Free Online MBA Worth It?

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Patzer
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Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Patzer » Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:33 am

I have a Bachelors in Management and a decade of management experience across various companies and industries.
I currently work in software management.

At my current company I did well as an individual contributor and was able to leverage that plus my previous experience to get an entry level management position late last year.
I got another promotion to a higher management position that starts in a few weeks.
I will probably have to wait 3-5 years for my next promotion, but there is a clear path to it, and I am okay with that timeline.
Higher positions beyond that may prove challenging to achieve.
I am 38 and am on track to be able to retire somewhere between 51-54.

My company is offering anyone in the company an all expenses paid masters degree through an online university.
The only choice that is relevant to me is an MBA. The tuition for an MBA there would normally cost 30K.

While there is no direct financial cost to getting the degree and it might open some longer-term doors, there is an opportunity cost associated with it, because it will require a significant outlay of time that I could use to excel at my current position or for leisure over the next 1.5-2 years.

So, the question is... is a free Online MBA worth it.
My gut says no, but it seems silly to ignore the offer without giving it proper consideration.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts on the matter.

go140point6
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by go140point6 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:49 am

You have kids? I'm 45 and for me, it's partly that I have (young) kids and partly that I have no interest in management that leads me to not pursue the MBA offered by my employer (academic institution so it would be with my university). I was looking into it a decade ago before I was married and had kids, but even then I was hesitant because I prefered to stay technical even though I was being steered towards more supervision/management and had a team of 8 at the time. Six years ago I switched departments at my university, got a nice bump in pay, am responsible for some highly technical systems and have ZERO supervision responsibilities. I love it and am here until retirement in 10 years... and by NOT having an MBA, I'm not generally considered "management material" unless I decided to really pursue it (and would be required to get the MBA at that time anyway). So yeah, not happening for me.

If your MBA is offered truly free (not considered taxable income, comes with books and material covered, etc.), I wouldn't turn up my nose at it just because it's online. But yes, it's a time commitment that you need to consider... but 2 years goes fast. Good luck.

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BolderBoy
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by BolderBoy » Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:52 am

Patzer wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:33 am
So, the question is... is a free Online MBA worth it.
Just for the credential, I don't know. If you will actually learn things that you don't know now, then yeah, I'd do it.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Silk McCue
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Silk McCue » Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:52 am

I wouldn't pass it up as you have no idea how the future will unfold for you, especially as you age. Adding an MBA should be stimulating to your mind, add potential real world value and make you a more attractive candidate should rubber meet the road someday.

Cheers

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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. » Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:58 am

Patzer wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:33 am
My company is offering anyone in the company an all expenses paid masters degree through an online university.
The only choice that is relevant to me is an MBA. The tuition for an MBA there would normally cost 30K.

While there is no direct financial cost to getting the degree and it might open some longer-term doors, there is an opportunity cost associated with it, because it will require a significant outlay of time that I could use to excel at my current position or for leisure over the next 1.5-2 years.

So, the question is... is a free Online MBA worth it.
My gut says no, but it seems silly to ignore the offer without giving it proper consideration.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts on the matter.
Seems like the pros outweigh the cons, especially if you'd enjoy getting an MBA and/or are planning on getting one in the future anyway. Why not have it paid for now?

There is an opportunity cost as you say, but you're only assuming the time it would lessen your ability to excel at your job. Is this actually true? And you're not counting on how the MBA learning might help you excel at your job even more than currently (i.e., you're discounting how the learning might improve your job performance). So you have to look at both sides of the coin.

Yes, it will take time away from leisure, which is why you should not enter into a degree program lightly, otherwise you'll be resentful. If you will look forward to spending your leisure time in learning, taking classes, etc. then you will have the right attitude to tackle the MBA.

It's a $30,000 benefit the company is giving you.
It may open other doors for you later as you say.
It may lead to further promotions in your current job.
you will make additional connections/networking

I think the main thing you're saying is it seems like you're downplaying the benefit of an online MBA, as if it's not as prestigious. At the end of the day, most employers want to see you got an MBA, not necessarily that you went to Harvard to get it.

I say go for it, but do it joyfully, not resentfully. If you resent using your free time to get an MBA, don't do it. I would do it in a heartbeat, especially because it's free, but also becaus it likely will add value.
"May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live" -- Irish Blessing | "Invest we must" -- Jack Bogle

chw
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by chw » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:01 pm

I’d consider it if I had the time to do it. The MBA will help you in ways you can’t see now with your job (which is why your company is willing to pay for it). The MBA will also open doors for you at your company, as well as for other professional opportunities that may not open as quickly sans MBA.

