CIO’s With No Time Find An Alternative To An MBA

by drjim on June 9, 2010

Image CreditIf You Really Want An MBA But Don’t Have The Time, Maybe There’s Another Way…

If You Really Want An MBA But Don’t Have The Time, Maybe There’s Another Way…

As CIO wanna-be’s who live in troubling times we are always trying to do two things: hold on to our jobs and be more successful. One of the best ways to do both of these, or so we have been told, is to go out and get an MBA. Well that’s all great and fine if you’ve got four or five years to burn, don’t need to do anything else at night, oh and have a big chunk of cash sitting around that you had no other plans for. Maybe it’s time to look for a better way to accomplish what we’re trying to do…

Say Hello To The Alternative To The MBA

Before you decide to either quit your IT job and go back to school in order to get an MBA (really, really expensive) or start going to night school to get an MBA (just really expensive), maybe you should take a moment and consider all of your options. Maybe what you really want is a specialized Master’s degree.

Yeah, yeah – I know what you are thinking. We’ve all been drinking the “get an MBA” Kool-Aid for so long that it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. However, depending on what you want to do with your life, this might actually be a better solution for you.

If having spent time being on the IT side of the company has gotten you interested in what goes on over on the business side, then getting an advanced business degree of some sort is probably a good idea. However, one of the things that keeps us from doing this is often the time involved to get the degree.

The Appeal Of Specializing

Business schools and online universities are starting to get the message. They are beginning to offer more and more specialized business programs that are only 12 months long. In the 2008-2009 school year there were 645 programs offered. This is up from the 614 programs that had been offered just two years earlier.

What these types of degrees offer are parts of the typical MBA curriculum, but they are often more technical in nature and generally spend less time on general management skills.

Here in lies the rub: these types of specialty business degrees are not designed to get you promoted to eventually become the CEO. Rather what they are designed to do is to sharpen your business skills in a narrow area and make you more valuable to the company in your current job. Since we’re interested in becoming the CIO, not the CEO, this might be just what we’re looking for.

This type of continuing education especially appeals to nre IT professionals: those who don’t have the five years of work experience that most MBA programs require for entrance. No matter if this is your case, or if you’ve just found some part of the company’s business side that you are really drawn to, a narrowly focused master’s degree might be just the ticket for you.

What To Do With Your New Degree

Ok, so let’s say that you bite the bullet and run off and skip the MBA and instead get a very focused master’s degree in marketing, finance, or some other business discipline. What then?

It turns out that taking this path, might feel like the right thing for you to do, but as they like to say on TV, your results may vary. Since specialty master’s degrees are not as well known as MBA’s you’re going to have to deal with some lack of recognition issues.

Although it may change in the future, right now MBA students still seem to get the best deal when it comes to getting the economic benefits from going through the effort of getting an advanced degree. The people who design the GMAT test that everyone takes to get admitted to graduate programs are reporting that MBA students are saying that they get a 73% increase in salary after graduating while students with specialty master’s degrees are only reporting a 26% increase.

What All Of This Means For You

In the end the decision rests with you. We all know that continuing our education is an important thing for every up-and-coming almost CIO to do. Going back to school almost seems like a no-brainer until you realize that you need to spend some time thinking about just what you want to get out of doing so.

A specialty master’s degree offers IT professionals who have been working for less than five years or who found one particular part of the job most interesting with a new option. By investing 12 months of study, they can walk away with both another degree as well as a deep understanding of one area of business.

The value of taking this educational route will really depend on the career that you want for yourself. If you are comfortable working inside of the business instead of running it, then a specialty master’s degree might be the right way to go for you!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills

Question For You: Do you think that specialty master’s degree will become more or less valuable in the future?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As though running an IT department wasn’t enough, now CIOs are being asked to become more valuable to the business – to start thinking about the company’s bottom line. If only there was some methodology that we could use to unlock all of that business value that we know is within the IT department. Oh wait, there is: it’s called the IT-CMF.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Evans June 9, 2010 at 2:49 pm

From my own experience, I found that my MSM degree from NYU Polytechnic Institute has brought value and credibility with the both the technical and non-technical sides of the business. I believe in order to be an effective CIO you must speak in terms that the business understands. Having business acumen and understanding financial reports is essential to partner successfully. Both MBA and MSM degrees will provide that financial foundation. One possible risk with a MSM, is you may not be able to breakout past CIO. So if COO or CEO is your ultimate goal, a MBA may be better.
Going to the next level of education, I would be interested to hear feedback about Doctorate programs. It seems that PhD degrees are more for those interested in pursue college professor careers. There are also DBA & DIT degrees available. Do these have value?

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Dr. Jim Anderson June 11, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Tom: I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head — it’s able being able to speak the language of business. PhD degrees are great credentials for those who want to either teach or write books…!

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