October 4, 2008
Masters of Their Universe: The Value of the MBA in Today’s Business World
By Claude Solnik
After Lorraine Chambers Lewis was promoted to corporate director of employee health services for the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, she wanted more than on-the-job training.So Lewis enrolled in Hofstra University's health care administration MBA program, developed jointly with North Shore-LIJ. Although she hasn't yet completed the program, she is already implementing some of what she's learned.
Lewis led a project that cut from 10 days to nine the time it takes to clear new hires through medical tests.
"It was one specific person who would do the paperwork. We found that model wasn't very efficient," Lewis said. "It was more efficient to have the individual practitioners or clinicians who saw the person clear the person."
She's already saved North Shore-LIJ more than the cost of the MBA. But it's no coincidence this program helps with her work.
Hofstra worked with North Shore-LIJ to create an MBA program focusing on health care to help its employees, often without any formal business training, become better managers.
"That helps them to obtain leadership and administrative positions within their system," said Salvatore Sodano, dean of Hofstra's Zarb School of Business.
Although academia and business have often kept each other at arm's length, schools are partnering with companies to make the MBA more relevant.
Large firms are rolling out tuition reimbursement, offering MBAs at their headquarters, tailoring MBAs to their needs and promoting employees who pursue this degree.
Joseph Cabral, Great Neck-based North Shore-LIJ's senior vice president and chief human resources officer, said the system in 2007 spent more than $10 million in tuition reimbursement, which included MBAs.
"We want an educated workforce," Cabral said. "We believe we're a learning organization. Folks come to us and they don't necessarily stop learning."
Garden City-based Adelphi University teaches an MBA specializing in health services administration at St. Francis Hospital "The majority of students are nurses and physicians assistants," said Brian Rothschild, assistant dean for the Adelphi University School of Business. "They realize the need for managerial skills.
Lake Success-based Astoria Federal Savings through tuition reimbursement also encourages and pays for MBAs, although not through any one school.
"We think it's part of the continuing education of the employee," said Astoria Senior Vice President Brian Edwards, adding that two people in his department are studying for MBAs. "It benefits us not only for the growth of the individual, but the skills they apply on the job."
Other degrees offer quicker alternatives, for instance, to Hofstra's 48-credit MBA such as a 31-credit Master of Science in finance or accounting. But the MBA remains in greater demand. "An MBA is a broader course of study in business and leadership," Sodano said. "An M.S. is a more narrow approach."
The MBA's flexibility is particularly attractive in today's economy especially as the financial sector falls into disarray. "People realized the MBA was a much more useful career move," Rothschild said. "The MBA gives you a variety of things you can do."
The MBA degree has changed through the years. "MBAs used to focus more on quantitative skills like statistics and financial analysis," Rothschild said. "There's been a shift to soft skills like leadership, communication, ethics, team-building."
Schools also offer more flavors of MBAs. Hofstra's Zarb School offers MBAs focusing on information technology, health care administration, international business, management, marketing, quality, taxation, and sports and entertainment management. Hofstra is also launching an MBA focusing on real estate, teaching management, finance and sales.
And schools are making MBAs more convenient for companies and employees. Stony Brook University has held classes at BAE Systems' Greenlawn offices. Hofstra offers MBA courses at CA Inc. and Estee Lauder. "We literally go to their facility and teach on their location," Sodano said. "It's more a matter of convenience."
Companies find offering MBAs at their offices saves time and makes the degree more attractive to employees. "Sponsoring MBA programs, like the one at Stony Brook University, keeps BAE Systems positioned as a leader in continuing education for our workforce," said Paul Markwardt, BAE Systems' vice president of identification and surveillance.
Even if many large employers pick up the tab, obtaining an MBA is no easy task for people working full time. Most of Lewis' classes are from 6 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.
"It is a huge time commitment," Lewis said. "But it's exciting to learn new tools and functions of business that are applicable to my job."
And critics of the MBA, such as Rakesh Khurana, associate professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, argue the degree differs depending on where one studies.
"Business schools, unlike medical schools or law schools, do not speak in a single voice. They often see each other as competitors rather than as collaborators," Khurana wrote in "From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession.""This has to change."
Even North Shore-LIJ's decision to help create a health care- focused MBA points to potential weakness of the standard MBA.
"We wanted for there to be a focus on health care," Cabral said. "The MBA is a great program. But it doesn't necessarily help prepare them to come in and run a service line or a health service organization."
Putting a price on the MBA
Just how much is an MBA worth? A lot, according to salary surveys.
A survey by Businesss-SchoolAdmission.com found that average pre- MBA salaries shoot up about 150 percent once
students graduate. Students at the Wharton School of Business saw salaries shoot up 160 percent from $60,000 to $156,000 after obtaining the degree, while Columbia students' pay rocketed 185 percent from $50,000 to $142,000.
A survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that many MBA students received job offers before graduation. "Recruiting has even begun in the latter weeks of summer, rather than in the traditional period of fall," according to the site.
Over 94 percent of Harvard MBAs and 93 percent of University of Virginia MBAs received job offers by graduation day. Eighty percent of Columbia MBA students were reported to have secured post- graduation employment by February. Salaries often exceeded $100,000 with an average signing bonus worth more than $20,500.
And a softening economy could send more people scrambling for this desirable degree. "The chance to spend two years at business school sharpening job skills, improving a resume, and expanding networks looks attractive, both to prospective applicants and to their employers," during a slow economy, according to BusinessSchoolAdmission.com.
Originally published by Claude Solnik.
(c) 2008 Long Island Business News. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.