How I Fit an Online MBA Into My Life

Obtaining an MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a goal for many high-achievers in business and other career fields. The MBA degree can offer a clear path to enhanced or more senior career opportunities — and the higher earning potential that goes with these roles. It also aids in achieving greater personal development, improving communication skills, widening knowledge across a diverse range of topics, and creating access to new (perhaps previously inaccessible) professional networks and the opportunities they can create. In many ways, successfully completing an MBA program can be both a career and life-changing experience.

Getting an MBA demonstrates that a graduate has the requisite skills across a range of business functions (including accounting, financial management, human resources, sales and marketing, organizational leadership, supply chain management, etc.) to successfully manage and lead organizations in an ever-changing business environment.

The broad nature of the topics covered in an MBA and the dedication students need to commit to a program — often juggling work and family commitments around intense periods of study — set the MBA degree apart from more siloed undergraduate programs.  An MBA isn’t an easy option, but the rewards make participation in a program a substantial investment in the student’s future — both professionally and personally.

How a Military Veteran Went from Undergraduate to MBA

As a graduate of National University’s online MBA program, a military veteran, and a single parent, Raul Sanchez understands better than most the challenges and opportunities that achieving an MBA can present for many students.

Sanchez returned to education after 13 years of military service. Retired on medical grounds from the United States Army where he served in the military police, he describes his initial transition from military life as difficult. “It was 90-days of unemployment — the longest 90-days of my life,” says Sanchez.

He eventually found employment with an auto finance company where he would work “exceptionally long hours” while also studying for an undergraduate business degree at San Diego State University. It was a difficult balancing act.

Sanchez explained that primarily he was frustrated by the amount of time his undergraduate degree was taking and how difficult it was to fit the program around his work and family life. "I just wanted to complete my degree as quickly as possible and move on with my life," recalls Sanchez.

Discovering National University

Sanchez initially discovered National University after struggling to find a suitable statistics class for his “traditionally” taught undergraduate degree program.

“At the time, there were not a lot of schools that were offering online classes or had the short programs that National University specializes in,” says Sanchez. “National University was the one school that was breaking ground in this area. I looked at it really closely. I did a lot of homework and asked myself ‘Is this a safe bet for me?’ ”

Because the concept of online education was so new to Sanchez, he really wanted to make sure his professors at San Diego State had confidence in the program at National before committing to a class. This wasn't an easy task. San Diego State was in summer recess, and Sanchez had to track down professors of classes that he wasn't even enrolled in to make sure they would accept the National University class credit.

Sanchez's research paid off, and his professors happily accepted the credits from the National University class. At the time, Sanchez didn’t realize that this would completely change the way he would approach his future life in education.

Rather than merely providing a quick-fix solution to fill a hole in his degree, Sanchez’s experience with National University persuaded him that the more rigid degree programs offered by traditional universities perhaps weren’t best suited to his needs. “So it started with one class, and it escalated from there. The flexibility and the classes that were available from National University — that was all the hook I needed,” says Sanchez.

Finding Balance

Struggling to balance a 50-60 hour work week, family commitments, and periods of intense study in the traditional university setting, Sanchez decided that National University offered a more realistic solution to achieving his educational goals. He decided to switch schools.

All of National University’s programs follow a flexible four-week class structure with year-round enrollment. This enables students to start their programs sooner and finish faster. This really appealed to Sanchez, who wanted to complete his undergraduate degree in as short a period of time as possible.

Switching schools turned out to be a really smart move which quickly paid dividends in his career and ultimately led to Sanchez later enrolling in National University’s online MBA program.

Self-Improvement

According to Sanchez, enrolling in the online MBA program at National University was all about self-improvement. He had already seen the benefits from his undergraduate degree, moving out of his “stop-gap” job in auto finance and starting a new career working for a U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) agency.

Sanchez describes the move to the DoD as "huge;" however, he knew that if he was to advance in his career, he would have to continue his studies at a more advanced level.

“When I was hired by the DoD agency, approximately 25 percent of the workforce had advanced degrees.  So to be competitive, I really had to complete my MBA,” says Sanchez.

