01 September 2012

Nonconventional Uses of an MBA: NASA and the CIA

--> If you have ever wondered what it might be like to work for an entity such as NASA or the CIA then you might find it is time well spent in investigating how to apply your mba towards a non-traditional career focus upon graduation.
While many students who are in advanced educational classes to obtain their organizational leadership degree or other specialized mba degree fully intend on applying their new skills in a corporate setting upon graduation, not all students fall into this category. Some students are obtaining an advanced degree in business to make a difference in the world of academia, nonprofit or even the government either nationally, internationally or intergalactically. As with more non-traditional hiring entities such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), the CIA and NASA recognize the value in the skill set of mba candidates, more jobs are becoming available for students who are seeking out alternatives to corporate careers.

What You Can Expect with Non-Corporate Careers


Because much of your educational curriculum and most likely many of your internship and practicum opportunities will focus on applying your new knowledge in a business setting, it can be harder to visualize how you might apply an mba degree online or an organizational leadership program, for instance, in a non-traditional setting. But here it is important to realize that while a nonprofit organization might have a different focus than a Wall Street firm, the basic path to get there usually remains very much the same.

A nonprofit corporation may use program success as a benchmark of success, while a Wall Street firm uses profitability, but both organizations still need executives and employees who can balance the books, create marketing materials, manage employees and perform many other basic business-focused skills in order for the organization to succeed in its goals. The same holds true for governmental entities such as the space program, intelligence agencies and advocacy groups.

The Impact on Your Bottom Line


A potential pitfall to watch out for if you decide to pursue a career beyond a corporate life is salary. Because often students who choose to work for nonprofit organizations, academic institutions or the government do so out of personal ideology or passion rather than an eye towards earning potential, it can be more difficult to juggle the expense of paying back a student loan and getting established financially after graduation should you choose this route. However, there are ways to make it work.

Some students work in a corporate setting for a few years to earn up enough money to pay off their loans and then they transition to a more personally desirable field. Some students take advantage of loan forgiveness programs at their academic institution, if such are available, for students who choose to work in the service or government sectors after graduation. Still other students just choose to take the hit because the payoff in job satisfaction is worth it. What is most important is just to be aware of how your career choice could impact your financial health before you make that choice.

The Hiring Process


The hiring process will likely also be different if you choose to target your career search towards a government, academic or nonprofit or service entity. You may have to do more networking in order to reach the decision makers at your chosen employer. There may also be additional special prerequisites or extra training or education you need to complete before you can qualify for the career that interests you. You may not find as many resources at your university’s career placement center for alternative career paths, which also means you may have to start your job search earlier than your corporate-minded peers. You may also consider joining specialty organizations or associations prior to graduation as a student member. These organizations may be able to assist you in meeting prospective employers in your chosen field.

There are many interesting ways to apply the advanced education and skills you gain as you study towards earning your mba degree. The important thing to remember is that, while it may take a bit more research and effort to find the open doors in nontraditional fields, the payoff will be worth it when you land a job you intrinsically know you will love.

This article was written by Lola Montrose, who is a MBA student at an online university. Montrose has government aspirations with her own degree; it’s been her lifelong dream. Lola lives in Washington D.C. and on the weekends, you can typically find her writing at IKEA’s café.