Topic Author
Patzer
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Patzer » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:04 pm

go140point6 wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:49 am
You have kids? I'm 45 and for me, it's partly that I have (young) kids and partly that I have no interest in management that leads me to not pursue the MBA offered by my employer (academic institution so it would be with my university). I was looking into it a decade ago before I was married and had kids, but even then I was hesitant because I prefered to stay technical even though I was being steered towards more supervision/management and had a team of 8 at the time. Six years ago I switched departments at my university, got a nice bump in pay, am responsible for some highly technical systems and have ZERO supervision responsibilities. I love it and am here until retirement in 10 years... and by NOT having an MBA, I'm not generally considered "management material" unless I decided to really pursue it (and would be required to get the MBA at that time anyway). So yeah, not happening for me.

If your MBA is offered truly free (not considered taxable income, comes with books and material covered, etc.), I wouldn't turn up my nose at it just because it's online. But yes, it's a time commitment that you need to consider... but 2 years goes fast. Good luck.
No kids, no plans to have them.
It is truly free, 100% of everything is paid for.
My concern with it being online is that it won't carry the prestige of major in person programs or the networking benefit.

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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:08 pm

Do you get any time off work to work on the MBA stuff?
Are there any strings for paying for the course? For example, do you have to stay with the company for 2 more years, or something?

My company paid for my MSEE, including paying to relocate me, paying salary, paying tuition for 18 months. I was required to stay for 2 years once I came back and the return date was strictly enforced whether I was finished or not. This was not online. I was married but had no kids. I can't imagine surviving this with kids. The wife and I had a friday night date night, where we'd go to Cracker Barrel. Beyond that, we barely saw each other.
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stan1
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by stan1 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:08 pm

Some slight subtleties: Is the university also brick and mortar, is it not for profit, and will the transcript stipulate it is an online program?

There are some employers and industries who look at degrees as a checklist item for hiring or promotions. It doesn't matter where the degree is from but you have to have it to be competitive. Hopefully you know if that's your industry.

If you would like to build a professional network I think that's less likely to happen in an online program. That's one of the key benefits of an Executive MBA program local to your community.

If your company allows this you could take a few courses and see what you think then continue or drop out. You might find it doesn't take that much time after all, or you could find that it is drudgery and busy work set up to make sure you are forced to put a lot of time into the program that you'd rather spend on other things.

z06ray
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by z06ray » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:09 pm

It’s hard to turn down free schooling. I wouldn’t pay for it myself but company sponsored, sure thing!

a few years ago I did an in person MBA at a small state school and now am doing an online MS. Who knows if it will have value... but it’s paid for and better than nothing.

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Watty
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Watty » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:17 pm

Patzer wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:33 am
I will probably have to wait 3-5 years for my next promotion, but there is a clear path to it, and I am okay with that timeline.
Higher positions beyond that may prove challenging to achieve.

I am 38 and am on track to be able to retire somewhere between 51-54.
A big question is if you would actually retire when you are in your early 50s even if your career is going strong then. It sounds like you would not be in line for the "higher positions" until you are in your mid to late 40s. If you are going to retire in your early 50s anyway that is not a lot of time to get a big payback on the MBA. It would make more sense if you are likely to work longer even if you are financially independent.

Another question is how much the MBA would help you get a job at another company if you need to. It might help but it could also make you overqualified for some jobs.

Two other things to consider;

1) What would you do with your time if you do not work on the MBA? If you have kids there is a very limited amount of time to spend with them until they are older teenagers or off to college and you might regret giving up that time to work on an MBA. It might make sense to hire people to do things like work around the house that you would normally do while you are working on the MBA to help free up some of your time. Be sure that it does not impact the time you need to do things like workout or take walks to help stay in shape.

2) If you start the company MBA program then do not complete it that might reflect negatively on you. If you start it them you should be really committed to finishing it.

Topic Author
Patzer
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Patzer » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:24 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:08 pm
Do you get any time off work to work on the MBA stuff?
No, still have to do my regular job.
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:08 pm
Are there any strings for paying for the course? For example, do you have to stay with the company for 2 more years, or something?
Yes, if I leave the company any credits paid for within the last 12 months I have to pay back.
So, for it to be fully covered I would have to stay 12 months past when I get the degree. Right now I am happy and plan to stick around for several years.
stan1 wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:08 pm
Some slight subtleties: Is the university also brick and mortar, is it not for profit, and will the transcript stipulate it is an online program?
It is an online only for profit university.

