After more than 11 years in the U.S. Navy, Oscar Webb is looking ahead to civilian life. He expects to make the transition next year and wanted to be prepared for the change. With an undergraduate degree from Saint Leo in business administration, Webb chose to return to his alma mater for a master's degree.
An MBA in Healthcare Management seemed like it could give him a competitive edge in the job market and help him gain additional, valuable skills. But his nontraditional schedule as an aviation electronics technician meant that a traditional classroom setting, with courses set at fixed times, wouldn't work for this Virginia man.
He enrolled in Saint Leo University's online Master's of Business Administration. Normally, graduate students take one class per 8-week term due to the intensity of the courses. Webb, however, wanted his degree before his job search began and chose to pursue his MBA on an accelerated track. Beginning in May 2013, he started taking two classes nonstop in a faster path to get his advanced degree. He finished in June 2014.
This faster path appeals to many students, and Saint Leo University has consistently increased the number of students who double up on their classes in order to graduate in a quicker time frame, says Joshua Stagner, director of graduate admissions.
The most obvious benefit is that students have their MBAs in a shorter amount of time, which is especially attractive if the student needs an advanced degree for an immediate opportunity. But Stagner points out other advantages as well.
Some students actually excel when they take two classes simultaneously. Balancing two graduate classes at once requires dedication, cooperation and attention to detail, which can help students increase their level of focus. Another benefit, Stagner says, is how the accelerated approach looks on a resume. Completing an MBA program in half the time it takes a typical student shows a strong work ethic and motivation, attractive qualities to employers.
"In a world where applicants are trying to set themselves apart, earning a degree in an accelerated amount of time could be a great way of doing so," Stagner says.
What's it like for students who opt for an accelerated MBA online? Oscar talks about his experience.
What were the advantages of an online MBA degree for you?
Oscar: My work schedule consists of a lot of various tasks related to maintaining operational readiness of aircraft and related equipment. There are period inspections, audits and management of personnel in the organization.
Pursuing an online format has been helpful for me to work around the unpredictable nature of my Navy schedule. It allows me to keep abreast of all my work in a way that a traditional classroom setting could not. I found out about Saint Leo through the Navy college office.
What are the challenges of taking two graduate classes at once?
Oscar: Taking two master's classes at a time has been very challenging. I have to set aside time for studying during the week. I have two sons who have extracurricular activities that I must also balance with my schedule.
There have been multiple times that I wanted to give up, but I realized that I couldn't do that. The workload for one class can be daunting. The required reading for one class is equal to two or three undergrad classes. And each week the papers just keep coming.
What sort of support have you had as you strive to meet your goals?
Oscar: My wife has been extremely supportive during this whole process, although I know she'll be glad to see it complete next month — probably more than me!
Saint Leo was very supportive of non-traditional students like me. I always felt like there was a real push to help students to succeed. The resources were there just like a traditional setting.
What's your dream job?
Oscar: To be a hospital administrator.
What advice do you have for students considering an accelerated MBA online?
Oscar: I would say they must be prepared for the amount of work that is involved, and they must set time aside and put their best foot forward. I've seen a lot of students withdraw at the beginning of the term because they misjudged the workload of a course. Also, there is a high standard for academic success. It is important to get good grades. Strive for an A every course. Good luck to all.
What about an accelerated MBA online appeals to you?
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Image Credit: Angela Waye on Shutterstock and courtesy Oscar Webb