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The Big MBA Advantage

The MBA degree provides skills and advantages that go beyond the classroom and beyond the boardroom.


The MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is an internationally recognized postgraduate degree. The MBA program develops the skills necessary for careers in business and management through a core curriculum that hones in on leadership, strategy, analytics, human resources, finance, marketing, operations, and information technology. According to The Association of MBAs’ (AMBA) 2017 Application and Enrolment Report, MBA applications declined by 44 per cent between 2009 and 2014, and enrolments dropped by 8 per cent. However, the report revealed a hopeful uptick – between 2015 and 2017, applications and enrolments spiked, respectively, by 10 per cent and 24 per cent. Considered to be one of the most prestigious degrees in the world, does the MBA program hold up to its reputation outside of the classroom?

In 2016, Canadian Business included The University of Alberta’s (U of A) MBA program on their top 10 MBA list. U of A’s Alberta School of Business has five areas of focus: energy finance, innovation and entrepreneurship, operations and business analytics, public sector and healthcare management, and strategy and consulting. Students can complete their MBA via a variety of programs.

“The full-time, part-time, fast-track, Executive MBA and Fort McMurray MBA all lead towards the same degree – the Master of Business Administration. The primary difference is in the delivery of the programs,” Christopher Lynch, senior director of recruitment, admissions and marketing for U of A’s Alberta School of Business explains. “The full-time program is completed over two years, and the typical student is looking to make a substantial change or shift in their career direction. The part-time option, which usually takes students three to four years to complete, is best suited for people looking to move up within their current organization or industry. The fast-track program is specifically designed for students who have an undergraduate degree in business. The Fort McMurray MBA is offered in-person in Fort McMurray and classes are held once a month over the course of three years. The Executive MBA is a two-year program offered in Edmonton and classes are delivered once a month over a four-day block. Generally, students who enroll in the Executive MBA program are 38 to 40 years old, in a senior position, and looking to further their career.”

Over the past 10-15 years, U of A’s MBA program has seen a continual increase in students pursuing both their part-time and Executive MBA programs.

Jennifer Jordan, principal and owner of Jennifer Jordan Interior Design, graduated from the University of Alberta in 2005 with an MBA in marketing and consumer behaviour. She completed her program part-time over four years through the general MBA stream.

“The part-time structure really worked for me because I was able to apply what I was learning to my day-to-day activities. It is also a more affordable option if you can maintain your salary while chipping away at your MBA.”

The tuition for both the full-time and part-time MBA programs at U of A’s Alberta School of Business is (currently) $28,000, but for Jordan, the knowledge she gained was priceless.

“The MBA was incredibly valuable to me in so many ways. I gained the knowledge and understanding I needed to start my own boutique interior design practice, and this year marks a dozen years of successful practice. Interior design is a very collaborative process. It involves working within multi-disciplinary groups to deliver large, complex projects. Not only did my MBA strengthen my abilities as a leader, but the program’s focus on teamwork also enhanced my communication and consensus building skills,” she explains. “It improved my strategic planning skills, which led to team growth, higher client satisfaction, and more revenue. All of this has made us one of the leading licensed and professional practices in Canada. Our work has extended as far as Roatan, Honduras; New York, New York; Danville, Kentucky; and Cabo and Baja California Sur, Mexico as well as many projects in Canada.”

Charlene Butler is the president and founder of Butler Business Solutions Ltd. She is also an alumnus of U of A, having graduated with her MBA in 2009 with a specialization in natural resources, energy, and the environment. She also holds several other degrees.

“The full-time MBA program exceeded all of my expectations and was more fun than I ever dreamed it could be,” says Butler. Prior to pursuing her MBA, she had over 25 years of work experience and was employed at a senior executive level in both the energy and insurance sectors.

“I pursued my MBA after deciding I wanted to start my own consulting company. As I was in the midst of completely changing careers, the MBA program was instrumental in my transition. The opportunities for networking are unlimited, and I took advantage of as many as I could. The MBA office was supportive by providing me with the names of graduates who had entered the consulting field. Those MBA alumni provided me with the advice and guidance I needed to incorporate my own consulting company, which I did at the end of my first year in the program. Networking with the dean and other faculty members resulted in having clients prior to graduation.”

While grades are important, Butler urges students to participate in as many events and activities outside of class as they can. “Those opportunities truly transform your MBA from a degree to a life-altering experience. If you take advantage of all the program has to offer, it will open so many doors for you.”

Athabasca University’s online MBA has earned a place among the top MBA programs in the world. Being the world’s first online MBA program for executives when it launched in 1994, it offered an unprecedented opportunity for learners.

“Taking your MBA online offers a unique, customizable learning experience that is tailored to your lifestyle and time commitments. Because our students don’t reside in one physical location, there are greater opportunities for them to connect with experienced managers and leaders from different industries all around the world. Athabasca University’s online MBA is built to enhance peer-learning and collaboration, and there is ample opportunity for students to interact and participate in discussions and group work,” says Deborah Hurst, dean of Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business.

With 2019 as the program’s 25th anniversary, Hurst says to stay tuned because it will be a year full of celebrations for the Faculty of Business.

Kurt Thomas, founder and CEO of the Edmonton-based Stay With Ease Hospitality company, is completing his MBA online with a specialization in entrepreneurship at The Australian Institute of Business.

“Statistically, nine out of 10 startups will dissolve within the first 36 months, and only a small percentage of those remaining businesses will make it to the 10-year mark, Thomas notes. “For my company to have the chance at either possibility, I knew I needed to make a significant leap. Since starting my MBA program, I have been able to meet leaders in entrepreneurship, investment, and startup spaces.”

From business development and admission into tech-based accelerator programs, to flying to different provinces for basecamps and networking events, Thomas has been able to apply the theories and practices he has learned to every aspect of his business and personal life.

“In a short period, I have had the privilege to meet and work with many amazing people, create new skill sets, and achieve a few milestone accomplishments. Pursuing my MBA has significantly impacted my life, and I can honestly say I never appreciated or respected the power of higher learning as much as I do today,” he concludes.

So, does the MBA hold up to its reputation outside of the classroom? The answer is a resounding and undisputed, “yes.”