Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

When I was teaching at DePaul and Loyola the most asked questions by undergraduate students were: “Should I get my master’s degree and when?” I’m all for earning an advanced degree, and you will earn it if you decide to get one.

From my own personal experience, I believe earning my master’s degree in Communications Management from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communication made me a better business person (my undergraduate degree is in economics from Central Michigan University). Yes, it was a communications degree, but the degree was filled with business, finance and economics courses. What I realized from the program at Syracuse was up until that point I thought of myself as a communications professional of the business; when I left I understood that I was a business professional who managed communication. Those are two very different perspectives.

But the inspiration for this post came from a story I read in Computerworld recently titled, Should IT Execs Get MBAs? Ironically, three years ago CIO magazine had a story with nearly the same title. For those of you still thinking about an advanced degree these are both worthwhile articles to read.

But there are many ways to stay on top of what’s happening in economics and business ahead of getting your master’s degree (or even if you have one). Here’s a list of useful blogs and publications you should add to your RSS feed:

  • WSJ Real Time Economics The WSJ keeps this blog simple and timely. For example, you’ll get a run down of reactions from economists based on a key economic release usually an hour or two after it’s been announced. This is a very macro economic blog and will give you an edge in your next staff meeting since you’ll better understand the big picture. You can follow them on Twitter @WSJ_Econ
  • The Big Picture Barry Ritholtz’s blog is tough to keep up with. He’s posting lots of great information about business, social media, politics and economics. He’s a must read for many topics and you can often see him on CNBC. Add him to your feed and you’ll feel smarter almost immediately. You can follow him on Twitter @ritholtz.
  • Business Pundit This is a great blog with a number of posts on the world of business. You’ll read book reviews, get an analysis of key events, and of course the regular piece of humor. Some of their posts are unique and I find interesting, such as where to find jobs in today’s economy.
  • Carpe Diem Dr. Mark J. Perry is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan and his daily posts are wonderful at how to understand key economic indicators. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_J_Perry
  • Marginal Revolution The about section says it all — two economists discuss the world and news.
  • MBA Mondays Venture Capitalist Fred Smith started this blog to help individuals interested in starting their own business. What he does well is break down many of the concepts taught in business schools. You can follow him on Twitter @FredWilson
  • Howard Lindzon Howard has become a good friend over the past few years through our partnership with his company StockTwits. He’s always looking at social technologies and the impact they have on business — and usually with a side dose of humor. Here’s an interview I did with Howard via Twitter. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardLindzon
  • Infectious Greed Paul Kedrosky always seems to find interesting pieces of information that I love to read. He brings a smart viewpoint to many things in the news. He’s on Twitter at @PKedrosky

There are many other blogs I read daily, but the ones above are some of my favorites. In addition, I suggest you read key publications outside of the field of communication. Three publications that I find useful include The Economist, CIO and CFO magazines. I like these three since they help you better understand what’s currently on the minds of executives: global economics/politics, enterprise technology and finance.

As for getting that degree, I always told my students the timing was their decision, but the answer to getting one was always a “yes” from me.

What about you? What do you read or find helpful that makes you a better business executive?

13 thoughts on “Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen””

  1. Excellent, spot-on perspective, Allan. The one big point that really stuck out at me was this: “when I left I understood that I was a business professional who managed communication.” To me, that is absolutely key to public relations increasing its value to the business community, across the board, and it’s perfectly in line with what findings of the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer tell us: that businesses increasing are looking for people in business, regardless of whether they’re in PR/comms, marketing, sales, operations, etc., to think of themselves as business professionals who understand the value of communications.

  2. I haven’t immersed myself in this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer so thanks for the heads up. I always appreciate your feedback and comments so thanks for taking the time to do so.

  3. I agree and it’s a difficult decision to either jump right into a job or get your master’s degree. I tend to think that experience trumps the degree after undergrad (I always tell young pros that universities will gladly take their money now or later). Thanks for reading and for the thoughts. It’s a good discussion.

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