Starting next summer, the Carlson School of Management will introduce a one-year, Industry MBA Program offered primarily online for congressional staffers. The program will cultivate leaders with a combination of policy and management expertise that is in high demand from businesses across the globe.

"To conceive of legislative change, there are many instances where understanding finance, accounting, strategy, and some aspects of technology could be of benefit. Business is an area where the staffers can develop their own skills to reach that next stage," says Carlson School Associate Dean of MBA Programs Stephen Parente

Current or past congressional staffers will obtain the fundamental business knowledge crucial for advancing a legislative career or transitioning into a corporate role. But unlike traditional MBA programs, the Carlson Industry MBA gives students in-depth knowledge of four key industries in which innovation is required for continued growth: healthcare, energy, technology, and finance.

Expanding career opportunities

Graduates of the program will be well-prepared to seize new opportunities on Capitol Hill, or to pivot into a career in business. By honing their confidence and skills, these energetic, talented, and experienced professionals can get a jumpstart on their career growth, sooner.

"One natural path for congressional staffers is to find an industry that seems interesting to them that they specialize in as a staffer, and then they go work in government affairs for a company in that industry," says Parente. "But it’s very rare to find someone who will come into a major corporation and advance from that role without an MBA degree."

The Industry MBA also provides the strategy and finance foundation that entrepreneurs need to start their own companies.

“The U.S. is a country that’s largely driven by small businesses,” says Parente. “A lot of congressional staffers develop these business ideas, and they go home to found a start-up company. And an MBA is a perfect degree for realizing those ventures.”

Balancing classes with career

While rigorous, the program is manageable for congressional staffers who log 60-80 hours per week at work. Much of the demanding, core coursework can be completed in the summer, when the pace on Capitol Hill slows.

The nationally ranked Carlson School offers the prestige and opportunities exclusive to a top business school, with the convenience of an online program. 

Industry MBA students take the majority of their courses online, from anywhere. They complete a live orientation and participate in commencement in Minneapolis, and access 3-4 networking opportunities in Washington, D.C. each semester. The program will also culminate in a virtual simulation that challenges students to apply what they’ve learned to a real-world challenge.

Additionally, Industry MBA students will emerge from the program as part of a network of driven, experienced, and intelligent professionals. Students are grouped into cohorts that progress through the curriculum together, allowing them to forge connections with one another.

Connecting to an unmatched business community

The Carlson School’s position in the heart of Minneapolis grants Industry MBA students access to this vibrant, diverse, and global business community.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies that span a variety of industries. Thousands of healthcare organizations and more than 500 medical technology manufacturers are headquartered in Minnesota. The state is one of the fastest-growing for clean energy and technology jobs in the nation. And some of the most well-known and trusted financial institutions in the world got their start in the Twin Cities.

"The Carlson School’s location in the Twin Cities has enabled it to be an important business partner to not just one, not just two, but four to five major industrial sectors in the U.S. and world economy," says Parente. 

These companies recruit graduates, engage with students throughout their coursework, and ensure the School’s degree programs are relevant to the ever-changing intersections of legislation and business.

Investing in a thriving career

The Industry MBA is grounded by the Carlson School’s established strengths in management education to better prepare graduates to lead effective public and private governance. Courses are taught by faculty who lead the nation in teaching and research, and also by top-level executives who share their expertise in the classroom.

For professionals considering a career move into the private sector, an MBA complements their existing experience and skills. Leaders with a combination of management expertise and an understanding of legislative and policy initiatives in the healthcare, energy, technology, and finance fields are in high demand from government, NGOs, and corporations.

"Congressional staffers are really energetic and broad thinkers, and are usually coming from outstanding academic training. They understand the rules to operate, but they also look for innovation in government when new legislation gets written. All those features work well for a company that needs people to think outside the box," says Parente.

Students will experience the benefits of an MBA long before they have their degree in hand. From day one of the program, congressional staffers can put what they learn into practice at work the very next day.

“What’s also exciting about it is that people can do this while they’re working in Congress. They can apply what they’re learning to advance their own careers, and to advance legislation just by having the wider skills available to them,” he says.

Seeing return on investment

As with any graduate degree program, the burden of tuition can be heavy for students who earn limited salaries. The school will offer some scholarships to offset costs. But for students bearing the brunt of the tuition and fees, return on their investment is substantial.

“We recognize that paying for tuition is a challenge,” says Parente. “But we’ve priced it as such that it should give immediate return on investment as soon as you’re done.”

For students looking to leave the hill, the Carlson School’s Graduate Business Career Center offers career coaching and connections to hundreds of employers who recruit students each year. 

The Carlson School is considering applicants now for a summer 2016 start.