Credible Sources Veterans Should Trust On MBA Education

In this post I discuss why should you avoid the 2016 military-friendly education guides and I identify two sources you can count on to select an MBA school or graduate business degree program.

I have recently been receiving more than my fair share of 2016 Guides to Military Education. These surveys are directed at veterans and their families, and profess to have special insights into colleges and universities at both the undergraduate and masters levels. When I leaf through the multitude of alphabetical school listings it’s obvious the publications and associations who organize these education guides do it for the main purpose of generating ad revenue. This is even more blatantly obvious when these same publications slip in a “see ad on this page” link, prominently display logos in school listings, or, worse yet, try to disguise a Q&A interview from one of the colleges listed in the survey as legitimate editorial. As ESPN’s well-respected NFL analysts team would say, “C’Mon Man!”  Who are you trying to fool?

I have been working with university ratings and college surveys since BusinessWeek first introduced bschool rankings in the early 90s.  I can tell you they were initially, and continue to be, designed to attract readership and sell advertising. That’s fine. I think it’s only fair to make money in business.

What I don’t like are blatant insults on military intelligence (i.e., like those listed above), nor the less obvious things publication websites do to justify their rankings and confuse veterans. Which brings me to the subject of credibility. I don’t need to tell military veterans that sources of information matter, but let me remind you that credibility should be in command when evaluating education. This more true today with the proliferation of smart phone devices, apps and rankings galore. MBA education is expensive so always ask yourself, “Is the source of information credible and has this source earned my trust?” I also recommend reading any section you can find on methodology before ever considering the results.

CredibilityIf you don’t value the credibility of these “military-friendly” education surveys and guides, which data or what source(s) should you trust? That’s easy. Trust your own judgment and the recommendations of credible people you know. Outside of your close circle of friends and colleagues, I would also suggest you trust two sources: 1) the evidence; 2) employers.

On the subject of value in MBA schools and degrees, evidence comes from independent and impartial sources who have studied this subject since its very inception. Look it up and you’ll see. Consensus opinion, based upon exhaustive evidence and research, holds that the #1 benefit of getting an MBA degree is the network it provides.

There are different types of networks in play (i.e., including MBA school, military and social networks) so develop and utilize all of the benefits each can offer you. I would also suggest, based upon my experiences, that military leaders should get outside of their comfortable spaces to network and integrate with other civilians, especially with other MBA students. The easy thing to do, which has been over promoted by veterans’ associations and MBA schools alike, is to stay exclusively connected to MBA veterans. Definitely participate in these groups, because they have much to offer, but broaden out your networks and assimilate with other communities.

Why should you trust employers? Well, because employers are one of the main consumers of MBA degrees. They hire and promote MBAs and work with people who hold MBA degrees. Many of them are the same employers, such as General Electric, who also value military MBAs more than traditional students who hold MBA degrees. And, in most markets the opinion of consumers is all that really counts.

Employers often consider someone’s or something’s reputation when evaluating MBA graduates. In other words, the reputation of the MBA school and the reputation of the MBA degree program are the focal points. I don’t want to discount the quality of an education or business skills that come with it and I’m not. Acquiring a quality education and developing skills are clearly factored into the reputation. Reputation in its entirety also takes the form of performance and experiences that employers have had with MBAs (a.k.a., current employees who were former students, and their MBA schools and degree programs.)

So, find an employer you trust, or one who is on your wish list to work for, and ask them which MBA schools and degree programs are reputable? And, where do they hire and recruit managers with MBA degrees?

Back to those military-friendly school lists I mentioned earlier. If you are a hiring manager for a local employer in Texas, would you seriously recruit a graduate with an online degree from Bellevue University or Central Texas College or someone with an MBA from Rice University or Texas A&M? We can help you answer that question. Based upon research we’ve conducted more than 65% of employers hire graduates from traditional universities they recognize like Duke, Georgetown, UCLA or Penn State. Only 14% of all employers will risk hiring grads from schools such as  the University of Phoenix. The remaining 21% of employers we interviewed were undecided and said it depended upon the applicant.

It’s always best to go with data you can count on, which comes from reliable sources. So, make smart choices and quit relying on military-friendly lists. Evaluate MBA schools and degrees based upon their credibility, networks and reputation with employers.

Full Disclosure: Military MBA represents these graduate business degree programs based upon their support and interest in recruiting military students.

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