Book to school? Leveraging higher education to get an edge in a down economy.

Author:Mattera, Julianne
 
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Looking for that golden ticket to move up the corporate food chain or just a little something to hone your skills and bring your business know-how up to speed with new trends and technology? In a turbulent economy, boosting your skills is a good way to stay ahead of the game - enhancing your performance at work and helping your company succeed even in tough times.

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Events, seminars and continuing education courses arc all options for real-world knowledge seekers. Professionals can bring their skills to the next level with everything from lunch-time networking events to year-long master's in business administration programs. Of course, this begs the question: how do they find the time, the funding or the programs?

The Coveted M.B.A.

There's something to be said for making the commitment to a masters program while keeping up a day job. Maybe it's not for everyone, but many who have put in the time find that part-time programs geared towards working professionals focus on real-life situations that they can take back to the office. Better yet, many find their professors have years of experience in business to draw upon, making the academic realm less lofty and more practical.

"I realized that even though a ton of info is accessible online - and you can almost become an instant expert by doing some Google research - still nothing beats going to the classes and hearing right from the mouth of someone who has been there and done that," says Brandon Chesnutt, an M.B.A. student at Walsh College and account executive at Identity Marketing & Public Relations. "Courses taught at the M.B.A. level are so completely different, practical and important."

For the past year and a half, Chesnutt has been working full-time at Identity and going to school. While a great deal of his work at Identity revolves around new media, Chesnutt regularly applies concepts from his courses to his day-to-day work.

"For someone like me in the public relations service industry, it's typical to communicate with CEO level executives. Having an M.B.A. will help me think on their level or understand what their mindset is. It gives me an edge," Chesnutt says. "Coming out of my first class, I could apply the things they taught me immediately. It helps me look at things from a whole new angle."

Like Chesnutt, Cristin Stevens, director of affinity services at the Detroit Regional Chamber, feels that pursuing an M.B.A. rounded out her skills. After graduating with...

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