What is an Executive MBA
An Executive MBA is an MBA. “Students earn the same MBA degree, and classes have the same rigor and requirements that are found in full-time and part-time MBA programs, says Patty Keegan, Associate Dean, Executive MBA Program North America, at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “At many schools, the same faculty members teach in all MBA Programs.”
The Master of Business Administration is a master’s degree in business administration (management). The MBA degree originated in the United States in the early 20th century when the country industrialized and companies sought scientific approaches to management. The core courses in an MBA program cover various areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, and operations in a manner most relevant to management analysis and strategy.
Executive MBA (EMBA) programs were developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA (or another business-related graduate degree) in two years or less while working full-time. Participants come from every type and size of organization – profit, nonprofit, government – representing a variety of industries. EMBA students typically have a higher level of work experience, often 10 years or more, compared to other MBA students.
While Executive MBA programs are sometimes, mistakenly, thought of as part-time programs, their schedules are generally not aligned with the evenings and weekends nature of part-time programs. Executive MBA programs can more accurately be described as “modular” programs, which do require the student to be away from work from time to time, but still allow him or her to work full-time.
Executive MBA programs were initially started as employer-sponsored programs, but almost 50% of EMBA candidates now are self-funded. Since these programs do require the candidate to be away from work (typically between 40 and 60 days over the duration of the program), approval from the employer is required even in the case of self-funded candidates.
The Executive MBA Council was formed in 1981 to accredit schools of business offering EMBA degrees worldwide. The Council has strategic partnerships with Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), Association of MBAs (AMBA), European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD/EQUIS), and Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
Why do an Executive MBA?
If you have 10+ years of experience, there are several great reasons to consider an Executive MBA.
An Executive MBA can help you accelerate your career, in both the short and long terms.
“Immediately after the end of the program, I was promoted to a more senior role – not necessarily because of my MBA but in recognition for having contributed to the company so much during the MBA, as well as in recognition for my wider skill set,” says Glodina Lostanlen, vice president for Imagine Communications.
Yvonne Winkelmann was able to move into the international arena within her job as a direct result of her EMBA — something she wouldn’t have been able to do without the qualification.
According to research by the Executive MBA Council, 65% of EMBA students received promotions either during or immediately upon completion of their programs.
“Salary packages rose on average 16.8% for recent EMBA graduates in the Student Exit Benchmarking Survey from program start to program end,” says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive MBA Council.
The survey showed that the percentage of graduates who received new responsibilities increased slightly from 51 percent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2014, as well as those who reported a promotion during their time in the program, from 38 percent in 2013 to 41 percent in 2014.
In the Alumni Perspectives Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, 73% of EMBA alumni said that their expectations of recouping their investment were met or exceeded.
“I absolutely wanted a transformational classroom experience,” says Bhatia, who was associate director of procurement at Kraft Canada when she entered the program. “I gained a tremendous amount of confidence,” she says, as well as the ability to walk into any business situation knowing she was prepared.
“I think it gives me a lot of credibility and demonstrates capability. I think the EMBA seals the deal on your potential. You are now in a different league,” she says.
“The EMBA experience helps open new kinds of possibilities – It changes your mindset,” says Ethan Hanabury, formerly senior associate dean for degree programs, Columbia Business School.
“Many entrepreneurs thrive in the early stages of their companies simply based on the genius of their idea and the energy that they bring to the table to execute,” says Dave Wilson, president and CEO of GMAC, “But then they reach a point as the organization grows where the lack of experience or education around management and leadership proves a detriment to take the organization to the next level.”
“An EMBA experience helps them see their business more strategically and get some realtime feedback from experts in various areas,” says Ethan Hanabury, formerly senior associate dean for degree programs, Columbia Business School.
Because they attract experienced business leaders who want to take the next step in their careers, Executive MBA Programs are in a unique position to emphasize and nurture leadership.
“I absolutely believe that they can help develop leadership skills and help develop leaders,” says Barbara Millar, assistant dean, MBA for Executives Program, at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Marc Tarragó credits his EMBA with helping him move to his dream job as a manager of the number one winery in Spain, Torres.
“My executive coach gave me a set of tools that I can take and use as I encounter challenges. My career is about managing chaos constantly, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. When that happens, I look at what I can change and develop a plan to attack the most significant actions. I definitely continue to benefit.,” says Katherine Gronberg, vice president of Morhard and Associates.
One year before Ronald Tichelaar entered his Executive MBA Program, his company, Ames, SA, opened a new plant in Spain.
