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The Online MBA in Education Management Explained


Education is probably the most important business. The problem is that most people don't think of it as a business, so they don't run schools or school districts as they would a traditional company. While their instincts are right about the fact that education is different, because its goal is to produce thoughtful, upstanding citizens as opposed to profit, it still can benefit from basic business principles. And businesspeople can, of course, learn from educators about the ins and outs of training staff.

Enter MBA programs in education management. Even though this is somewhat of a niche area, there are numerous options for those interested. Whether you aim to become a superintendent, university administrator, lead an education-related organization, or simply better train employees, you can probably find an online or in-person program that's a good fit.

What is an MBA in education management?

The curriculum of an MBA in education management is typically designed to teach students core business concepts, such as finance and strategy, while also exposing them to the fundamentals of education. For example, Lamar University focuses its MBA in educational management program on helping aspiring school administrators better understand "school planning, operations, and finances," according to the school's website.

However, the curriculum has wider applications, say administrators. The University of Michigan offers a joint MBA/MA degree from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Education. It allows students to customize the curriculum based on their career goals.

"Business expertise and an understanding of educational policy and practice can affect meaningful improvements in the education system," says Heather Byrne, managing director of the MBA Program at the Ross School. "Understanding education and curriculum development can also position someone for a career in leadership development programming and employee development within the public and private sectors."

Of course, the type of classes students take depends on the program, but the universal intent is to help people better run the business of education. For instance, at MSOE University, students in the MBA in Education Leadership program take courses such as Maximizing Stakeholder Relationships, Facilitating Change in Complex Systems, and Building Value through Technology. The teaching method combines case studies and project-based work much like traditional MBA programs.

On the other hand, students at the Mills College Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business' MBA/MA in Educational Leadership program take Social Foundation of Education, Urban Education, Labor Economics, and Negotiations, among others.

Most programs offer career-planning advice to students, and the degree can be used for more than what the name implies, say administrators. The acquired knowledge and skills could be applied to being a superintendent of a school district or the head of a staff training unit, for example. As with any program, graduates also have access to a big network, which may include grads from two schools in the case of a joint degree.

School Administrator

Who is the right fit for this program?

Anyone who is seeking a career in school administration or professional training could be a match for programs like these. Applicants have to research programs and assess their ability to help them reach their specific goals. For example, some of these MBA in education programs offer courses for those aiming to run universities, while others are strictly for Pre-K to 12 school administrators.

Also, some programs, particularly joint degrees, offer more of a balance between courses in business and education, whereas others are aimed at teaching those who are already educators how to apply fundamentals of business to their decision making. Noting these subtleties can help applicants better choose where to apply.

What are the admissions requirements?

Obviously, admissions requirements vary from program to program. But most of the education schools that are involved in joint degree offerings with a business school will accept a GMAT score in place of other standardized tests. Most require application essays, transcripts from previous schooling, and recommendations. Some even require that a leader in the field nominate the applicant. The idea there is that this person is already being groomed for a senior role in education.

Successful applicants have experience in education or HR training and aspirations to take on more senior roles. While they need to know how to balance budgets and negotiate with teachers (and unions), they also need to nurture creativity, understand innovative technology, and love students of all kinds.