business school provided a strong return on investment. The value of the degree itself was just as favorable, with 90% rating it as good, outstanding or excellent.

Given the time and expense, it’s not a decision to take lightly. You need to weigh the reasons for going, determine how you’ll pay for schooling and assess the full scope of career benefits of the degree. It’s also important to find the right program and get to know the possible alternatives to advance your career.

Taking up the coursework

Once you do choose to move forward with a postgraduate degree, it can be advantageous in more ways than you might think. That’s especially true for those debating about earning an MBA through an online program. Here’s a quick breakdown of the ways an online MBA can positively impact your goals.

1. Flexibility. Consisting mostly of busy, often highly successful adults, online MBAs meet students where they are. No matter how many hours you might work in a day, online programs offer the flexibility necessary to pursue a postgraduate degree while maintaining a full-time job.

2. Suitability. Accredited online MBA programs are a good fit for most students. They provide the same academic rigor, admission standards and networking opportunities as on-campus learning. That’s certainly been the case at Washington University’s Olin Business School. Besides, there’s an integrity level that comes with such a prestigious program.

3. Knowledge. MBAs can up the ante on your knowledge base, allowing you to bring more to the table professionally. All the students in an online program say they’ve learned exponentially more than what they’ve gleaned in their professions. You have a chance of learning the nuances of running a business both nationally and internationally.

4. Mobility. MBAs can make you incredibly mobile, as far as where you can take the degree and what you can do with it. Many positions are unavailable without it. Even if this level of degree isn’t a prerequisite, earning one can serve as an indication of your motivation, ambition and hard work—all of which can be attractive to potential employers.

5. Accomplishment. The recognition that can come when attaining the level of education that an MBA offers—online or otherwise—is unmatched in many regards. Roughly two-thirds of MBA graduates advance at least one job level after obtaining a graduate business degree, according to the GMAC study. What’s more, the median income is 75% more than their undergraduate counterparts.

Deciding on an online MBA program

One of the biggest benefits of Washington University’s online MBA program is the learn.WashU platform, a proprietary learning management system where students access courses, classmates and instructors. Think of it as a learning environment mixed with a research network. Not only can you take part in class sessions and complete assignments but shape your learning experience to suit your specific needs.

To be sure, learn.WashU is different from other learning platforms like Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, and so on. The online course delivery would be a logical comparison, but learn.WashU also offers a difference in digital course design, faculty training, media production and digital publishing. Lifelong learning modules are also available to students.

In fact, student engagement with the learning platform has exceeded expectations. They’ve really taken to it. Ultimately, learn.WashU is a whole network of different components that students can draw from while they’re working through their online MBA programs. It has become a seamless experience and a highly valuable tool for students and faculty alike.

The platform also offers career resources, individualized to the student. It matches the school’s services to students’ unique needs by getting to know each student as a person. The team listens to your goals and aspirations and then uses this information to offer guidance on where to focus your attention. Trust that there’s always someone available to coach and mentor you to better ensure success.

Above all else, the program wants students to get their degrees, so much that faculty members are on the phone with online students at 11 p.m.—literally. Learn.WashU understands that you’re busy, working adults. As bright as you may be, you will need help. Perhaps you’ll need tutoring because of a difficult course. Maybe you just need a pep talk. Whatever the case, learn.WashU keeps you connected to whatever you need to achieve your degree.

So, you’re thinking about getting an MBA. You’re worried you may not have enough work experience to meet MBA degree requirements or succeed in an MBA program. You’re wondering what you can do to make your application stronger and maximize your experiences in school. 

The secret? There’s not just one kind of student who succeeds in an MBA program. Knowing your personal “why” behind wanting your degree, being intentional in choosing meaningful experiences, and articulating those with maturity and introspection can help you be that student—no matter how much work experience you have.

How much work experience do you need to successfully apply to business school?

There’s no magic number that admissions committees are looking for when it comes to years of work experience for an MBA. Experience in the workplace will certainly benefit any MBA student; in fact, we typically see students with around five years of work experience. Often, those students have been in a working role and they’ve realized that they need specific skill sets to advance in their careers or to pivot in another direction. The MBA is the perfect way to accomplish that.

