Online programs and industry partnerships are increasing the value of advanced business degrees and decreasing the cost.

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If you’re looking to advance your career, a business degree could be the perfect investment. Washington’s colleges and universities are evolving their program offerings to serve students’ needs, while adding value to businesses and communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington State University, for instance, phased out on-campus MBA programs that were not well matched to its physical locations and developed a nationally ranked online MBA. The university’s online MBA and executive MBA (EMBA) program are offered exclusively online.

With location no longer a limiting factor, it’s easier now than ever before to complete a fully accredited MBA without putting your life and career on hold or compromising your company’s bottom line.

Business partnerships make MBA more affordable

Nine years ago, while working for an IT company in Seattle, WSU alumnus Pat Birkeland saw an article in The Seattle Times about a tuition assistance partnership between WSU and The Boeing Company.

“I changed jobs because I believed in the tuition assistance program so much,” he says. “The program provided the foundation of my career.”

Recognizing that the manufacturing world drove much of the change in IT operations, he took advantage of the tuition assistance program to enroll in WSU’s engineering and technology management program and (a few years later) the online MBA. Now he helps companies bridge the gap between technical work and business outcomes.

Many businesses recognize that it’s a win-win situation when their employees want to earn a business degree. Some will pay in full or in part for their employees to enroll in advanced business education.

Tuition assistance partnerships offer eligible applicants to WSU’s Carson College of Business a 10 percent tuition reduction and an application fee waiver. Partnering companies include Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Chick-fil-A Inc. and many others.

While the tuition benefits drew Birkeland in, the flexibility of online education ultimately made it possible for him to succeed.

The ability to watch recorded classes at home and interact with classmates and professors online was a big plus, as was the ability to focus on one subject at a time. Given his daily routine with family and long commute, earning an MBA is something he couldn’t have done 10 years ago, he says.

Executive MBA is a game changer

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs differ from a standard MBA in that they are exclusively offered to students who already have experience in business, allowing professionals to earn an MBA while working full-time. Washington State University’s EMBA program, for example, is available to applicants who have at least seven years of progressively responsible business management experience.

Former WSU quarterback Jason Gesser illustrates the EMBA advantage. After he made the jump from college coaching into athletic administration and development, he enrolled in Washington State’s online EMBA program to hone his business skills.

“As an athletic director,” Gesser says, “you’re basically the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company.”

Today, he’s an assistant athletic director and has his sights set on becoming a college athletic director. Earning a business degree was an essential step.

In addition to the practical business education he received, Gesser also credits his EMBA experience for helping grow his professional network.

“It’s so perfect,” he says about the relationships he built. “You’re working alongside CEOs and other high-level business people. People similar in age who have families and similar career paths. You learn a lot along the way. Not just from the courses, but from the people you’re working with.”

For those looking to grow their careers and considering an advanced business degree, Gesser offers this advice: “If you’re thinking about it, stop thinking and just do it. It will be one of the best feelings of accomplishment in your entire life.”

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Faculty teach and produce research at the Pullman, Vancouver, Everett and Tri-Cities campuses and through WSU’s Global Campus online. For information, visit