The flexibility afforded by the National University unique online format that benefitted Sanchez while completing his undergraduate degree, meant that there was only one place he would consider for his MBA. “Going to school online and perhaps attending the optional residential classes at National University, made studying for my MBA a whole lot more feasible,” says Sanchez.

However, Sanchez is keen to remind potential students that the online MBA program from National University is not an easy option. The flexible nature of the program can be a double-edged sword, with Sanchez warning that you have to commit 100 percent to the program if you want to succeed.

Sanchez found the work challenging and admitted his Grade Point Average (GPA) was not initially where he wanted it to be. His answer to this problem was to work harder. “If there is a four-week class as part of the program, don’t expect to take a week’s vacation and come out of it with the grades you really want,” warns Sanchez.

Sanchez believes the fact that students have to be so self-disciplined and self-motivated to succeed in the program makes an MBA from National University even more attractive to potential employers. 

Make Time for an MBA - Tough Love Advice

Sanchez puts his success down to sheer hard work and determination, setting aside some “tough love” advice for anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps. “You have to make it a priority. You have to make the time. All of those fun activities you want to participate in - they're pretty much off the agenda while studying for an MBA,” says Sanchez. “Sometimes things go on until 10 o’clock at night, and then you're back at work at 6am. You really have to be dedicated when you’re trying to achieve your goals.”

Sanchez believes this solid work ethic, forged in the military, must apply to anyone with aspirations to reach their goals in life. “I tell my kids, time can either be your friend, or it could be your nemesis,” says Sanchez. “How well you use it is really up to you. When you are getting a little bored or complacent, that means that you are not using your time efficiently. Don't make time your enemy because you'll be caught on your heels and flat-footed.”

For Sanchez, maintaining this attitude is essential if you want to reach your goals. Clearly, attaining an MBA is not an easy task, but that is precisely why the degree can be so valuable. “When opportunity knocks, you don't want to say ‘Oh shoot I don't have my degree - so I really cannot apply here!’” says Sanchez. “You don't want those opportunities to go by.”

As well as the simple desire to "get the job done," financial obligations motivated Sanchez to complete the MBA program in as short a period of time as possible. He considered himself to be incredibly lucky to have his employer fund the program — but he felt this also added to the pressure to successfully complete his MBA quickly.

A Rewarding Experience

Since completing the MBA, Sanchez has been rewarded with a number of accolades and was delighted to be invited to work on numerous, high visibility projects, including participation on overseas work placements which were open to only a handful of colleagues within his agency.

“I was thrilled to be able to contribute to these projects,” says Sanchez. “I don't think any of that would have been possible without my MBA!”

A New Challenge for Veterans

Any transition in life has its challenges, but transitioning from military service into a civilian role and, in particular, returning to education as a veteran, can be a stressful experience.

As service personnel leave military service, they may struggle with the new lack of structure and discipline in their lives. They will almost certainly also miss the camaraderie and support of their unit colleagues. This is even before taking into consideration all of the everyday problems people face, such as juggling work/life balance and paying the bills.

Many veterans have also experienced issues, particularly in conflict, that present greater personal challenges as they move forward in life after service. “We have in front of us what we have overcome,” says Sanchez.

Life after the military can be a difficult place.

There are, however, also many advantages to re-entering education from a military background. In many ways, military service prepares veterans for adapting to and managing change. The discipline and strong work ethic developed by a life in the military are highly transferable skills and can be used to significant benefit when returning to school.

"If you spend any amount of time in the service, you're traveling. So you are adjusting to a new community, a new culture, and new surroundings,” says Sanchez. “To get through any National University program, you do have to apply yourself. The veteran mindset to get it done will help here. I think, by and large, some of the experiences, job skills, problem-solving techniques, and team building skills that I've acquired in the military, have been incredibly beneficial in helping me to get through my education. I don't think I could have done it without it.”

