Michael Morgan

Using a work-applied MBA to improve emergency services

  • Industry: Operations & Management
  • Mode of study: On-campus
  • Location: South Australia
  • Programme: MBA (Human Resource Management)
  • Themes: Duration,Practicality
  • Motivation: Better Leader/Skills,Promotion
  • Seniority: High-Level

created on 06/08/2015


One of several firefighters who completed a business degree with AIB, Michael said the qualification provided immediate applicability for him, as each subject allowed him to learn skills he would need to work at senior levels.

“Each of the Assistant Chiefs has either done a Master’s degree or is enrolled in one,” Michael said.

“The Chief and the Deputy have numerous qualifications and master’s degrees in various occupations, so it just makes really good sense that, if you’re running a business, that’s how we would do it,” he said.

“In going for promotion, I knew that there would be a lot of synergy between what I would do in the MBA and what I would be required to do as an Assistant Chief.”

For Michael, completing further study both strengthened his existing knowledge and enhanced his understanding of business and the systems and processes he could use to make improvements.

“The best part about doing an MBA, for me, was that every time I would start a new subject, I was able to link it directly to what I was doing within my work,” Michael said.

“I was studying to learn a subject, but I was marking my textbooks going, ‘I’ve already had this situation at work,” he said.

“I’ve got Post-It notes all through my textbooks now that I’m finished the MBA where I’ve got reference points that I can quickly refer to.”

Through the work-applied learning model at AIB, Michael used his final project to the advantage of the business, creating a performance review system for firefighters and introducing it into the company.

“For me the MBA showed me how I would implement the performance review system and do it correctly to give it a greater chance of succeeding,” he said.

“If I hadn’t done the MBA we might have just fumbled through and perhaps done it, but it might not have worked.”

The performance review system is having a circular effect for others in the business as the model helps others to gain opportunities for self-development and increased opportunities within the organisation.

Asked how he managed to complete the qualification amongst other pressing commitments, Michael said he initially had self-doubts, but was excited about the opportunity.

“I didn’t know whether I’d ever have an opportunity like that in my working career, so with the Chief’s foresight and encouragement, I was able to do it,” he said.

“Yes, it was a lot of pressure and an incredible amount of study. But it was just about being disciplined with your time and making sure that your family understand,” he said.

For Michael, the beauty of studying the 12 Month MBA is that it has an end date and takes just twelve 30 or 31 day months to complete.

“You know the workload is going to be intense for that period of time, but you know there’s an end time. Rather than doing the degree part-time and doing a subject here or there where you may not complete it,” he said.

“Having a background as a firefighter, a lot of discipline is required, and most of our work is structured with routines and procedures, which helped.”

Michael also worked closely with others in the company who had completed their MBA studies to find out more about what the qualification would require.

“I had spoken to a few people who had done the MBA so I knew it was going to be challenging,” he said.

“There are times through it where you just think, ‘Wow, this is hard. How am I going to keep doing this?’ But 12 months is neither here nor there, really.”

In the end, however, Michael says the decision to complete the MBA programme was well worth the time and effort.

“I think it develops you as a person because you know you can be disciplined enough to get through the study, and then you know you’ve got the ability to manage the subjects and get through them,” he said.