"We're seeing in many cases a lot of less technical but very business savvy CIOs being hired, and the MBA is a very strong lead for companies that are looking for a business-savvy approach to technology," Cullen says.
Project manager and business analyst are two other titles that can benefit from having an MBA. Database administrators, while less directly involved with business strategy, also could make a case for getting an MBA. "There's value in the MBA [for database administrators] because they can look at the business the company is running, what they're trying to do from a business perspective, and make sure the entire workflow and database architecture of the company is tied into that," Cullen says.
At global electronics giant Philips, having an MBA is useful for certain roles that require a high level of both technical and business expertise, says Maridan Harris, director of IT at Philips North America.
"A lot of the IT roles we have are geared towards increasing value, reducing cost, improving efficiency, etc., so an MBA proves quite helpful. These people will have likely come up through the technical ranks and grown to be a 'business person,'" Harris says. "The MBA helps them make a quicker and smoother transition."
One current example is in Philips' supply chain group, which has a project manager role to fill and is looking for candidates with an MBA as well as engineering or operations experience. "Being able to combine their technical expertise with strategic, analytical, and project management skills that they have refined within their MBA program is a key differentiator for the role," Harris says. "It enables the individual to bring a level of credibility with both technical leaders and non-technical business management functions, where influencing the strategic direction of the business is required across diverse disciplines."
Back to school
The emergence of technology-driven MBA programs at business schools "says a lot about the importance, respect and consideration that are being given to MBAs" in the tech world, Cullen says.
BACK TO SCHOOL: 10 tech-centric MBA programs
Yet he cautions, "I wouldn't jump out and think I've got to get an MBA to have a successful career in IT." It all depends on where you want to go in IT. "The closer you want to be to the business side, the more value you're going to have with an MBA," Cullen says.