Online MBA Professor: Advanced Degree Will Be Leg Up When Recession Ends

Economic slowdown may have you rethinking your career path. Can additional online education increase your appeal to employers? Can earning that MBA help you dodge the proverbial corporate axe? Dave Gilfoil, director of the online MBA program at DeSales University, weighs in on the benefits of earning an MBA during a recession:

Q: Is earning an MBA online more for your resume or do you learn specific job-applicable skills?

Dave Gilfoil: It's both. Having an MBA on your resume increases your career options. But an MBA also teaches you lots and lots about leadership, executive skills, executive decision-making, ethics, communication and presentations--how to get your point across to a roomful of people in 10 to 15 minutes. In this market, the competition is heating up. Having an MBA--and the skill set that represents--plus work experience gives you a leg up. In my 27 years as an executive in the business world before I came to academia, I interviewed and hired thousands of people and it's the combination that employers want.

Q: How much more can you earn with an MBA? Does the potential return on your education outweigh the cost of getting an online MBA?

Gilfoil: Depending on the area of the country and the industry, having a solid MBA from a solid program can add anywhere from 20 to 35 percent to your annual salary. Do the math. If an MBA costs $25,000 to $35,000, and you can make another $15,000 to $35,000 a year, it can take about a year, a year-and-a-half to see the return on your investment. Keep in mind, though, that if you're going to school while you're working it can take you from two to seven years to complete your master's in business administration.

Q: Have you noticed students with MBAs getting jobs in the recession? Does their MBA give them an edge?

Gilfoil: These are the worst times I've ever seen and when bad times come, people get laid off. A year ago, I was teaching an MBA course on consumer behavior, and, in one week, four of my 15 students came to me and said they lost their jobs. I don't think having a master's in business administration is a fail-safe during a recession, but an economic slowdown may be a good time to get that extra degree. Because when the recession is over, you'll be armed with a new weapon.

Q: What is the teaching and learning style of most online MBA programs? Group work vs. individual work?

Gilfoil: If I had to pick, I almost always err on the side of group work because that's what the real world is all about. Group work presents some logistical challenges when teaching online, but it can work. At our university, online MBA courses also include lectures, round-tables, written assignments, and online discussions.

David Gilfoil, PhD, is director of the DeSales Univerisity MBA Program, an assistant professor of business at the school based in Center Valley, Pa., and former president of Agere Japan in Tokyo.

About the Author:

Beth W. Orenstein is a freelance writer based in Northampton, Pa. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University where she majored in English.