But can you get an MBA without work experience? The answer is yes.

While work experience is certainly valuable, no specific number of years guarantees an application’s success. What admissions committees are most concerned with is your ability to contribute to the classroom experience and get the most out of your MBA. To do that, students without previous work experience or a specific entrepreneurial goal in mind need to know their “why.”

Admissions committees want to see you articulate exactly why you want to be a part of their program and what you plan to get out of it. What benefits will your MBA bring to your life? How will it help you achieve your professional goals? What benefits will you bring to their program? Instead of just saying “I’ve always wanted to know more about business,” your reasoning really needs to be clear and solidified. Most of all, your “why” should be personal and show that you’ve been deeply reflective on meaningful experiences in your life or gaps in your knowledge.

What other factors help MBA students succeed?

Whether you’re applying or already working on your degree, knowing your why and targeting your experiences will ultimately benefit you in the long run. From taking specific classes that will help improve hard or soft skills to taking those opportunities outside the classroom to network, there is much a student can do to get ahead.

Extracurricular activities are a great way to diversify and build your skills and goals. Join clubs, go to seminars on and off campus and build meaningful relationships with your peers and professionals.

Your classmates are your support system for these two years, and many will likely be of some benefit to you in the future.

Having that openness to exploration—whether that be companies, industries, or networking—will help you take advantage of the experiential learning opportunities around you.

While you’re joining clubs and taking classes, remember to also volunteer to take on leadership opportunities in those forums. Whether on or off campus, leadership roles will allow you to work on people-management skills, develop networking opportunities and engage with diverse groups of people—all things you can leverage as you’re applying for an MBA or looking for internships.

Ultimately, who gets the most out of their MBA?

Students who are coming into MBA programs with work experience usually know some of their professional gaps and strengths. Maybe they’ve been through a few annual reviews or gotten a promotion or two. Most pursue an MBA wanting to contribute as much as they take away from the MBA program.

These students have specific goals, whether that be developing soft skills like management and teamwork or hard skills like data mining and forecasting. Being able to target these areas can help you maximize those strengths and develop other areas for growth.

Often, MBA students without work experience don’t have the confidence to know that they do have something to contribute. A simple but critical first step for students is to realize that you have valuable insights to share, such as professionally developed skills or other meaningful experiences. Classmates should be just as much of a resource to each other as the professors standing at the front of the classroom.

You should also be intentional about how you reflect on and articulate those contributions. As you go through the application process, include stories and anecdotes about your experiences and accomplishments in your essays. You need to be able to reflect on specific experiences and draw from those when you’re interviewing for admissions, internships and full-time employment offers.

Ultimately, there’s no work experience “required” for an MBA student to be successful at Olin Business School. Each student, regardless of work or lived experience, brings unique contexts, skills and ideas to their MBA program. Once you learn to leverage those traits by being intentional, knowing your “why,” and articulating that with clarity and reflection, the sky is the limit.

Faux chalkboard with "Why do you want to do an MBA?"

Considering entering an MBA program? Your timing is outstanding. According to research from the Graduate Management Admission Council, 91% of recruiters were planning to hire graduate management talent who possessed MBA degrees in 2021.

Reports from GetSmarter support the accuracy of those findings, revealing that 83% of companies said they planned to onboard MBAs in 2021. In other words, you’re on the right track if you’re considering pursuing an MBA degree through a rock-solid program delivered by a school with a strong reputation.

MBA seekers want to augment their undergraduate learning with the broad, comprehensive knowledge of managing a business enterprise and the skill set provided by an MBA. Another reason prospective students seek an MBA is career switching, and employees whose MBA curricula included coursework devoted to understanding the basics of managing others in the fields of analytics and technology are highly valuable in today’s data-intensive landscape.

No matter why you keep coming back to the idea of getting into an MBA program, you may find it helpful to identify yourself as a specific type of graduate student. Generally speaking, the majority of MBA students are either accelerators or pivoters.