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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by stan1 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:33 pm

Patzer wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:24 pm

It is an online only for profit university.
Your company is offering it as a benefit so guessing it doesn't matter to them.

Some companies and managers will care whether for valid or invalid reasons. Some won't care.

I think many companies and managers will care more about your results and outcomes rather than whether you have an MBA for a mid-career professional, but you have to understand what your industry expects.

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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by RadAudit » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:43 pm

Patzer wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:04 pm
My concern with it being online is that it won't carry the prestige of major in person programs or the networking benefit.
You're probably correct on both points. (If you're looking for prestige, it drops off quick after the top 15 schools.)

OTOH, you may learn something that could prove useful at a later time in your career.
FI is the best revenge. LBYM. Invest the rest. Stay the course. - PS: The cavalry isn't coming, kids. You are on your own.

Xrayman69
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Xrayman69 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 2:50 pm

OP, I’m not to sure that it would negatively impact your current job activities. It may require you be more efficient with time management and thus actually more productive at your current position to make time “to steal” for your coursework. Furthermore it may stimulate your creativity and critical thinking with respects to how you view and take care of your current job activities.

Risk benefit analysis would say that it takes away from your “free and leisure time”. I suspect that if you look into your current time analysis that you can identify time in which you are just wasting to get to another task. I have made an argument against this taking away from your current duties.

Benefit, free and shows motivation. Knowledge will be acquired and likely benefit your career in the long run. It more likely to open opportunities and choices for you going forward as opposed to decreasing your choices.

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Patzer
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Patzer » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:05 pm

Watty wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:17 pm
A big question is if you would actually retire when you are in your early 50s even if your career is going strong then. It sounds like you would not be in line for the "higher positions" until you are in your mid to late 40s. If you are going to retire in your early 50s anyway that is not a lot of time to get a big payback on the MBA. It would make more sense if you are likely to work longer even if you are financially independent.

Another question is how much the MBA would help you get a job at another company if you need to. It might help but it could also make you overqualified for some jobs.

Two other things to consider;

1) What would you do with your time if you do not work on the MBA? If you have kids there is a very limited amount of time to spend with them until they are older teenagers or off to college and you might regret giving up that time to work on an MBA. It might make sense to hire people to do things like work around the house that you would normally do while you are working on the MBA to help free up some of your time. Be sure that it does not impact the time you need to do things like workout or take walks to help stay in shape.

2) If you start the company MBA program then do not complete it that might reflect negatively on you. If you start it them you should be really committed to finishing it.
I love what I do right now. If I still love in when I am in my early 50s, I will probably keep working, but I also have other interests, and so I expect to scale things back significantly once I no longer need more money.

#1 No kids, but yea, mental and physical health is important, and that requires breaks from working.
I did my bachelors while working full time and that was hard. I assume doing a masters while working, and now older will pretty exhausting, but it may also be enriching. I do love to learn, and am always reading books to improve my skills, but I am not a fan of structured learning, so that is a bit of a challenge to overcome, but nothing I haven't faced before.

#2 I agree, and if I started I would finish, so it is a big commitment.

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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by marti038 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:20 pm

I would.

I did mine before I had kids and I've never regretted it. My company paid for nearly all of it and the only other cost at the time was not getting to watch as much TV as my peers in the evenings. I don't know for certain, but I believe it has served as a bit of a differentiator in job interviews/applications.

Now that I have kids, there's no way I'd even attempt such a thing.

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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Retired1809 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:29 pm

I've had experience both earning my own MBA as well as later teaching in an MBA program. The answer to your question depends on several things:

1. Are your interests in learning aligned with the MBA program content? Do you believe that you are motivated to excel in this MBA program and also maintain your motivation throughout the program. In other words, how badly do you want this? Are you suited for online learning? I imagine that online learning requires a higher level of self-discipline and motivation than a traditional classroom program.

2. You mentioned that you are married. Is your mate excited for you to undertake this program? Doing your MBA homework will require time and it would help if your mate is on board. This is a time-consuming activity.

3. You said your employer is paying for this but my question is whether your boss(es) are supportive of your participation in the program. I completed my MBA part-time in an evening nationally-accredited MBA program with the support of my full-time emplyer who let me take an occasional day off to complete a project.

4. Based on the culture of your current employer, do you believe that attaining this new knowledge will make you more valuable to your company? Also, could the MBA give you new skills that could propel you into a higher career trajectory? (This could be the frosting on the cake!)

