A Conversation with: Karen Kent, director of the MBA program at DeSales University

Karen Kent –

LVB: What type of students is the DeSales’ MBA program targeted towards?

Kent: The DeSales MBA serves people from a range of experiences and educational backgrounds. Our part-time program appeals to working professionals, who are seeking to add the MBA to enhance their business knowledge. Recent graduates who want to continue directly into a graduate program are encouraged to look at our full- time, accelerated program. Business people who want to develop specialized skills can also take advantage of our multiple certificate programs.

Finally, our new one-credit, fast-track courses are perfect for those who want to try out an MBA class or want to continue to develop post-graduate skills. As an added feature, we offer free boot-camp classes for our students, alumni and interested students; these classes include Excel skills, presentation, advanced PowerPoint and more.

LVB: How has the program developed, changed over the years?

Kent: The MBA program at DeSales started in 1991. It has grown tremendously, adding new concentrations, certificates and formats. This will surprise many people, but we have well over 450 active students! Our program was an early innovator of online learning back in the 90’s. We developed an international focus through our relationship with The Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) in Lima, Peru, and we have also offered many other international study tours in Europe and in Asia.

Our mission is to deliver a transformative educational experience to develop knowledgeable, ethical leaders. To that end, we encourage students to create a personalized study plan that meets their needs. Our small class sizes and program advisers, who have worked at DeSales an average of 20 years, add to the appeal. We take our role in serving students very seriously; this is our differentiating factor, and our passion!

LVB: What do you see as the benefit of getting an MBA?

Kent: Advanced education is always a benefit – an MBA gives a student the overall business knowledge needed today.  But even more than that, our students gain personal fulfillment as they grow as an individual.  Our students develop self-discipline to balance their work, family and school responsibilities. Through their experience, our MBA graduates possess an innate and insatiable curiosity, enhanced communication skills and a broader world-view. As a result, they have many more career and life opportunities available to them.

LVB: What makes DeSales’ MBA program unique?

Kent: We offer a very flexible format for busy professionals. Courses are offered online, with live Zoom sessions, or using an asynchronous, self-paced format.  Classes are also offered on campus, but with flex capability, allowing for remote connectivity.  From session to session, students can pick their preferred format; they are not locked into one mode of learning. Students finish the program in one year, or over several years, so they can achieve the right pace and balance for their personal needs.

What makes DeSales very unique is the breadth of concentrations; we have 14 areas from the traditional MBA specialties (accounting, finance, management, marketing, human resources, self-design) as well as specialized areas (healthcare management, lean/six sigma, supply chain management, data analytics, project management, cybersecurity, information systems and financial planning).

Time on your hands? Now’s a good time to get that master’s degree

With so many people laid off from the COVID-19 pandemic, some may be considering continuing education to make themselves more essential on the job, or to go after a totally new career.

But those seeking master’s degrees will find a great difference in how that degree impacts salaries depending on the field they’re pursuing, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

“The MBA business degree is probably in the most demand, and it has the highest employment rate of any program,” said Edwin Koc, NACE’s Director of Research, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs.

In general, having an MBA helps with employability and starting salary no matter what the niche. Starting salary for an individual with an MBA is generally 38% higher than that of someone with a bachelor’s in business, he said, making it a good investment.

But not all MBAs are equal, either. If you’re looking to specialize, an MBA in finance tends to have the highest salaries, while those with a marketing MBA tend to earn lower salaries, he said. But the bottom line may be this: MBAs have an employment rate of 89%, which is very good.

The next highest is a master’s in computer science, which Koc said has a more than 80% employment rate. The jump in salary, however, isn’t as significant, mostly because the starting salary for a bachelor’s degree in computer science is already high. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in computer science can start at around $70,000, Koc said. At that level, the jump to $90,000 they may earn with a master’s degree isn’t that big of a jump.

“It’s the no. 1 undergraduate degree for starting salary,” he said.

The biggest jump in starting salaries is in fields such as philosophy and biology, Koc said, mainly because of the extremely low job prospects for those with a bachelor’s degree. There simply aren’t many entry level jobs in such areas. “By getting a master’s you improve your job prospects enormously. It improves starting salary by about 66% for biology and 40% for philosophy and [social work,]” he said.

Overall, the MBA is a good pick for someone looking to build on an existing career path. In fact, he said, most MBA programs in the region require some work experience before an individual can be admitted, which is one of the things that makes those with MBAs most employable.

Whatever the concentration, Koc said NACE is expecting to see a jump in the number of people seeking out advanced degrees.

“Generally when the economy goes bad the number of students going for an advanced degree goes up,” he said. “If the job climate is not good, by investing in an advance degree your opportunities when you do come out for a job and salary are better.”

Local schools make Best Online MBA list

U.S. News and World Report is out with its 2020 list of Best Online Master’s of Business Administration list and some Greater Lehigh Valley schools have made the cut.

Lehigh University in Bethlehem ranked the highest at no. 18 on the list. DeSales University in Center Valley came in at no. 149 and Delaware Valley University ranked no. 218.

Lehigh ranked no. 10 on the list for Best Online Finance MBA Programs and no. 48 in Best Online Master’s in Engineering Programs.

In addition to making the online MBA list, DeSales also ranked on the magazine’s Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Program and the Best Online MBA for Veterans list.

“This national recognition is a strong testament to our outstanding faculty, staff, and our phenomenally talented students,” Karen Kent, director of the DeSales MBA program, said in a statement.

U.S. News ranked both online programs in five categories: engagement, expert opinion, faculty credentials and training, student excellence, and student services and technologies.