You Decided to Pursue an MBA. How Do You Determine Whether or Not It’s a Quality MBA Program?

By Gail Whitaker, DM, Former University Dean of Business and Management

CTU Business Degree - Choosing a Quality MBA ProgramQuestions concerning the selection of the right MBA program came out of my earlier blog, “A Question of Degree: Will an MS or an MBA Do?".  In response to these, I have developed the following list of five signs that point to a quality MBA program. The top five were prioritized based on qualities employers are expecting from graduates as noted at the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Conference forum, “Higher Education and the Nation’s Employers: Charting Paths to Meet Workforce Needs of the 21st Century.”

  1. Problem-Solving and Critical-Thinking Skills: A quality MBA program should include curriculum innovations that would enhance a student’s problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.  Employers discussed the need for employees to walk in the door with the ability to:
    • Identify the cause and source of problemo Know how to use analytical skills to filter option
    • Recommend a course of action
    • Effectively implement recommended solutions
  2. A quality MBA program should integrate various problem-based learning and simulation activities  in its curriculum.
  3. Global Leadership: A quality MBA program will go beyond just offering one global leadership course. Employers are looking for employees who know how to effectively perform in a global environment and work with diverse teams, clients and partners. At the ACE Conference, employers discussed how students should know about the global landscape and emerging geographic markets.
    A quality MBA program should integrate learning of global leadership competencies to effectively prepare students for the real world.
  4. Industry Awareness: Students need to be aware of the emerging trends and future challenges facing their professional industries. Employers need employees who are positioning their organizations to take advantage of emerging trends and minimize the risks of future challenges and threats. In assessing MBA programs, it is important to look at the following:
    • Faculty qualifications
    • Experience and expertise of the program’s Industry Advisory Board
    • Faculty contributions to publications (blogs, white papers, research and books) in the industry
    A quality MBA program should have teaching faculty with real-world experience in their discipline of teaching.
  5. Industry Knowledge: Employers at the ACE Conference expressed a need for employees with industry knowledge. A quality MBA program will align its curriculum with the industry’s standards and body of knowledge. This alignment is a continuous process that requires ongoing quality improvements and updates to the curriculum and faculty qualifications.
    A quality MBA program will integrate a continuous-improvement process to ensure its curriculum aligns with the industry’s standards.
  6. Team Skills: Employers consistently mentioned how employees need to have the ability to work with various teams, including virtual, global and demographically diverse teams. Employees need to have the communication, problem-solving and group dynamic skills to create or lead high-performing teams. These team skills are often learned, developed or enhanced through group work and problem-solving activities in higher education. 
    A quality MBA program will integrate team activities and group work as part of its curriculum standard.

Students seek an MBA to start a new career or advance their current careers. They want to be able to market themselves effectively by matching their skills to employers’ needs. A quality MBA program should include these aforementioned elements to address the expectations expressed by employers. 

Which elements do you think are important for an MBA program?

Image Credit: Flickr/Chuck Coker