Michele Harrington isn’t quite sure what she wants to do next in her career, but she knows that she wants to do something different.
“I’ve been a nurse for a very long time, and with things at work constantly changing, I thought perhaps I’d like to move in a different direction,” she said. “Even if it was management within the hospital setting or something along those lines, I am thinking of expanding my career.”
Harrington decided that the Master of Business Administration in Management online program at Fitchburg State University was the best way to open up her future career opportunities.
“I’ve been in a management capacity in the past and it’s something I feel like I’ve been good at,” she said. “While working predominantly as a staff nurse over the years, I got busy with raising a family and taking care of kids and got distracted from the whole idea of going back to school. Now that my children are all adults, it’s something I can get back to.”
Though Harrington’s children — Patrick, Meghan and Bridget — are grown, her busy schedule prevented her from attending classes in person, so she decided to return to her alma mater online, being familiar with the institution and wanting an easy transition back into education.
“It offered me the flexibility to manage classes according to my schedule,” she said. “My youngest plays two college sports, so I’m frequently on the road, driving to different locations to be able to watch the different games. I enjoy not being tied down to specific nights to go to a class.”
Harrington briefly considered completing the concentration courses for Healthcare Management, but she ultimately decided to stick with the Management concentration to keep her options open.
Full of Surprises
With her background in nursing, Harrington was initially anxious about starting an MBA program, feeling that she did not have enough of a business background to handle the rigor of the coursework.
“I thought that I wouldn’t understand what things mean, that it would take me longer than someone with a business background to get through some of the homework,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was going to understand it along the same lines because I didn’t have that business background.”
Those initial fears were laid to rest as she made her way through the coursework and saw that she already had the necessary experience.
“One piece that has been helpful is that I have different life experiences that have brought me through different components of business along the way,” Harrington said. “It’s not entirely foreign to me because, whether it’s buying a house or dealing with stock market issues, there are things you might address in real-life situations that you don’t need a business degree for. You’ve already come across the things that you are going to learn more about in the program.”
What has also been surprising to Harrington is how applicable the concepts from the MBA program have been in her current role as a nurse.
“I’m not currently a nurse manager in my department, with the ability to effect change in that regard,” she said. “But I have been able to apply the interpersonal skills I have learned in my interactions with people. With my thought process on potentially moving into nurse management, it’s always in the back of my mind how I would apply the management skills I’m learning about to that opportunity.”
Harrington has also been impressed learning about management information systems and the different enterprise applications businesses have available to them. Her approach to learning some of the material allayed any preconceptions she might have had.
“I took Selected Topics in Management [MGMT 9450], which ultimately was data analytics, which I thought I would really dislike,” she said. “I thought it was going to be dry and painful, but I found a new way to learn about how data analytics drives business.”
Balancing work and the kids’ activities with her online education was difficult at times, so Harrington had to get organized to meet all of her demands.
“I pretty much have to create a time frame and tell myself, ‘This is for homework,'” she said. “I also followed due dates so that I could stay on top of things.”
For anyone who believes they are too busy to make it through an advanced degree program, Harrington suggests that they look to her as an example.
“There are plenty of people who travel in the course of school,” she said. “I did that once, and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to manage. But it was doable. Even for people who are always on the go, if you can carve out the time you need to get reading done, write papers and stay somewhat structured, it all becomes fairly manageable.”
It’s never too late to go back to school and earn an advanced degree, but Harrington recommends that prospective students do it sooner rather than later.
“If it was available for me many years ago, I would have considered doing it at a much younger age,” she said. “I’ve been out of school for 33 years, and I went back to get a degree online. If I can do it, I think most anybody could figure out how to make it happen.”
Learn more about the Fitchburg State online MBA in Management program.