The Versatility of the MBA

September 8, 2021
FT -Blog Work Experience Bus. Background

Do you really need a business background and work experience to pursue an MBA? Not necessarily. Read about the firsthand experiences of students and grads who showcase the versatility of the MBA.

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You've probably heard the standard advice that to pursue, be accepted and be successful in a quality MBA program you have to fit a particular profile of student. That typically refers to having 2-5 years of professional experience, an undergraduate degree in business and the desire to advance in a field like management, marketing or consulting.

That advice misses the mark. In fact, if you don't quite fit what a so-called "ideal candidate" is, you can still find success in a strong MBA program that welcomes and appreciates the perspective you bring. You can thrive not in spite of but because of your unique background and motives.

That lesson is best illustrated through the journeys of many Baylor students and graduates. Take a look at some of their stories to discover the sheer variety of paths taken before and after earning an MBA. It might surprise you to learn just how versatile the MBA is for your career—and other core aspects of your life.

How Do Early-Career and Non-Business Students Fare?

Andrew Donsbach had a dream of getting an MBA, pursuing a PhD and becoming a university professor. So after finishing his undergraduate business program at Eastern Illinois University, he decided to stay in school two more years to secure his MBA. It wasn't a popular decision.

Or how he'll benefit more from an MBA with the work experience.

"Despite the questions from those around me, I felt that pursuing my MBA early on was the right choice for me," Donsbach said. After developing as a leader and networking with some of the biggest companies in the world, he landed a project management position at USAA, a Fortune 100 company.

"Turns out, during my MBA, I developed a greater passion for industry, and the professor dream was put on hold (for now)—but who knows what the future will hold!" Donsbach said. But not so fast. At the time of publishing this article, he has enrolled as a PhD student at the University of Missouri to pursue research interests in data privacy, consumer trust and relationship marketing. Clearly Donsbach is at least one step closer to his original dream—or perhaps busy fulfilling a new one.

Another common misconception about pursuing an MBA is that an academic background in business is necessary. Yet, quite a few successful MBA students don't come from an undergraduate business program, and it's interesting to learn about the backgrounds and industries of three non-business students who thrived at the Hankamer School of Business.

  • Kirk Amarh-Kwatreng had a bachelor's in political science and a master's in education before pursuing his MBA. He now works for McLane Company, Inc., a supply chain leader.
  • Brittany Wetmore had a Bachelor of Social Work before becoming a dual degree student, earning both a Master of Social Work and an MBA. She now works as a recruitment and selection coordinator for the Dallas Independent School District.
  • Lanie Williams had a bachelor's in mechanical engineering before pursuing MBA and MS in Information Systems degrees. In addition to her current studies, she now works as an IT technical solution lead intern for Stryker, a medical technology company.

"When I thought about my future, I wanted to have a skill set that people needed, a way to add value to an organization," Williams said. "I also knew that I didn't want to be a traditional engineer. So, getting my MBA is a way for me to add tools to my tool belt while also broadening my opportunities after school."

All three students expressed how important diversification was to their intended career paths.

Gaining an Extra Edge: The MBA in Unexpected Industries

It might surprise you to learn how students in various professional fields have leveraged an MBA as part of a dual degree to boost their career outlook.

Take the example of social work and Anna Beard, who graduated with her MBA/MSW degrees a few months before the time of publishing. She was originally drawn to an MBA when she realized how she "would not be prepared for the real world without some sort of business knowledge," Beard said.

She noticed that business skills were integral to running successful programs and organizations. Citing a need for knowledge of financial literacy through budgeting, accounting knowledge through grant writing, and stewardship through governments, donations and grants, Beard saw "a gap here between the worlds of business and social work that needed to be filled."

Brittney Blakely, another Baylor MBA graduate, also perceived a gap in her field. Her JD/MBA degrees helped further her understanding of how law and business are related. "The interplay between concepts—such as mergers & acquisitions, bankruptcy, lending, etc.—is so prevalent that getting both a law degree and an MBA will inevitably deepen your understanding of each field," she said.

That understanding helped Blakely learn how to think like an executive and connect with the business motivations of future clients. Add in critical thinking skills and the networking that comes from connections at two programs, and it's easy to see why Blakely argued that a JD/MBA provides greater career flexibility than just one degree. Now she works as an energy transactions associate at the law firm Gray Reed.

Another example comes from Jeff Braswell, who earned his dual MBA/MSIS degrees to pursue the intersection of people management and IT. His mentor told him how it's the hottest skill in the market. Companies are always searching for people who can communicate with software developers and IT engineers while managing employees and defining business strategy.

"Several job and an internship offers later, I've found my mentor's words hold true," Braswell said. "My new job is on the people side, but also includes an information systems component: I'll be working with teams on IT compliance and auditing for a government contractor. When I was job hunting, it was amazing to feel wanted by the companies I was interviewing with!" He works as a technical program manager at Leviathan Security Group.

More Than an Academic Program—Faith, Family and "Home"

One of Braswell's classmates, Chelsea Lin, made the top priority of her school search a Christian school that reflects her "personal belief that faith and business go hand in hand."

One of her friends, a Baylor MBA alumna, recommended the school and it was "the right choice" for pursuing her MBA/MSIS, Lin said. She volunteered in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and received an award from Christian Ethics and Leadership in Business. Other standout experiences for Lin included the many Christian business leaders who spoke in her classes and, overall, how "the MBA program is like a big family."

"Many of the students are currently at the same stage of life, and after spending so much time together, they have become the closest people that I have besides my family," Lin said. "We celebrate birthdays and babies and do life together—dinner after team meetings, Bachelor watch parties, Bear Cycle classes, soccer, game nights and even line dancing on weekends. These are the people you'd call when you need to make a trip to the ER in the middle of the night."

Lin wasn't alone in finding a place that she could call home. Amber Campman was nervous about moving to Waco, Texas from Phoenix to complete her MBA with a Business Analytics concentration. But she felt more comfortable in part thanks to activities outside the classroom, including sporting events, the Student Life Center, intramural sports, Cameron Park, Baylor traditions and shopping.

Others like Baylor's Taylor Ulmer felt "nervous" about moving away from home to pursue an MBA. After Ulmer graduated from the University of Georgia and worked for two years coordinating air ambulance transports, he decided on earning his MBA in Healthcare Administration at the Hankamer School of Business. His trip to Chicago for a healthcare executives conference was particularly memorable.

"The memories of our trip to Chicago will not be soon forgotten," Ulmer said. "In fact, the entirety of the Baylor MBA program will be an incredible period in my life I remember fondly. I married my wife exactly a year ago in Atlanta and just a few months later moved our entire lives to Waco. We were nervous, but because of the relationships we made through Baylor, we found someplace to call our first home. This was made that much more apparent as I spend time learning, laughing and eating with some of my closest friends in Chicago."

What's Next

You can experience the versatility and impact that an MBA can have in your career and in your life. Learn more about the full-time MBA at the Hankamer School of Business by exploring our detailed program page. Still not sure if an MBA fits your goals? Reach out for a one-on-one consultation with our admissions advisers. They can help you determine available options for your best path forward. Complete the form below, and our team will contact you directly.

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