Which type of MBA student are you?

From a broad standpoint, accelerators tend to be people whose career path includes ambitious “climb the ladder” goals. Typically, accelerators feel like they can’t take their next big step without a stronger understanding of the variety of functional areas important in the corporate world today. Through their MBA program, they expect to learn how to think strategically about the enterprise as a whole, to identify the right questions or problems to be addressed, and to address them so they can snag key promotions and rise through the ranks.

Pivoters also want education, but they want to use it to change their occupations or industries. For them, MBAs are ways to get a foot in a new door.

Take Tyler Whiteman, for example. He spent 10 years in the travel industry and did regional theater working as an actor and singer.

Tyler came to Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis for his MBA because he wanted to make a complete career switch. Ultimately, he chose to become a marketing intern for AB InBev and earned honors for his performance at the seventh-annual PepsiCo MBA Invitational Business Case Competition. He credits his WashU Olin experience for giving him a leg up against fierce competitors. Having the support of an esteemed faculty while solving real-world problems and learning the soft skills that come from working with people and organizations that represent cultures different from their own are tremendous experiential benefits.

Find the right MBA program for you

To be sure, you might be a combination of the aforementioned MBA learners. Or you might fit into a unique category. Regardless, you owe it to yourself to spend time getting to know the lay of the land when it comes to MBA programming. So many MBA programs are available.

You have the traditional immersive full-time two-year programs. You have in-person part-time programs that take longer to finish but can flex to accommodate a busy family lifestyle. Some MBA degrees can be earned partially or completely online.

It’s fairly easy to find a delivery format that will work with your schedule and circumstances.

Format isn’t the only defining factor of an MBA program, though. If you aren’t interested in taking a standardized test like the GRE or GMAT, you can still apply for many MBA programs. A significant number of schools have waived this requirement. Because there’s no guarantee those waivers will stay in place forever, you may want to take advantage of them while they’re here.

Putting a premium on globalization

It’s worth mentioning that while you can choose among a variety of delivery methods and admissions requirements, you should absolutely demand an MBA that makes global business a central feature of its curriculum.

The world is shrinking. The more global context you can bring to your business understanding, the more valued you’ll be as an employee and executive.

This is one of the reasons a cornerstone of WashU Olin’s full-time MBA program is its global immersion program. This program happens at the front end of the MBA. Students start in St. Louis and learn the foundations of values-based and data-driven decision-making. From there, they spread their wings and go to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., to discover the ways business and government align. Next, they visit Barcelona, Spain, followed by Paris and then Santiago, Chile. Over several weeks, MBA students get familiar with how marketing, consulting, supply-chain management, and so many other functional areas interact in a global context.

The global immersion program helps incoming MBA degree candidates bond with their cohort from the very start. The program becomes the basis for future learning and other opportunities, like the ability to take globally focused courses such as Olin’s African business class and exchange programs. When students move closer to graduation, they may be able to work with international companies. Case in point: Some recent MBA students worked with the Ecuadorian Soccer Federation and were able to join them at a game held in the United States.

At the end of the day, it’s easier to develop soft skills like empathy, teamwork, and communication when you’ve formed cross-cultural relationships with a variety of MBA classmates, teachers, and companies.

A successful post-MBA experience

The choice of an MBA program shouldn’t be limited to what happens during your coursework. Having access to career services matters, too. At Olin’s Weston Career Center, MBA students are provided with individualized career coaching and mentoring. This prepares them for internships and real-world jobs. As a “thank you,” many WashU alumni return to help the next generation of MBA graduates pursue their dreams and goals.

At a foundational level, your desire to earn an MBA shows that you’re ready to change at least a small part of the world. And small changes can end up having big outcomes for individuals, communities, and organizations. Whether you’re a pivoter, an accelerator or a one-of-a-kind type of MBA candidate, follow your instincts. The right MBA program can help you gain cultural competency as well as hone your skills in areas that are important to modern employers. It’s never the wrong time to become a stronger, more confident leader.