Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Update On Online MBAs - Detours

Those who have been following along since mid-2006, are aware that I am earning my Master of Business Administration at the University of Houston at Victoria. That is actually a bit of a mis-statement though, since in actual fact I am taking almost all of my courses online. Just to catch up, here are the courses I have taken so far and their resulting grades (UHV uses only A/B/C/D/F for graduate classes, no ‘+’ or ‘-‘ grades):

FALL 2006
Accounting 6351 – Financial Reporting and Analysis ******** B
Economics 6351 – Economics for Managers *************** A
Business 6351 – Business and Society ******************* A
[][] Semester GPA 3.66 [][]

(SPRING 2007 cancelled due to cancer treatment)

Accounting 6352 – Strategic Cost Management ************ A
Management 6351 – Management & Org. Behavior ********* A
Quantitative Analysis 6351 – Statistics & Research Methods ** A
[][] Semester GPA 4.00, running GPA 3.83 [][]

FALL 2007
Management 6354 – Leadership & Organizational Change **** A
Management 6355 – Operational Management & Comp. ***** A
Marketing 6352 – Strategic Marketing Management ******** A
[][] Semester GPA 4.00, running GPA 3.89 [][]

Economics 6361 – Managerial Economics
Finance 6352 – Financial Management
Management 6352 – Management of Information Systems

Assuming I pass the Spring 2008 classes, that will fulfill all of my core requirements except the Capstone course which includes the case competition, and three remaining concentration classes in Accounting.

That’s where things get sticky. If you have not earned your Bachelor’s degree yet, I strongly urge you to stop and think – HARD – about what you want to do for a living, because – no matter what your counselor or advisor tells you – your undergraduate studies will have a great deal indeed to do with what you can do later on. In my case, I was somewhat less than industrious at Baylor as an undergrad, and so in my Junior year I discovered that I was in no way ready to graduate. I scrambled around for answers, got some really bad advice from BU’s advisors, and left the place in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.

Fast forward to today. In my work at four companies over 24 years, I have discovered that I love Accounting. I mean sure, there’s parts of it that a boring, but on the whole it’s just what I want to do. There’s analysis, there’s the clean fact that numbers are non-political and objective, and with Sarbanes-Oxley, accountants are far more appreciated than ever before. So, I thought about things for a long time and decided I wanted to earn my CPA license. But, given my work background in Business Management, it just made sense for my to go after the MBA with a concentration in Accounting, rather than first go for a Masters in Accountancy. UHV’s Strategic MBA offers a quick MBA in that respect, and I thought it would be simple.

Ahhh. But Life always hits you upside the head every now and then. Two of the Accounting courses in the Accounting section have undergraduate prerequisites; Advanced Auditing and Advanced Taxation. I am hardly complaining about that; it just makes sense to prove competency in the basic skills before taking on the advanced work. However, the prerequisites are not offered online. The only way to take them is to actually apply and register at one of the other universities in the UH system, and take those classes in person. The problems get even stickier when I realized that those prerequisites also have prerequisites, and worst of all those courses may not be taken concurrently, and they are presently not offered at all in the summer. So, to take those courses, I would have to register for Intermediate Accounting II in the Spring of 2007, follow it with Intermediate Accounting III in the Fall of 2007, follow that with the next course in Spring 2008 and finally take the graduate level courses in the Fall of 2008. Since I planned to get my MBA in the Spring of 2008, this was a real problem, especially since the school offering the first course in the Spring of 2007 filled all its evening classes before I knew about this specific requirement.

This is where that 24 years of experience comes in. The nominal way to earn the MBA with a concentration in Accounting, is to take the core courses plus four Accounting concentration courses. However, I found out that it was also allowable to earn an MBA with a concentration in Accounting by taking the core courses, three Accounting concentration courses, and one additional course in Finance or Economics. That is why Managerial Economics is on my Spring schedule; it’s allowed as a replacement for one of the Accounting courses, though it won’t add to satisfaction of the course requirements for my CPA. Besides the two Accounting courses I have already completed, UHV offers five other Accounting courses at the graduate level: The Auditing and Taxation courses which require special pre-requisites, but also International Accounting, Selected Topics in Accounting, and Contemporary Issues in Accounting. If I take those last three plus Managerial Economics and the Capstone course, I can still get my MBA with a concentration in Accounting, and worry about the other courses post-graduate in preparation for my CPA exam. The hitch, of course, is when and how those courses may be offered, so I will have to wait and see how that shakes out. In case you think this is just a bit ‘iffy’ and is dependant on luck, I agree, but the situation is the best I can make of it right now.

So, why mention all this? Well, I started writing about my MBA studies as a sort of journal for anyone who might be in something like the same situation, so I owe it to you to note the squirrely things, like previously unmentioned requirements and the need to be creative in planning your degree route, never trusting anyone else for your own results. No matter your accomplishments, you have to have educational certification for certain opportunities, and an MBA is a powerful tool in certain situations, provided you plan things properly. That planning, however, includes thinking out what you will do with your degree, and therefore making sure you get the specific credentials for your desired position is critically important. Not every school is really interested in working with the student to help them get the right degree, and many schools are still very-much hidebound to the way they have always done things, so there will be situations where what makes sense has nothing to do with what is required of you. Fortunately, if you have had enough experience in the real world, you will already be familiar with similar chaos in working conditions.

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