Getting an MBA is a Good Idea for Some

Q.  I love this blog! Thank you for creating it. I’m a senior Comm major going on my third (unpaid) internship. After graduation, I would like to start at a PR agency, but I would like to eventually end up in Brand Marketing and/or Management. I’ve read that an MBA is often required for these positions. Are there agencies that offer tuition reimbursement?  -JA

A.  Yes, an MBA will give you an advantage in Brand Marketing and/or Management. It is not essential in agencies, but is becoming a requirement before moving up the management ladder in many corporations. Most large agencies provide some form of tuition reimbursement, usually after you’ve been with the firm for a year. Some pay half the tuition when you start a course and the balance when you successfully complete it.  BTW, I applaud you for doing more than one internship.  Three internships set you apart from others.  It is unfortunate that all three have been unpaid.  The profession needs to address the issue of compensation for interns, especially if some of their work is billable.  

4 thoughts on “Getting an MBA is a Good Idea for Some

  1. A great question, and one that hits very close to home as I just took my GMAT last month.

    Despite the obvious benefits of an MBA for an investor relations or financial communications practitioner, I believe an MBA can help all PR pros as it provides them with a better understanding of their clients. Oftentimes, we are tasked to use communications to solve business problems, and if we can’t speak the language of business, we’re not as valuable as we could be. While you may not be building programs around a company’s EPS (earnings per share) specifically, but if you can understand why your client is under pressure because of their EPS, you’ll be able to serve as a better partner. To me, an MBA, or any additionally business education, can help a communicator better navigate their operating environment. Also, if you have aspirations to manage a practice, office or even a whole agency, an MBA can be useful to understand the fundamentals of running a business.

    I think most everyone will agree that graduate education can be a good thing, but there is some debate between whether or not you should focus on a masters in communications (or something similar), or a broader business education…I think it really depends on your long term career goals.

    Are there any readers with either an MBA or a masters in a communications-specific area that could provide insights?

  2. Although I graduated with my undergrad degree in business management, my indecisiveness regarding my career choice led me to the world of PR. I had an internship with American Express’ Recrutiment and Selection divission and a communication internship with an etiquette consulting firm, where I wrote press releases and newsletters. I realized that I enjoyed the latter internship way more. I am currently working for a non-profit organization and will be completing my MBA in two months. Like you, I too pursued an MBA because my goal is to start my own PR agency. Although the classes are not as enjoyable as the graduate classes in a communciations specific program, they will be well worth it when you launch out on your own. This is especially true if your undergraduate degree is not in business. If you opt to do your graduate degree in a communications-specific area just be prepared to soak up all the information about running the business from your agency’s top dog, reading business books, and even taking a few accounting and finance classes. In my case, since I already had a business background, I now wish that I pursued graduate studies in Intergrated Marketing Communication or a similar program. I hope this offers further insight.

  3. I’m weighing in a little late here but still wanted to offer my two cents. I’ve been in PR for 15 years and got my MBA from Kellogg about 7 years ago.

    I think an MBA is extremely valuable for a communications practicioner. I have found that it helps me understand the business context of the companies where I work. It also prepared me to participate in and contribute to higher strategy discussions with other senior executives.

    A third positive is the knowledge you gain from the case studies you do. Having those anecdotes on hand for situations or even speeches has been an asset. Even the business vernacular you learn can be helpful.

    Practically speaking, an MBA from a top tier school adds an immediate badge of credibility to your own “brand.”

    Part-time vs. Full-time.

    If you go part time for an MBA, it shows you can multi-task effectively and you like to learn but don’t want to sacrifice experience for classroom time. It’s also much more economically attractive for those of us who didn’t want to go into debt for the degree. And many companies do have tuition reimbursement but check the math. B-school is expensive.

    Having said that, think about full-time as well and weigh the pros and cons. My full-time MBA friends had a great time and made life-long friends and excellent business contacts. They also had more assistance from the Career Planning and Placement office. In the part-time program, we just wanted to get the work done so we could get home to our families or a little television before heading back to work in the morning.

    Either way, I’m a big fan of the MBA. I enjoyed the learning and I think it adds a lot of value to my resume.

  4. I’m also coming to the conversation late, but I wanted to comment since I left the PR agency world (Edelman) to start an MBA at the University of Washington Foster school this fall. Based on my agency experience, an MBA isn’t needed to excel as a senior level executive on the client side, or even run an office. However, I agree with Tyler that having an MBA would certainly help an agency professional understand her clients’ business, and “speak the language” in a way that could help persuade and sell in programs.

    I’m not certain that I will stay in PR, but believe an MBA will allow me to excel in a PR career if that’s the path I decide to follow because I will be able to be a better business counselor to my clients. Moreover, training based in strategic planning will allow me to pursue other marketing roles and facilitate future career changing.

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