If you have good answers to each of these four questions, I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity! Education can be an excellent investment for the right person, in the right circumstances. If it's a three year program, project yourself three years from now. If you complete this program, you'll be three years older with new knowledge and an MBA; if you don't enroll, you'll just be three years older. Best wishes!

mlipps
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by mlipps » Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:32 pm

RadAudit wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:43 pm
Patzer wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:04 pm
My concern with it being online is that it won't carry the prestige of major in person programs or the networking benefit.
You're probably correct on both points. (If you're looking for prestige, it drops off quick after the top 15 schools.)

OTOH, you may learn something that could prove useful at a later time in your career.
I think people get overly concerned about "prestige". There are two kinds of MBA's in my mind:

1. The prestigious fancy kind that cost 6 figures and land you big money jobs in consulting, banking, whatever
2. The functional kind that teach you business skills that you may not have learned through your career path so far, especially if you didn't have an undergraduate business degree.

Sure #1 is great if that's the career path you want, and if you go to a #75 business school and expect a gig at a swanky consulting gig, you're probably in for a rude awakening, but there are way more people who just need that foundational knowledge than can pass through the doors of the top tier schools each year. So if this were an accredited business program through a not for profit university I'd say go for it.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I would do it given that it's a for profit university. Personally, I would deduct some points from a candidate if they held a degree from University of Phoenix or the like versus another candidate who did not have the same degree at all. The bias against these programs is quite strong. That's just my perspective. You could always go through the program and choose when to include or exclude that information from your resume as well, I'm sure there is still knowledge to be gained either way.

SpecialK22
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by SpecialK22 » Thu Apr 30, 2020 10:37 pm

I did a (mostly) online MBA through a for-profit several years back. Similarly, it cost me nothing out of pocket as far as tuition, course materials and fees. Actually, with the GI Bill housing stipend and my then employer's additional incentives for master's degrees, I made a healthy five-figure profit off of being in school.

You'd be correct in that it really is a poor choice for networking opportunities or signaling. However, only you know if that matters for what you are trying to do with it. In my line of work the pedigree of degrees or networking from them are unlikely to matter, and to this point the degree has neither helped nor hindered me especially. It's likely to stay that way too as I am far enough into my career that any educational credentials will be trumped by experience.

I definitely picked up things during the classes, although not being in management and not working in the private sector really haven't applied much from the degree. Randomly things will come in handy, and probably my biggest takeaway was getting better with Microsoft Office products especially Excel. Don't need a degree for that though. Coursework seemed typical compared with other MBA programs.

Since it's free for you time is the primary consideration. I'd think your employer wouldn't just limit you to reimbursement for tuition to one school, so find the one that you think is the best fit for what you are trying to accomplish. The for-profit was perfect for what I wanted: Institutionally accredited; mostly online coursework with some classroom time to qualify for higher housing allowance payments; and full participation in the yellow ribbon program so tuition and fees would never come out of my pocket. In short, I was looking for the option that paid me the most while in school with minimal disruption to my full time job. It did lack AACSB accreditation and of course being a for-profit has a negative stigma attached to it. The degree is good enough to check a box but not much else as far as the employment side.

Savvy
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Savvy » Thu Apr 30, 2020 10:41 pm

Free? Get it! 3 years from now you'll either have your MBA or you won't, and either way 3 years will have passed. Also, it's not just subjects and networking, learning how to balance work and school is the biggest lesson I learned from my MBA.

Slowtraveler
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by Slowtraveler » Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:13 pm

The replies above are great, they cover all the angles I'd consider and more so I'll share my personal judgment.

If I was in my early 20's (fresh out of uni), single, no kids, and had a small asset base, 100% I'd do it.

Being years out of school, having a significant other I love being with, enough to be okay, and a passion for travel with a job accomodating that, I personally would not do it. It would cost me too much time where I'd personally be much happier doing something else. Also, the biggest benefit of school to me was working withpeers and teachers through labs, hands on projects, and field trips. You wouldn't get that experience or prestige.

anoop
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Re: Free Online MBA Worth It?

Post by anoop » Fri May 01, 2020 1:14 am

If your gut says no, then it's probably not going to be worth it for you. Trust your intuition. The answer may be different for someone else in a similar situation as you, but that is immaterial to your decision.

If you're going to put in a lot of work into something then you should be excited about it.

A lot of folks in senior management don't have anything more than a bachelor's degree.

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