When most people start thinking about an online professional master’s degree, it is usually for personal reasons, such as completing a life goal or earning a promotion at work. While those are important reasons, one reason is often overlooked. Completing a master’s degree also can be beneficial to a student’s employer, beyond the knowledge gained by the employee. A final thesis project, or even a homework assignment, may positively affect the student’s company.

Many professional master’s programs designed for individuals working in industry, like the Master of Agribusiness (MAB) program at Kansas State University, shape their curriculum to be directly applicable to students’ work environment. From analyzing and optimizing a supply chain to developing a marketing plan to launching a new product, a company must invest money and hours in research before taking the next step. Many times this research is also a perfect topic for a master’s thesis.

“I worked for Cargill at the time of completing my master’s degree, and I felt like the coursework would directly apply to my day-to-day work life,” Christy Ball, Skills and Talent Development Analyst for Ardent Mills, said.

Her thesis topic is an example of the direct application of her master’s program to her work.

“I did my thesis on international opportunities for flour milling. I had approached my company for some possible topics, and that was something that they’d expressed interest in me pursuing,” Ball said. “I created a calculator that looked at different economic factors, political factors and flour consumption patterns to rate countries on their market potential for possible new mill development.”

She developed an investment index to evaluate three components to assist in selecting an international location for a greenfield investment: market conditions, economic environment and supporting infrastructure. Her calculator helped her company make objective decisions about their international investments.

Another student analyzed shipping routes for Dole Fresh Fruit. As the largest importer of bananas in the U.S., Dole is naturally interested in developing the most efficient shipping routes for its fruit.

“We began looking at which routes would create the lowest cost shipment when importing bananas from our suppliers in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru. I analyzed fuel, trucking and shipping markets to determine the optimal routes for the bananas,” John Brasington District Manager at Dole Fresh Fruit International, Ltd., said.

The transshipment model he developed has made it possible to ship products from their countries of origin to areas with the highest demand via the most cost-effective routes.

“Through the comprehensive curriculum of the master’s program, I was able to apply what I learned into a variety of new facets of my company. My thesis led to an improved supply chain, which provided major savings to our customers and new revenue streams for our company,” Brasington said.

Andy Montgomery, Director of Product Management of AgReliant Genetics, LLC, was looking for master’s program to learn core business skills and also have interaction with other agriculture professionals from around the country and the globe. When it came time to write his thesis, he worked with his company to develop a topic.

“I worked with my company’s management to define several business needs within the organization that could be the focus of my thesis work. We decided it would be good to research a product extension project involving the AgriGold brand, and the feasibility to enter the soybean seed market. In the end, the information generated from the thesis helped assist the AgriGold brand in launching a soybean line in 2016,” Montgomery said.

While his master’s degree did provide a personal level of achievement and lead to a promotion for Montgomery, AgriGold also gained information needed to successfully launch a new product for their customers.

If you have been thinking about earning a master’s degree, consider the possible benefits to your company in addition to personal reasons when making your decision. Programs should be able to put you in contact with current students and alumni to get a first-hand perspective of the master’s program and personal experiences. This can provide a better overall picture of the advantages gained through higher education.

 

Note: This article originally appeared on AgCareers.com.