“One of the first pieces that I learned in the program was the tools of business strategy. This was a great start, and it gave me the motivation to put these tools into practice,” he says. “Our sales have grown from 30%-50% each year.”
Former Norwegian speed skater and four-time gold medalist, Johann Koss launched his non-profit organization, Right to Play before he began his EMBA Program.
“When I started the program, we were still in the entrepreneurial mode and needed to grow systematically,” he says. “As a result of the program, I learned how to strategize, create systems, and build processes.”
Because of that improved strategic thinking, Right to Play grew from $5 million in 2004 to $35 million, Koss says. He is the president and CEO of the organization.
Nikolay Samofatov, CEO of Red-Soft Corporation says “I originally applied for a regular MBA, but it didn’t meet my needs,” says Samofatov. “I was able to switch over to the Executive MBA – I was lucky.”
During his program, Samofatov traveled to 8 countries: Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, China, SAR, Argentina, and Brazil, spending one to three weeks in each country. “Because of what I learned in the Executive MBA Program, I feel I could build a business in any country – some things are different, but after finishing this program, you know how to work anywhere.”
“It was interesting to hear the German perspective on nuclear power and how events in Japan had affected German policies,” says Walther, senior vice president at Allianz Life Financial Services, who spent 11 days traveling with his class, visiting Helsinki, Finland, half the time and Berlin, Germany, the other half.
Michelle Reid was working for a health care start-up when she entered the Executive MBA. She wanted to join IBM. During a class break, Reid met Bheemsen Athanikar, an IBM executive who mentioned an opening at the company that matched her qualifications. By the end of classes that day, Athanikar interviewed Reid. Three months later she was hired as an account manager for application managed services at IBM.
Ellen Sanderson, learned about an opening in her field from her classmate Paul Weintraub, a principal at Philips Healthcare. After interviewing with Weintraub, Philips hired Sanderson as a senior manager for its Clinical and Business Performance Improvement Global Solutions group.
The founder of Sakos Activegear Company, Inc., Chris Lee found such great value in his classmates that he recruited three of
them to work in his start-up company.
Which EMBA is right for me?
The 200+ members of the Executive MBA Council offer 300+ EMBA programs, which can be quite different from each other. Check out our comparison of EMBA programs relevant for professionals and executives living in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) regions respectively.
You should consider the following factors to determine the EMBA programs that are best for you.
The geographical location of the program matters! If you live and work in Paris, for example, and plan on continuing to do so, a Wharton Executive MBA may not be logistically feasible. But an INSEAD Global Executive MBA or an HEC Paris EMBA locally, or a London Business School EMBA or a Chicago Booth EMBA in London may be.
Similarly, a Duke Fuqua Global Executive MBA would make perfect sense if you are looking for a global perspective.
The duration of the programs can differ substantially: only 14 months for the INSEAD Global Executive MBA Europe to a full 21 months for the Chicago Booth Executive MBA.
Similarly, there are differences in the time for which you need to be away from work. The Duke Fuqua Global Executive MBA requires only ~45 workdays, while CBS-LBS EMBA Global Americas & Europe needs you to be away from work for ~64 days over the duration of the program (not counting travel etc).
FEES & COSTS
The fees of Executive MBA program can vary quite a bit – from €57k for the ESMT Berlin EMBA program to ~€140k for the Duke Fuqua Global EMBA.
Please read the fine print to assess the total cost of attending. Beyond the school fees, you may have to incur other costs such as international flights, stay, meals, course materials, etc.
Often, gaining a valuable credential from a reputed institution is a key objective of the EMBA students. If this is important to you, then consider deeply the renown and reputation of the business school. Remember, reputation is different from ranking – rankings can fluctuate quickly and significantly, while reputation is relatively stable.
A big part of your Executive MBA will be the people sitting next to you – they contribute to your learning experience as well as your network. Which student body is best for you?
At Columbia, more (~30%) students come from finance roles than at Kellogg (~10%). At CBS-LBS-HKU EMBA Global Asia, the average experience is 10 yrs, while at SMU Executive MBA, students have 20 years of experience behind them on average.
How to get employer support?
You would need the support of your employer to venture on this journey. The support could come in the form of one or more of: time to study, program fee (full or partial), or commitment to an interdepartmental move or promotion upon completion of the program.
According to research by the Executive MBA Council, 66% of Executive MBA students obtain some kind of tuition reimbursement from their employers, and 30% receive full tuition reimbursement.
