Most people run away from a storm, but, as a member of the U.S. Airforce Reserves and pilot with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters, I head into the eye of nature’s biggest storms to gather data that can help save lives. While I love my job and take it very seriously, I have goals to achieve another dream—opening my own business.
As I began examining next steps to eventually open my own business, it became clear that I needed to further my education. But, with the unpredictability of hurricanes making my life a bit hectic, I needed to find a program that would operate on the same terms as my life. An online degree seemed to be a natural fit and I began seeking out an appropriate program. I ultimately chose to pursue my Executive MBA (EMBA) through Washington State University (WSU) Carson College of Business’ online program. I chose WSU because of its strong reputation and the strong support I received from the college throughout my MBA search, but one size does not necessarily fit all.
Picking an online graduate program can be a daunting task. There are so many options out there. Having been through the process, I wanted to share a few tips for those who may be evaluating their own MBA aspirations:
- Accreditation: It is important to understand the requirements when using military education benefits. A school must be accredited for benefits to work, making this one of the key criteria military members should look for as they pursue higher education. With new online programs popping up on a regular basis, it can be difficult to determine whether they are legitimate and accredited. Inquiring with the school and checking with the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation are good first steps to ensure you are getting the most out of your college search.
- Reputation: While accreditation is necessary, you must dig a little deeper to determine if the university is a high-quality program with a great reputation. I started by searching though trusted university rankings, and then asked my mentors and peers for their advice.
- Strong Support: When I was searching for an online program, I was nervous about the associated support system available. Traditional brick-and-mortar schools offer great services to on-campus students, and I wanted to ensure that I would have adequate support even though my classes were online. For example, the Carson College of Business provided me a veteran’s affairs liaison who helped me determine if the university was a good fit and which online MBA program I should pursue.
- Research: Closely examine every part of the program. Look at what classes are offered each quarter, whether a capstone is required, and if there are flexible options for setting your schedule and taking exams. Digging into these areas will help you understand if the program will meet your specific needs, both professionally and personally. Being an active duty military member often entails an unpredictable schedule, and doing the research upfront will factor into your success during and after the program.
- Talk With Family and Friends: Earning an online MBA, particularly through an accelerated program, wasn’t just demanding for me, it was also hard on my family and friends. Taking the time to explain your decision to pursue an online degree along with the time requirements it will take can help make the adjustment easier for them.
Looking back, getting my EMBA was one of the best decisions I have made. Not only are the skills I learned transferrable to almost any situation, from working efficiently with my fellow Hurricane Hunters to managing the team at my business venture, Strategic Nutrition Solutions, they also ensure I am prepared to achieve many other dreams when my Hurricane Hunting days are over.
Devon Meister, Major, United States Airforce Reserves, has served for 13 years in a variety of roles from pilot to meteorologist to project manager. Major Meister is currently a pilot for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters.