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Graduate student Rachel Creach had never considered a career in the energy industry, but after hearing about the new energy track added to the MBA program offered by Oklahoma Baptist University, she saw one of Oklahoma’s most dominant industries in a new light.
“I looked around at what kind of future career opportunities there were in the metropolitan area, and realized that a major sector has to do with energy,” Creach says, who previously considered a career in international relations and had been working on a master’s degree in accounting.
OBU’s new energy management program is one of many offered state wide. Oklahoma City University introduced its Master of Science in energy management and Master of Science in energy legal studies in January, and the University of Oklahoma and University of Tulsa also offer energy management degrees.
Established in 1958, OU’s BBA in energy management was the first in the nation. Interest in the program follows the ups and downs of the industry, with the program tripling in size over the last two or three years, says director Stephen L. Long.
“The energy management curriculum was modified from the old petroleum land management degree to smooth out the peaks and valleys as enrollment trends and job opportunities are highly correlated to the price of oil and natural gas,” he says.
OCU created its programs in response to feedback from local energy executives, who expressed a desire for programs that would educate industry professionals such as geologists and petroleum engineers on the business and management aspects of running an energy company.
The energy legal studies program was inspired by a conversation between Steven C. Agee, dean of OCU’s Meinders School of Business, and Henry Hood, general counsel for Chesapeake Energy Corp. and senior vice president of the company’s land department.
After employing graduates with energy-related degrees and recent law school grads, Hood found one group had a slight edge he thought would benefit all of the company’s employees.
“He found the law school graduates had a little bit more ability to write, and to think constructively and creatively, because they’ve been to school three years longer and they’ve been trained in writing skills and research skills,” Agee says.
Hood wanted a program that would teach energy professionals about the legal aspects of operating an energy company, including property law, contract law, environmental law and settlement dispute resolution.
OCU’s energy legal studies program is the first of its kind in the United States, but Agee thinks specialized energy-degree programs such as the ones offered at OCU will become more of a trend as academia responds to the needs of industry.
OCU designed its programs for energy professionals seeking more specialized skills and the ability to move into management positions. While students already must have an undergraduate degree, that degree need not be in energy or business. In fact, the current group of students includes a retail manager and a fifth-grade science teacher, Agee says.
OBU also created its program with current energy professionals in mind. Like Agee, David Houghton, dean of OBU’s Paul Dickinson College of Business, anticipates increasing specialization in such programs.
“An MBA is good for anyone who’s wanting to differentiate themselves, but especially for those in Oklahoma, I think, that energy niche gives you a competitive advantage over just a generic MBA,” Houghton says.
OBU added three energy-related classes to its MBA program to create the energy track: “21st Century Global Energy Environment and Issues,” “Organizational Leadership in Energy Firms,” and “Financial Analysis and Management for the Energy Industry.”
While the regular MBA program also addresses leadership and finance, Houghton says enough differences exist between the energy sector and other industries to warrant an energy-specific focus.
OBU student Creach agrees that in an increasingly competitive job market, the more specialized your knowledge, the better your chances are.
“I don’t think having just a business degree is enough to work for an energy company,” she says. “You should know the business, so you’ll know how energy is created, but it’s important candidates become familiar with how the other parts of energy companies work.