David Haseltine worked in banking for 12 years before enrolling in University of Southern Nevada's master's of business administration program.
"I knew that I wanted to further my career and eventually get into underwriting, and I needed to get a better understanding of business and financial analysis to do that," the Las Vegas resident said.
Before starting his studies, Haseltine, then a credit support associate at Bank of America, applied for a credit products analyst position within the bank's commercial lending division. But he was not promoted.
Haseltine recently applied for the same position as an MBA student. This time, he got the job, but he is months from graduation.
"I think (getting my MBA) was a fairly significant factor," Haseltine, 35, said. "I didn't have quite the experience that was necessary, nor did I have the knowledge base, and those were things that were both required as part of the program."
Haseltine is not an unusual case. Nationwide MBA hiring is up 5 percent this year after a steep decline in 2009, London-based education company QS Quacquarelli Symonds reports.
Paul Jarley, dean of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' business college, said he has noticed a slight uptick in MBA hiring from the school this year despite the valley's struggling economy.
"I would expect MBA job hiring here to lag behind the national economy because our economy is lagging behind the national economy," Jarley said.
UNLV does not track its MBA students after graduation, but Jarley's anecdotal evidence is in line with QS Quacquarelli Symonds' annual TopMBA.com Jobs and Salary Trends Report, which surveyed 5,007 MBA employers around the world.
Regis University and the University of Southern Nevada also do not track MBA graduates, but the University of Southern Nevada is compiling data on its students. The University of Phoenix does track its graduates, but did not submit its data before press time.
University of Southern Nevada Marketing Director Jason Roth said several of the college's MBA students have received promotions or obtained new jobs since starting their studies.
Roth said 30 percent of the University of Southern Nevada's current MBA students already have jobs, while 70 percent are unemployed.
"Many are unemployed due to layoffs, particularly in the real estate industry, so they're looking to retool for careers after graduation," Roth said.
The recession and its accompanying high unemployment rate have inspired -- or forced -- many Las Vegans to return to school to make themselves more attractive job candidates.
Jason LaFrance enrolled in UNLV's MBA program in 2008, and said he believed having more education would give him a better leg up in the long run.
LaFrance graduated in May, and though he was offered a few jobs, none were in accounting, his chosen field. So he decided to move to California to take classes to become a certified public accountant.
"Once I started my MBA, I also wanted to get my CPA," LaFrance said, "because I knew the economy was shaking out a lot of MBAs and there would be competition between people who had a lot of experience and other students getting their MBAs."
LaFrance's journey to find a career by obtaining more degrees is a path commonly taken during tough economies, Jarley said.
"One of the things that people do when the economy is struggling is they go back to school to reinvent themselves and add new skills," Jarley said. "(An MBA program) improves your emotional intelligence, gives you business perspective. In a very tight economy, data-driven decisions become very important. Businesses want people who can solve business problems."
Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.