It seems that an MBA is often one of the first continuing education options that people flock to. While it does have many positives -- highly recognized, available from many sources, and covers a wide breadth of knowledge-it is unfortunately a long and often expensive journey. You can see one blogger's assessment of what an MBA cost her family. The results may surprise you; they certainly surprised her.
That doesn't mean an MBA isn't worth the cost, especially if you can get help from your employer, but it is important to look at how much you'll spend versus your return on investment. If you include the cost of your time, the actual cost of an MBA can skyrocket very quickly even if you take all of your courses online.
If your employer won't foot the bill for a full on degree, take a look at focused training. Identify an area where your department or employer is weak and ask to be sent to a specialized training session or get certified by a vendor in your sector. If you deal with technology, Microsoft offers an excellent certification program. Since the majority of managers feel that certification is key to the level of service offered and team performance, it is an excellent bargaining chip to have come raise time.
Look for a high cost to value ratio, since money for training will likely be tight. Attending web-based training is a good example. If the company won't spring for it, it may be worth paying your own way and looking for cheap options like staying at a different hotel and eating cold cuts. If you can become the company expert, you've not only increased your job security (huzzah) but also built a firm foundation for your request for more money!
If you are due for a raise in early 2009 and don't have time to complete additional training, you may still be able to benefit. If you aren't offered a raise, or if it is lacking compared to previous years, ask for some paid release time to get the additional training. Aside from saying yes to every single request that hits your desk in 2009, additional training is one of the best ways to get a raise and maintain job security.