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I'm working on going back to school for my Master's. How much weight does a school name carry? Is an MBA as good as any other Master's? I'm not in a technical career field, but have thought about pursuing something in IT for a future possibility. What aabout General Leadership or General management? What are thoughts?

Tue. Dec 5, 12:05pm

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You hear a lot of somewhat conflicting stories on this. I've been a hiring manager in both software dev and telecom at different times in my career and this is my take. For typical jobs, successful experience trumps almost everything else, so choosing a school matters most when you're getting started in a field. For your main degree to qualify you in a field, a mid-tier university will probably look better and help you some compared to U of Phoenix, etc. I'd encourage anyone who can swing it to go the university route.

If you want to go into medium to big company industry, then any name that is recognized and considered OK will do, assuming you're a fit in other ways.

If you want to go into academia (research), then exactly who you studied with is a big deal, unless you turn out a paper that really breaks significant new ground.

In the professional services world (Accenture, Booz-Allen, etc.), I think a subject matter master's leads to more jobs than an MBA, but there are some of both. Usually any accredited school is OK. The ITT type of places don't count near as much. At places that are more think-tank-like (Mitre, Rand) they count for nothing.

It's hard to say much about an MBA in the abstract. Finance, marketing, some sales roles draw from the MBA pool for entry level professional jobs. In some technology businesses you need to look and be fairly solid at something besides just management - many IT things are this way. So the worth of the MBA depends on what else you bring to the table.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006, 3:33 PM

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I work at a big brokerage firm in the insurance industry. I can tell you that when HR receives resumes that list the University of Phoenix, they laugh and then toss the resume. You may be insulted by this statement, and I do not work in HR, but this is what happens.

From a business standpoint, likely if you need an MBA to be successful in that particular job, the company you join will help pay for one after a few years. It is not a necessity for most people though. If what you're looking for is expertise in a subject area because you did not get that expertise when you were getting an undergraduate degree, then a masters program is perfect. MBAs are more specific to people who want to end up in management of corporations, and need the title for credibility (in which case, going to a top-10 program is what counts) and need the contacts for sales and other industry information.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006, 3:51 PM

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I have a couple of thoughts re kind of degree, school name on degree, etc.

1. You REALLY want to look at what the career services/career placement of the school is like, including % employed/unemployed in field 6 months out, average salaries, support from career services 5 years out, etc.

2. If you can talk to grads of the school or people in the industry that you want to go into that should really help give you a sense of (a) what the degree does for people; and (b) how it is considered in your chosen field.

3. In my own field, law, the name of the law school is EVERYTHING, and even 20 years out of school, potential employers are going to be looking at the name of your law school. In other fields, I think it's completely irrelevant where you went to school. So . . . you cannot say in the abstract, well, does the name of the school on one's MBA or other kind of masters degree really matter, because it's much more specific. If you want to be an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, well, the name of your school, your grades, etc. will really matter and you will want to get an MBA and you will care where you get it from. At the other extreme, if you want to start your own business and need to pick up some technical skills, then you just find the most efficient way to get those skills, whether it's in a degree program or not.

4. Whatever you do, remember that grad school is a HUGE investment of time and money. Even if you get a free ride to school, there are the opportunity costs of not doing something else with your time. Don't jump in to a grad degree program just because it seems like the thing to do. Rather, figure out what kind of job you want to get and then work backwards and figure out what kind of grad program, if any, is going to help you getting there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006, 10:43 PM

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