Online MBA programs are known for their versatility and accessibility. Many types of students find a home in Online MBA programs, but what about the stay-at-home mom or dad? Is there space among the archetypal business student for the parent whose current primary focus centers around caregiving?
While the answer is a definitive yes, which I can give from experience, it is an atypical path.
Going back to school
How do you know it’s time to go back to school? Let’s start with some questions.
- Is a master’s degree needed for the job you want to pursue in the future?
- Are you interested in starting your own company?
- Do you need more training in managing in the workplace?
If some of your answers are yes, then an Online MBA is a great degree to research.
But when is the perfect time to start?
Well, there might not be a perfect time. You might never be 100% ready to start a program, but you might still be ready for change.
I started looking into Online MBA programs because I wanted to pursue a career in nonprofit management. I had some management experience but minimal business background. The curriculum in an MBA was just what I was looking for. An online program was ideal since I needed to stay home with my son. Therefore, I started searching for Online MBA programs so I could primarily stay at home, work part-time, not have to relocate, and still pursue a degree.
If you have been out of school for a while, then graduate applications could seem overwhelming. Take some time to peruse our Guide to Online MBA Applications to get an overview. Depending on the program you are applying to, the application process can look very different. The application process can be as simple as turning in an application, essay, and transcripts. It could also involve the GMAT, an interview, and letters of recommendation.
You need to decide what type of MBA program and school you are looking for and then research what types of processes they require. Check out some rankings, update your resume, and write out a schedule. This is a great introduction to time management before you start your program.
This process is highly tailored to how fast or slow you want to take it. It can take a year or just a few weeks.
As a stay-at-home parent, your curriculum will be the same as any other student in your courses. You will learn the business foundations in accounting, finance, statistics, and organizational behavior. You will also delve into many interesting topics based on your business school or specialization.
The online format might take a little bit of getting used to. But seeing as we now live in a world that communicates, disperses information, and negotiates business transactions in the virtual space, it probably won’t take much time to get in the swing of things.
I really enjoyed the online format. I had to get used to doing a lot of writing. We also had a lot of online dialog with our peers and virtual group projects. Soon after I started, I found out I was pregnant with my second child. The pregnancy and birth all happened while pursuing my degree. I gave birth to my daughter two days before my marketing class started. I remember late nights of nursing and typing in a glider. It was my pinnacle of multi-tasking. And the truth is that I would not have gotten through my MBA if it had not been in an online format.
If you are entering into an Online MBA as a stay-at-home parent, you might also need to prepare yourself for a little bit of disconnection. The majority, if not all, Online MBA students are employed. Most of them have full-time jobs. So, my day-to-day reality was different from all of my peers. Most of the time, it was not an issue. A few times, there was some disconnect between me and my peers.
In one of my classes, we were given a writing assignment to talk about a situation in our professional lives. The topic addressed dealing with the effects of a problem versus dealing with a problem. So the real-life situation that I talked about was….bananas. It was my real-life example of resource optimization, you could say. But it was very different than all the other topics discussed in our class. But as a stay-at-home parent that will be jumping into the workforce in the future, being able to discuss how your day-to-day has business applications can be a useful exercise. Your time at home is not wasted (in more ways than one). But you will need to get used to seeing and applying business concepts where others may not see them.
If you are not sure that an official Online MBA is for you at this moment, you still have options. You can find ways to take classes or explore MBA topics for free. Finding a MOOC course is a great option if you want to try out some course curriculum.
MBA curriculum is always valuable. One of the biggest attributes is that MBA programs help students become fluent in the language of business. Brene Brown says in her latest book, Atlas of the Heart, that “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” The MBA curriculum helps students widen their business world. This, I can attest to.
Thanks to my statistics class, I can look at data or a graph and get a pretty good idea of whether it is deceptive. Because of the management and leadership curriculum, I understand the power of teamwork, adaptive thinking, and change management. I am also more confident in my communication skills. Thanks to my accounting and finance courses, I know my way around financial reports, and I can create them if need be. This has come in handy more than once. I have pitched projects, jobs, budgets, and companies. And my online MBA gave me the language for it.
Let’s just agree that being a stay-at-home parent is hard work. Going to school is hard work. Having a job, part- or full-time, is hard work. So, juggling all of them is, let’s say it together, hard work. But it is not impossible. And if I can do it, so can you.
So, let’s start at the beginning. Where do you see yourself in five years? Where would you like to be professionally? Personally? Now evaluate where you are and where you would like to be. Would an Online MBA help you get there? If the answer is yes, it is time to start looking for a program. You got this!