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Career impact and mobility from an online MBA

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Parth PatelORCiD


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IntroductionThe decision to invest in postgraduate business education to improve career choices and trajectories is not a light one to make and many working professionals make this decision at substantial financial cost. Measuring the financial return on investment (ROI) of undertaking a Master of Business Administration (MBA) has been investigated however the career impact and influence on career mobility of MBA program alumni has rarely been investigated, let alone in relation to a fully online MBA program which provides students with greater flexibility and opportunity to progress their careers. A recent collection of works (Khare & Hurst, 2018) has brought into focus the contemporary nature of online business education and its impacts on careers for working professionals studying postgraduate business studies. Stoker (2018) views online business education as an enabler of opportunity where web based education which places emphasizes on the importance of networked learning through a social constructivist approach can be highly effective in creating career opportunities for busy working professionals. Online education inclusive of peer mentoring, virtual interactions that are place-independent and asynchronous can provide the learner with greater control of their learning and leverage of their already acquired work experiences. This study reports data from the MBA alumni of a fully online Australian higher education provider. The provider is an accredited private university and meets the Australian governments Tertiary Education Quality Standards Authority (TEQSA) conditions and compliance standards. The private university was keen to gauge the impact the fully online MBA has had on the careers and mobility of its alumni. The aim of this study is to investigate the financial and non-financial impact of an online MBA on career and mobility. This initial study will be scoping measures for career impact and career mobility and will inform a second iteration of the MBA alumni (global) survey planned for early 2018.ROI, ROR and Career impactThis study focuses on two aspects of the impact of the online MBA on working professionals in addition to the financial ROI for these alumni. Career impact and career mobility are the focus of this exploratory study. Typically, traditional models of calculating ROI of educational interventions focus on cost and benefit analysis and are usually drawn for the Kirkpatrick and Phillips models for calculating educational ROI. Carmichael and Sutherland (2005) developed a holistic framework for the perceived return on investment in an MBA program. They went beyond the atypical ROI or Rate of Return (ROR) models as both these are focused purely on financial returns. Their proposed framework does include financial benefits (such as salary increases, security of employment, business networks and improved industry mobility) but also includes non- financial benefits such as: self-confidence, worldview and insight, increased skills sets, greater productivity, business ethics, control of destiny and greater job satisfaction.Baruch (2009) undertook a study to explore the value of the MBA given recent criticism from prominent management scholars about the effectiveness of the MBA. The study found that for individuals “…embarking on MBA is a major career decision, carrying certain risks, but offer high potential for return on investment” (Baruch 2009 388). He concludes that there is a need for rigorous studies to be undertaken to support claims of MBA effectiveness and counter unsupported assertions as to the value of the MBA. Connolly (2003, 365) examined the usefulness of MBA programs and found that the salaries and ROR for recent MBA graduates implies, ”… the MBA has not, in fact, outlived its usefulness”. In 2013 the Academy of Management Learning and Education journal (AMLE) published a review of the literature and research that has explored the effectiveness of the MBA by Rubin and Dierdorff (2013). These authors identified broad topics and issue of concern as well as areas yet to be explored and a research agenda for the next 10 years. Rubin and Dierdorff’s findings will inform the next stage of the alumni survey research being planned for 2018. In the light of this recent research we attempt to explore the career impact of undertaking an online MBA. The key contribution of this study lies in scoping out MBA specific measures that are related to career impact and career mobility. The research questions driving this study are as follows:RQ1: What do MBA alumni perceive to be the major impacts on their careers as a result of undertaking an online MBA?RQ2: How can the financial and non-financial ROI for an online MBA be calculated in relation to career impact?Method of studyThis is an exploratory study which employed an online survey of Australian domestic MBA alumni undertaken in March 2017. The survey contained forced choice, likert scale and open-ended questions with numeric data analysed using SPSS software and thematic analysis applied to the qualitative data.3As at 2017 there were 1600 MBA alumni, of these 26% (n=503) responded to the survey. Of these 69% were male and 31% were female with the average age of respondents at 44.83 years of age.Major findings1. Respondents identified the top five achievements and professional benefits of undertaking the MBA as depicted in Table 1 below.Table 1: Top 5 achievements and professional benefits of the online MBA.Top 5 AchievementsTop 5 Professional BenefitsPersonal achievementEnhanced professional developmentImproving management skillsStrategy development skillsCareer growthIncreased self confidenceSalary increaseResearch and analytical skillsCareer changePractical workplace knowledge2. 35.9% of respondents have been promoted since starting the MBA and 40.1% indicated their function/role had changed since starting the MBA.3. Since commencing the MBA 12.7% of respondents moved cities once (3.6% moved cities twice) and 5.5% respondents moved countries once and 0.8% moved countries twice.4. In relation to salary increases (financial ROI) increases to pre-tax income since graduating were as follows:Salary IncreasePercentStayed sameIncreased by up to 10%Increased by 10-20%Increased by 20-30%Increased by 30-40%Increased by 40-50%45.616. paper has attempted to gauge the non-financial impacts on careers for alumni from a fully online MBA program. The findings point to significant impacts to careers and mobility as well as financial gains for these MBA alumni. Future research is planned for 2018 and a more comprehensive MBA Alumni survey will be undertaken globally. The majority of the university’s MBA alumni are domestic students from Australia however a growing student body is from Canada and to a much lesser extend New Zealand. This enables the study to broaden its evidence base and to reflect career impacts internationally.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cameron R, Patel P, Prikshat V, Saeed M, Narendran R

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 15th International Human Resource Management (IHRM) Conference

Year of Conference: 2018

Online publication date: 13/06/2018

Acceptance date: 16/02/2018

Publisher: IHRM


Series Title: Managing People in a Changing Global Environment

Sponsor(s): Charles III University of Madrid