Finding a reputable school with a program that fits your own lifestyle with weekend, executive programs and interactive, distance-learning courses were the only considerations I had because of my work and family obligations.
When I looked at distance learning or interactive MBAs, I did a search and, surprisingly, found a lot of options. However, I wanted a school with a good reputation in its overall MBA offering. I thought this was really important if I was already doing the non-traditional thing in terms of type of MBA study.
The real knock-out factor for me, however, was that some of the established interactive MBA programs required an international residency, which would’ve been impossible for me. I had a husband doing a part-time evening MBA program already (the traditional long way!) and children at home in the evenings who needed at least one of us there at night. I needed to find a way to do this with all these constraints.
To get the most out of the MBA experience, I thought the residency was so important for networking with classmates, and I found that at Syracuse. Every semester, there’s a week of attending classes and meeting all the people. I met five classmates who came from overseas (there may have been more that I didn’t get a chance to meet), although most were North Americanized.
In total, I had three weeks of residency over three semesters and took two and a half years to finish my MBA. I needed that support network because I often e-mailed classmates and professors.
Don’t overlook the need for the support of your employer, whether financial support or simply cooperation for the times you have to miss work to attend classes. My company paid tuition, which was enormously helpful, and I believe they will benefit from my new skill set, as well.
They also enabled me to have the time off for the residency without having to use personal vacation time. With school and work, I needed a vacation, too! In order to accomplish this, I made myself available for conference calls when I wasn’t in class, I provided everyone with my cell phone number, and I checked e-mails regularly.
If you are considering distance learning, I will give three other tips:
- I don’t think it would be a good idea for candidates wanting to entirely switch careers. There is no career transition training or support, and your network with the school is more limited by design.
- I found that, for me, learning accounting from a distance was one of the more challenging courses, so I’d recommend a local course in something you know will be difficult for you before doing the distance, master’s level course.
- I encourage you to really consider how you learn best. I am an engineer and tinkerer by nature—I learn well if someone gives me a book and lets me figure things out mostly on my own. Conversely, my husband, who is still in his part-time MBA program at Rutgers, felt that he needed the constant interaction of being in class, so he decided to get an MBA over four years, one or two classes at a time. The fact is that I don’t like sitting in class all the time, yet I had professors and classmates readily available for when I needed help. So, Syracuse made my interest in an MBA a reality through the interactive degree program.