Your organization’s support means more than promises of promotions and tuition sponsorship. You also need logistical support — a concrete commitment to and plan for allowing you to be away from work on school days or to leave office early on certain days.
You should approach the discussion with your employer very professionally and develop a business case why they should support you.
IDEAS & BEST PRACTICES
Executive MBA programs directly benefit organizations because they offer the knowledge and tools that managers need to excel on the job. Executive MBA students immediately bring best practices and new ideas to their organizations. Overall, they work more effectively throughout the organization and apply their new knowledge to improve the effectiveness of current projects.
“For us, the value proposition of investing in our people is a direct link to our ability to be of great value to our clients,” said Craig Gill, chief learning officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP, “We see great worth in supporting external ongoing education and degrees.”
Executive MBA students are exposed to cutting-edge management research in various disciplines. They also develop strong relationships with professionals and executives across sectors and geographies. These exposures often inspire the students to generate new sources of revenue for the company and to take advantage of international opportunities.
ManTech Corp. finds that having employees with advanced degrees gives the company an edge when bidding for work. “We’re more likely to win the contract and then win it back,” says Karen Gardner, executive director of training and organizational development.
As a tool to further develop organizational talent, the Executive MBA degree grooms talent to assume greater responsibility in less time, assists in the retention of high-potential leaders, and helps increase motivation and confidence.
“EMBA programs are a great investment for top performers”, says Ethan Hanabury, formerly senior associate dean for degree programs, Columbia Business School.
At ManTech Corp., one engineer, who had been doing systems integration for customers, was promoted to a management position where budgeting and project management is a critical skill. “That’s where an MBA comes in,” says Karen Gardner.
The sponsoring companies find that these high-achieving employees feel rewarded for their hard work and are more likely to stay with the company that paid for their education.
At Deloitte the employee pays the cost of his or her MBA program upfront. The company then reimburses the cost — 50 percent after the first year the employee returns to the company and 50 percent the second year.
Approximately 75% of employees return to Deloitte. Even two and three years out of the program, the company finds it has higher retention rates with those who participated than those who did not.
Another benefit lies in attracting future top talent. A prospective employee being wooed by multiple corporations with exciting job offers may take note of the fact that one organization in particular sponsors its top talent to pursue higher education. This point may be the deciding factor as while the prospective employee may not be looking to pursue an Executive MBA, the company’s policy indicates a willingness to invest in his/her development.
“While they’re in business school, they’re building friendships and working with folks who were never part of Deloitte, but who we may want to attract into the company in the future,” says Craig Gill, chief learning officer.
Research from Erasmus University shows that most companies feel they have received a full return on their investment a mere 17 months into the program, thanks to their candidate’s improved performance and expanded networks.
Look before you leap
While the Executive MBA is a valued credential, that can help you gain new knowledge, skills, and network, it is not for everyone. Please consider the following before making the leap:
While some Executive MBA students do manage to leverage their new networks to affect career change, that’s not what the program is designed for. The objective of the Executive MBA is to help students accelerate their careers within their companies or industries.
The Executive MBA will not enable you to break into Investment Banking, Management Consulting or Private Equity (unless you are already closely aligned with these industries).
Executive MBA students generally receive limited support from the schools’ Career Services offices, and are expected to leverage their networks, both their own and the schools’, to advance their careers.
Executive MBA programs are costly – just the school fees of good Executive MBA programs could run anywhere between €50k and €150k.
While a few of the schools offer scholarships, such funding rarely exceeds 15-20% of the tuition fee.
If you are funding your own education, you should consider the total costs of the program, not just the tuition fees. You should also consider whether the Executive MBA is the best investment in your future, in view of the opportunity costs.
As a side-note, in the United States, Executive MBA students can deduct degree-related expenses, including tuition, when filing their taxes.
The Executive MBA is a significant commitment. Any work-life balance that you may have delicately maintained would need to be re-evaluated and re-negotiated.
You would probably need to account for 20-30 hours per week for your Executive MBA. This, of course, is in addition to your job.
Do you have that kind of time? Look back at your life: have you successfully handled this scale of time-management challenge before? How does your family feel about you being AWOL for household chores or important life events?
Does your organization share your attraction to the Executive MBA? Does it share your vision of your future potential? Will it support your Executive MBA?
On a basic level, you need to know whether MBAs are valued in your organization. Are your seniors actively encouraging you to get one or merely humoring your ambition?
Have a candid and thorough conversation with your supervisors and mentors. What future do they see for you in the organization? What specific positions or responsibilities might an Executive MBA open up for you?