Friday, March 11, 2011

What to look for in an MBA/marketing program

Well, I guess it depends on who is looking and for what purpose. Whether you expect to gain professionally or just to satisfy your appetite for knowledge, one common and desirable attribute of your chosen MBA/marketing program is clear: It needs to provide quality education.

As is true in general for any MBA program, you are likely to get more out of your marketing concentration once you have had some business and work experience, especially the kind involving high engagement with people.

In short, if you are fresh out of school and looking for a piece of paper to magically land you a six-figure salary right out of the gate, sorry, this article might not be for you ...

So, what kind of questions should you ask yourself?

Program content. A good place to start would be the program content, the "what" questions. Are the marketing topics addressed in the program relevant to today's, and more important, tomorrow's marketplace? Are the articles and textbooks current? Are customers, existing and prospects, a central focus of the program? Is there a story line to the program that is compelling and innovative? Is the program well integrated, providing the proper support for high-level marketing courses? Has the program withstood an external peer review to attest to its rigor and value? Without solid integrated content, the end value and relevancy of your education might be questionable.

Teaching staff. The next area to explore could be the teaching staff, the "who" questions. How qualified are the instructors teaching the courses? Do they have both high/terminal degrees and substantive or direct work experience to share? Do their interests and expectations make you want to learn from them? Effective marketing requires art and science. The instructor's aptitude is what brings both to life. Marketing teaching should be applicable, involving hands-on learning, not just learning "about marketing."

Availability and engagement. Teaching marketing (and many other disciplines) ought to be a high-contact, yet flexible engagement, which leads to the next set of questions you should explore, the "how" questions. How available are the instructors and faculty to regularly talk to and meet with students? How much interaction (peer-student-instructor) is built into the course through discussions and other pedagogic tools -- more than 50 percent of the course workload? Is the program flexible enough to accommodate the busy schedule of adult learners?

The keen reader will observe that the answers for most, if not all of the above questions, should be readily found within the program's published information -- that is, if it is a transparent, quality program.

A deficient program can easily be masked with an expensive PR campaign. Branding a quality program takes one success story at a time. Check the social buzz and reputation associated with your selected program and seek out alumni testimonials. Specifically, try to confirm the answers you have found to the questions above.

You have probably noticed that I've ignored the typical questions about program cost and duration. In the long-run, investing $3,000 more or less in the program, or graduating three months earlier or later, are insignificant in comparison to the value at stake.

Not to completely duck the question -- carefully scrutinize programs that will cost you more than $35,000 (2011 tuition) or include fewer than four dedicated marketing courses (12-16 credits) and fewer than 12 total courses (36-40 credits). Will you get the return on investment you expect?

Also consider favorably programs that include a capstone course. This experience will solidify the learning gained throughout the program.

In summary, choosing the right MBA/marketing program for you requires that you start to act like a savvy consumer: Ask the right questions and seek the answers! You deserve nothing less.



Editor's note: While not mentioned in this article, Post University is the first university in Connecticut to offer a completely online MBA degree program.