Is it possible to get your MBA while you travel for work?

MBA for DummiesIs there a way to combine the demands of a hectic business travel schedule and studying for your MBA? Reader S asks….

Hi Road Warriorette! I love your blog! I have been at my company for almost seven years and in my job for five. I think it’s time to take my career to the next level and have been exploring getting my MBA. I am concerned about managing the frequent travel required by my job while taking classes and studying for an advanced degree. Do you have any suggestions for figuring out if it’s possible?

Wow, that is a lot to think about! I definitely think it is possible, but you have to find the right program. I have actually been researching getting an MBA myself, and in my area there are programs that meet every other weekend, one night a week, two nights a week, and primarily online. The admissions office of the program you’re interested in can tell you what their policies are about missing classes or if they would be a good fit for someone who travels frequently.

I would also recommend having a frank talk with your boss. Some employers will allow employees to attend classes without it impacting their vacation schedule. Some will even pay for part of your education, within certain requirements. Beyond that, do you have any say over your travel schedule? Are you able to schedule trips around classes? Do you have regular night meetings or other engagements that you are able to miss?

As you have  probably surmised, getting any kind of advance degree while working full-time requires a lot of time management and sacrifice. Time with family and friends will be impacted, as well as general downtime. I was told that if I decide to do an evening MBA program, in addition to my work/travel schedule and family, I basically wouldn’t be able watch TV or have a social life for two years. Yikes. At the same time, at the end of the program I will be set up to make significantly more money and have a better career path.

Here’s an interesting article from Fortune I found about getting your MBA online while traveling

So is it possible? Absolutely. Is it worth it? That’s up to you. Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress!

Readers, have you gotten your master’s while traveling for work? Any tips for Reader S? 

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  1. As a current MBA candidate at a T10 program, I would HIGHLY advise against an online MBA. The value of the program (for many, not all) is the network and connections you make from the program, and learning from classmates. For those seeking to do an Evening/Weekend program I have seen first hand how much more value ascribed to the program, post graduation, from those who relocated to still be connected to the program. I know management consultants who travel M-F then attend classes on Saturday, some even living out of the country and coming solely for class. It’s difficult sure, but well worth to get the most out of the program.

    You can learn NPV, WACC, 5Forces, Bottleneck analysis, etc. anywhere (even free online), but you earn an MBA both for the academic and the network aspects.

  2. I would say it’s definitely doable. My husband and I are getting our MBAs part time on Saturday with jobs that expect travel Monday – Thursday. Many of our classmates in the Saturday program either have rigorous travel jobs or live elsewhere in the country and travel in. These student will typically cover their own cost of travel, some have flights of up to 6 hours, and finish the program in 2.5-3 years.
    With that said, we both go to a top 10 school and I m not entirely sure of the value of an online MBA.

  3. I’m 3 weeks away from completing my MBA online from Louisiana State University. I work full-time and write the Majored in Miles blog on TravelUpdate.com. Originally, I was doing the on-campus program and was the Graduate Assistant for the Online MBA, but when a great opportunity presented itself the semester before graduation, I opted to finish online. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that an online MBA is not for the faint of heart or those who are not abnormally driven individuals. I work full-time, go home, study every night for a few hours, then study all day Saturday and Sunday as well. If you want an MBA to help you get a promotion, my advice would be invest that time into work and read more books on operations, finance, accounting, business law, etc. If you want to change fields completely, like I did, then weigh your options and seek advice from others who have done it. I’ve been at this for 6 months online and I’m barely able to function. Getting an MBA opened up a lot of doors for me, but I don’t believe those same opportunists would have existed for me in an online program unless I went to a top 10 business school. Good luck!

  4. I worked full-time and traveled for work (sometimes once a month, sometimes four days a week). I graduated in 2.5 years with my MBA from a part-time, in-person program at a local, fully accredited program.
    – Do your research. I met with advisers/professors at the school, all my advisers and professors were very understanding of work schedules. I missed classes from time to time, but tried not to miss more than 2-3 classes a semester. You may want to avoid a cohort/lock-step program. Look at programs that offer one night a week, or weekends. My school allowed seven years to complete the program, which is more than enough time. I took two classes per semester if my workload was manageable. I did drop a course two weeks in because I started to work on a big project and wouldn’t have time to devote to the class.
    – Talk to your boss. I had to get permission to leave work early to get to class on time. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement – it is a writeoff for the company.
    – Don’t worry about your social life – yes I did spend weekends studying/writing papers at the library, but I also built a great professional/social network. I made a point of forming a study group in each class I took. Some of my best friends – I met at school.

  5. I would TOTALLY encourage it. I earned 2 masters degrees this way, and I feel my experience was much richer than my peers who had regular 9-5 jobs.

    I agree with the previous comment about a live course is much better than online courses – it’s the interactions and discussions that dictate what you really learn AND RETAIN..

    I have very strong memories of working on my masters thesis (Chicago) from a hotel room in Berlin. Those were some pretty long days, but those are also some pretty strong memories that haven’t faded away.

  6. I’m a current Kelley Direct student (Indiana University). I chose the program specifically because it offers the same perks as the brick-and-mortar MBA (great professors, career services, etc), but it can be done entirely online. If I can’t make a webinar–no problem, I can just watch the recording later. My company based me in rural Argentina, so this was a huge selling point for me. You still can easily make connections with your classmates through all of the group work, plus there are two one-week sessions (one your first year, one your second year) where you do real consulting work for real companies. My classmates all work full-time (and many have very busy travel schedules), but I think that’s what makes us even more driven–we’re doing our MBAs as well as working full time. Happy to answer any other questions you might have, but I’ve been very pleased with the program so far!

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