Published on 2012/06/14

Finding Suitable Professional Development

Finding an appropriate program can take a great deal more searching than prospective students may expect. Photo by Edith Soto.

As you might recall from my first article, I’m in the unenviable (but increasingly common) position of needing to engage in further education in order to move forward in my job. As such, I’ve spent a lot of evenings over the past month looking at websites, brochures and videos for universities offering Masters of Business Administration programs.

First was the easy decision; I wanted to do the program online instead of in-class. I like the freedom of being able to do a program on my own time and to be promoted in my job I need to keep that job. I don’t see myself having the energy to drag myself to class after work every day or on weekends. So my first step was searching “MBA programs online”.

Here’s where I would recommend people be careful. There seem to be a lot of websites that have a façade of being informational and neutral. However, after two or three of them seemed to advertise nothing but various for-profit institutions, I began to wonder whether they are sponsored by those for-profit institutions. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not ruling out the for-profits as an option, but I honestly feel like I was being taken advantage of by these providers.

I decided to take my search down to the specific institution level, which first of all is hard to do by itself. I mean, I know the local institutions, I know the big-name universities and the ones I see on TV on Saturday, but there doesn’t seem to be a unified website that ranks the better online programs that I could take.

Anyways, there are a few things that seem to be common through the websites of all these different institutions. First, it can take a surprising amount of searching to find exactly what is entailed in the courses that I will need to take. I mean, beyond the name of the course and the hours they expect it to take, there usually isn’t a same curriculum available anyways. And when there is, more often than not it’s outdated by a few years.

Second, I’m intrigued by what the actual process of taking an online MBA is going to be like but unless I want to schedule an appointment with an admissions officer (who, as I understand it, is paid to increase enrollments to the school) so I’m just not sure how neutral, honest or informative the information I would be getting will be.

Maybe schools should have links to student groups and networks available on the website so prospective students can touch base directly with other students who are currently enrolled in the program that student wants to take. Honestly that would be a huge help to me right now.

The best I’ve been able to do is going through the student and alumni groups that are on LinkedIn—I started a few discussions in a few of those groups asking about programming and the ins-and-outs of online programs, and those discussions have been useful.

Anyways, long story short, I’m still looking for options. After all, if I’m going to be paying nearly $8,000 per term for two years I had better be sure the program is everything I want and more. I know this is the path to a promotion but it seems a little much. Don’t get me wrong, my employer has a system in place to cover half the tuition (based on my performance), but the point remains. It’s a big investment for something I don’t really want to be doing, but the way the schools are advertising their programs it makes it seem like it’s money in the bag… or it makes it seem like they have to trick me to get me in the door.

Neither possibility fills me with a huge amount of confidence. I’ve set up a few meetings with those admissions counsellors and have gotten good advice from my co-workers and a few friends who have gone through similar experiences. But, like I said before, I think an unbiased list of the best programs available would be a huge help.

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