Why the MBA is the Best Degree for a Business Career 

Q&A with MBA Faculty Director Billur Akdeniz Talay 
Associate professor of marketing Billur Akdeniz studies marketing strategy and analytics

An MBA, or master’s degree in business administration, is one of the most popular professional graduate degrees you can earn today. MBAs are recognized by business leaders as having the background and leadership skills needed to move organizations forward.  

An MBA can really pay off, too. The median salary doubled for people across all industries who earned their MBA and then returned to their fields, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 7,000 graduates. Those who used MBA programs as opportunities to switch sectors saw even greater salary increases.   

Learn from professors with real-world business and research experience 

Billur Akdeniz Talay, associate professor of marketing and faculty director of strategy for the MBA program at the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, teaches MBA students who take courses online and at the Durham, New Hampshire campus. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Akdeniz earned her bachelor’s degree in economics before deciding to pursue an MBA herself.  

“Economics can be an abstract science and I started looking for a more practical discipline that I can transfer my knowledge in economics into,” she said. 
 
Instead, Akdeniz drew inspiration from developing marketing strategies based upon econometric models, an interest that underpinned her research as a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University. While studying in the auto capital of the United States, she looked at 15 years of car industry data and compared the difference between perceived quality vs. objective quality in car brands and looked at how those gaps affected brand performance. If perceived quality is consumer perception and objective quality looks at hard data such as the number of defects a car experiences over the first 90-days of ownership, for example; major gaps can set up consumers for disappointment and hurt car brand performance eventually. 
 
“A brand usually thinks that perceived quality beats objective quality (with consumers.) But it’s not either—it’s the gap between the two that affects the performance of these (car) brands,” Akdeniz said. 

Her teaching areas at UNH include marketing analytics, marketing strategy, and international marketing. At Paul College, whose online MBA program was recently ranked #51 by U.S. and World Report, students learn the latest knowledge from research faculty like Akdeniz, and former executives who bring their practical real-world perspectives to their teaching. 

Earn a degree built to cover a broad business foundation, with opportunities for specialization 

Akdeniz describes the MBA as a “T-shaped” degree that allows for both breadth and depth of knowledge in the way other professional master’s degrees may not.  

“At the top, the horizontal part of the T is the broad knowledge of multiple business areas. The vertical part of the T describes the depth in a single area such as marketing or finance,” she said. 

All MBA students – whether they study online, full-time in Durham, or part-time in Durham or Manchester – take classes from the same faculty. However, you can choose to specialize in one of six areas such as finance, information systems and business analytics, marketing, global business, growth and innovation, or hospitality management. This flexibility allows MBAs to prepare for careers in fields they are interested in, while at the same time providing for a strong foundation in general business.   

Because of the unique breadth and depth of knowledge as well as a combination of hard and soft skills that it offers, the MBA degree appeals to various segments of potential applicants, too. 

“I look at the MBA population and see them as three segments—career enhancers, career switchers, and students fresh out of college looking to pursue further education to boost their resume,” she said. “The MBA has the flexibility to offer something to all three segments.”  

The MBA also adds another dimension – a career path into the leadership arena. Whether you want to manage people, products, or business processes, the MBA equips you with the knowledge and tools to lead.  

What kinds of jobs can you get with an MBA? 

Some hot jobs for MBA graduates  include roles such as product manager, medical and health services manager, consultant, financial manager, or product marketing manager, according to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report

Thanks to the proliferation of technology, the demand for data analytics, and the need for companies to adopt new processes to improve profitability and forecasting, the skills students learn in an MBA program can greatly benefit companies struggling to make meaning of the data available today. 

In the past, marketing was more intuition-driven; whereas today, marketers can rely on different data channels to guide them in improving products and services.  

“In fact, information technology and marketing are the two disciplines that have changed the most in the past 10 to 15 years and we are doing a lot of real industry data-driven research in the marketing strategy area that help us bring relevant knowledge to classroom for our MBA students,” Akdeniz said.  

Some of the companies that recent MBA graduates of Paul College work for are Liberty Mutual, Fidelity Investments, Pratt & Whitney, and Dell EMC.  

Why pursue an MBA at UNH? 

Paul College is the only business school in New Hampshire that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which means it has earned a distinction given to less than 5% of the world’s business schools.  

Whether you live abroad, in New Hampshire, or elsewhere, UNH MBA students can choose from several options when it comes to earning their degree.  

  • Full-time students can complete their MBA in as little as a year and study together as a cohort throughout their program on the Durham campus. Residencies are built into the program, allowing students to spend three days on Wall Street in New York City and 10 days in China. In this program, you can also help a company solve a business problem by taking part in a capstone corporate consulting project. 

  • Part-time students enjoy greater flexibility and can choose to take classes in Durham or Manchester. Working professionals, active military and military veterans, volunteers, or family caregivers can balance their busy lives as they strive to advance in their current organization, shift careers, or re-enter the workforce. As a part-time MBA student, you still have access to the same faculty and concentration options and can expect to finish your degree in 18 to 42 months.  

  • Online students can earn their MBA from any part of the world! The most flexible of the three programs, students set their own pace and can earn a degree in 18 to 42 months. You won’t have to sacrifice quality for flexibility: UNH’s online MBA program is the only online New Hampshire program that has earned top accreditation by the AACSB, the gold standard for business schools and ranked #51 according to the U.S. News and World Report.    

“At Paul College we are so proud of our online MBA, 81% of our faculty teaching in the program are tenure track and research-active,” Akdeniz said. “Students are not only getting the fundamentals, but they are learning from faculty with the newest piece of knowledge in that area.” 

What does UNH’s MBA have to offer international students? 

Aside from being AACSB accredited, UNH last year was designated R1, a category that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education uses to indicate universities in the United States that engage in the highest levels of research activity. 

The university, through its Office of International Students and Scholars, provides immigration advising and support and coordinates programs to bring UNH’s international, campus, and local communities together. 

“Being an international student myself once, I sought advice from a lot of people. They told me to pick a place that was safe, secure and where you can concentrate on your studies,” Akdeniz said. “Durham in general provides that safe, secure, sustainable campus, while offering students variety in terms of food and outdoor activities and proximity to major airports and cities.”