Showing your employer the value of your part-time MBA

part-time MBA candidate at the board

Showing your employer the value of your part-time MBA

If you pursue a full-time MBA, you stop working to fully commit to the program in hopes of commanding executive-level opportunities upon graduation.

But that career trajectory isn’t always so clear-cut when you earn an MBA part-time.

Your current employer may be covering tuition in exchange for your guarantee to remain on the job for a set number of years. Or you’re footing the bill while working. Either way, while in school, you’re bringing back invaluable knowledge to your current position and thus, your employer, in real time.

You may know you’re bringing value, but how do you define that value to your boss, so you can elevate within the company after or even during your MBA program? 

In the video above, we speak with a part-time MBA student and career coaches to learn how you can show your current employer (or prospective one) the value of your part-time study. 

Common goals of part-time MBAs

“In class today we learned about the business impacts of the current events on the EU,” Katryna Ton, an MBA candidate at UC Irvine says during her MBAchic Takeover. She took over our Instagram page to show her day in the life as a part-time MBA candidate and full-time manager at a tech start up.

A follower asked Ton about the return of investment on her MBA. 

“I found that I am already seeing the benefits of an MBA degree when it comes to negotiating my salary, getting promotions, getting bonuses and things like that,” she replied. 

And those are the goals for most part-time MBAs, according to a 2021 survey of prospective students conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

It found that more than half of part-time MBA candidates want a salary increase and 47% want a senior level position. 

Many schools say their students are hitting those milestones. At Chicago Booth, the U.S. News & World Report’s number 1 ranked part-time MBA program, 75% made some type of career change, including getting a promotion. 

Grads from UCLA’s Fully Employed MBA program report a 55% average increase in base salary just four months after graduation. 

But how does a part-timer ensure their MBA helps them advance at their current job?

Keep your manager in the loop

“You are the driver of your career, right?” asks Dr. Lindsey Plewa, deputy director of career advising at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business. “You’re going to be the one who is really driving these conversations and advocating for yourself.”

She says part-timers can use performance reviews at work to demonstrate their growth. 

Zicklin’s evening program for part-timers was ranked #1 in New York by the U.S. News and World Report. 

“Talk to them about some of the classes you’re taking, what you’re learning and maybe you could use that to also talk about what’s your next step with that company,” Plewa adds. 

Before you start your program, establish goals and expectations with your manager, says Jody Becker, senior director of career services at Chicago Booth. 

She suggests having check-ins with our manager at least three times in the first year of your program to set the foundation for future negotiations.

“Having the content of those conversations can be really enlightening and just a way to demonstrate your enthusiasm, your interest, particularly if it’s making a functional change,” she says.

Prepare for frequent negotiations

The career advisors say it’s never too early to start negotiating your salary.

“It really starts with having open and transparent conversations from the get-go,” says Becker.

“I think it’s ok and a good idea to check in with your manager maybe after semester one and just say, ‘As you know, I just started my MBA–these are the classes I took,” explains Plewa. “You are just dropping pieces along the way of what you learned.”

She says to keep in mind that you’ll need to have multiple conversations with your boss. “Your manager will probably have to talk to their manager or HR to check budget, so be persistent,” she says.

Within 24 hours, follow up by email, so you both have a record of all conversations. A semester or two before graduation, be prepared to seek even more in-depth conversations about moving up or changing titles.

“About 1/12 years in or halfway through you can start to have those conversations because at that point you begin to become eligible for those MBA level roles,” says Becker.

It’s also important to remain flexible. 

“If it’s not a very hierarchal organization, maybe you can talk about a change of title if there’s not money for a bump in your salary,” says Plewa.

Ton credits her negotiations class with helping her better communicate her value.

“I was able to negotiate my salary in the past couple months as well as a promotion and then because I’m a CSM (customer success manager), I also work with clients on renewals, contracts and upsells, things like that. And so, my negotiation skills have definitely increased and improved in the past few months. “ 

‘Lean in’ to your part-time advantage

If you’re pursuing an MBA to switch careers, take courses to fill any skills gaps, but don’t forget about transferrable skills you already have.

“If you are mentoring a junior employee or intern that is building your mentoring and leadership skills so make sure that’s on your resume,” says Plewa. “Make sure your resume is reading for the job you want and not the job you have.”

Becker says part-timers should promote their distinct advantages as working professionals, which include their high capacity to multi-task and ability to immediately apply skills learned in the classroom in the real-world at work.

“Another distinct advantage for working professional MBAs that you are actually in the program with other real time students who are also working at firms that could be of interest to you and vice versa,” says Becker. 

“You already have a built-in network where you’re not just going out to seek new people to have conversations with…So, don’t compare yourself to full-timers, lean into being a working professional.”

As for Ton, she graduated with her MBA in June 2022.

“I think there’s going to be a really good and beneficial return on investment for me after I graduate,” she says.

part-time MBA candidate at the board

Photo from ThisisEngineering RAEng

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Shernay is a mom, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner who's been fortunate to spend her entire professional career telling stories. She has more than a decade of experience as a TV, print, and radio journalist for local and national news outlets. In 2016, she launched a content firm to help nonprofits and businesses tell their stories more strategically. Her passions: mom empowerment, entrepreneurship, and self-development.

She lives outside of Baltimore with her two sons.

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