Proud to Serve Veterans’ Educational Needs

National University was founded by veterans and is proud to include a large number of veterans in its faculty, student body, and among its alumni. As such, National University is incredibly well-equipped to serve the needs of veterans as they re-enter educational life.

The large community of military veterans within National University is understandably a major “selling point” for other veterans. It is this community, enhanced by National University’s collaborative online educational format, that ensures students and faculty members work in a supportive environment.

Sanchez certainly enjoyed his experience when studying with fellow veterans.

“I've met some exceptional students at National University,” says Sanchez. “When you have other students that have military backgrounds, as a veteran you find it incredibly easy to work together. Some are very adept at the coursework, and I found it very beneficial to team up with them to work on class projects.”

Sanchez explained how the technology that National University uses to deliver programs like the online MBA enhances the collaboration between students.

“National University provides the platform,” says Sanchez. “It allows for easy peer interaction; we could see when people were online and when they were available to network and to talk offline. We just had to go in there and use the tools.”

Offline Support and The Veteran Center

Sanchez is also eager to highlight the offline support offered to veterans attending National University. While the vast majority of the MBA program is conducted online, the support offered by National University professors and other faculty members is very real.

Sanchez stresses the importance of early communication for anyone on the program who experiences difficulties. “The support is there for anyone who needs it,” says Sanchez.

Sanchez also highlights the services of the National University Veteran Center, where veterans can access support and services in the areas of financial aid, career advice, mentoring, and specialist coaching relating to the transition from military life back into a civilian role.

Equally importantly, National University’s Veteran Center also acts as a social hub where veterans can come together, participate in various organized activities, or just hang out and chat over a coffee.

One of the vital services National University’s Veteran Center provides is help with the paperwork to release funding from the GI Bill which can be used to pay for tuition fees and other expenses relating to university education.

Sanchez offers some sage advice regarding how this funding can help veterans develop new opportunities through education.

A Two-Pronged Plan

According to Sanchez, when many veterans transition out of the military, they don't set up a two-pronged plan for their future careers. “Many of them hope to hit a home run straight out the gate,” says Sanchez.

Sanchez recommends that veterans use the funding available to them and build a plan to move into the spot that they really think they want to stay in.

“It would be nice to move into that dream job, but that's not going to happen if you don't have your undergraduate degree or your MBA,” he says. “I think you should look at it as a two or multi-step process. Find something to pay the bills and keep an open mind about your future career prospects.”

Sanchez believes an advanced qualification like an MBA is a vital step to landing that "dream job." He regularly attends job fairs on behalf of his employer and speaks with graduates and military veterans, offering the same advice.

“In today’s job market it may not be enough to have an undergraduate degree in a particular subject. You have to have additional certifications just to get into the conversation,” says Sanchez. "Ultimately, job performance will dictate where you end up in your career, but an advanced qualification will open the door to that career."

Active Service Personnel and Military Families

While National University is ideally positioned to serve the needs of military veterans, the flexible online programs are also ideally suited for members of the military currently in active service and their families who may also face challenges accessing education via traditional methods.

“Dependents, either spouses or teens that are coming out of high school or wrapping up their undergraduate degrees, while following their family members in military service around Asia, Central America, Europe, or wherever they are, can tap into National University and get their education that way,” says Sanchez.

These conditions make a National University education accessible to many other people outside of the military community who may struggle to access education via more “traditional” methods.

Is an Online MBA Right for You?

If you are an ambitious, self-motivated individual with a desire to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and propel your career to its maximum potential, an online MBA from National University could be the start of an incredible journey.

An MBA can help you stand out from the crowd, smash through glass ceilings and advance in your career. According to the salary research firm PayScale.com, MBA graduates in California earn an average salary of $103,728. That’s $33,000 more per year than graduates with just a bachelor degree. 

As you work towards your MBA, you'll join a network of highly-ambitious people with a real desire to change the world. An MBA creates opportunities for you to interact with future business leaders who could potentially fuel your career aspirations, become business partners, and often become lifetime friends.

To learn more about how National University can help you achieve your online MBA and drive your career forward, visit the MBA program page on our website.