This year, the average executive MBA (EMBA) candidate is 38 years old, has a respectable 14 years of work experience, and has racked up a comfortable nine years in the manager's chair. There are more women than ever enrolling in the qualification, but with the figure at 29.7%, according to the 2016 EMBAC Membership Program Survey, there is clearly some way to go.
Of course, executive MBA students can be younger, or older - many business schools do embrace the exceptional 26 year old on merit, alongside their more mature and venerable peers. It is generally expected that a successful applicant have a demonstrable record of managerial experience together with a pretty fair understanding of what makes businesses tick.
And so, the question that perhaps begs to be asked is, why do these, more often than not, well-heeled managers, opt to study an executive MBA? Below are some of the main drivers behind their decision.
The executive MBA career turbo charge
For many applicants, the real impetus behind the choice to go back to school is the promise of a post-executive MBA career boost. A common goal for middle managers is to reach that long-hankered-for c-suite position and become a CEO, a CIO or a COO.
Among those enrolled in executive MBA programs, it is reported that around 53% are given new responsibilities in their current role, with approximately 41% of students receiving a promotion, and this is before they graduate. A candidate that fills the double duties of student and employee is able to demonstrate that they have every ambition to step up a gear which can deliver a powerful sign to upper management.
Ivey Business School reports that their executive MBA students are able to apply what they’ve learned to their current work in as little as one week after starting classes, and this is likely to hold true across the top-tier business school board. Most candidates' goal is to layer on expertise, further developing and enriching the core skills they have accumulated in their careers to date as well as acquiring new capabilities and knowledge. The qualification’s coverage of such concepts and subjects as leadership, strategy, operations, finance and accounting have the potential to take all shapes of professional career to new levels, be that in healthcare, IT, engineering, finance, or other.
The larger pay check
Between the day an EMBA student begins their course and the day they graduate, the salary they receive will likely jump a respectable 17%, according to a 2015 survey from EMBAC. The 2,323 students surveyed (from a total of 79 EMBA programs) had starting salaries averaging US$155, 848, which, by the end of their course had risen to a very welcome US$181, 965.
Growing that all-important professional network
Whether the goal is to move up or to move on, doing an executive MBA opens candidates up to new experiences, new places, and, very importantly, to new people. 68% of EMBA students have the opportunity to travel internationally, according to EMBAC, and in a globalized economy where business operations can no longer be insular, the prospect of networking overseas allows candidates to have exposure to best practices from companies, industries and cultures, globally as well as nationally.
Most students who want the best launch for their executive MBA career apply to top-tier business schools with the knowledge that, among other things, these institutions offer the most prestigious professional networks. A 2016 survey by recruitment consultancy firm, The Adler Group showed that a mindboggling 85% of jobs were filled through some form of networking. Enrollment at an elite university is more likely to give candidates the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the major players in an industry, and careful positioning is of great value to those determined to rise to the top.
Development of self
Enrolling in an executive MBA program cannot only be about increased income and promotions – genuine personal and professional development is a central motivator too. Being part of the program is an opportunity to mingle with world-class faculty members, to engage in innovative thinking (and practices) and to develop and grow into a leader ready to take organizations to new levels. Participants will often say that the knowledge acquired over the course of their study leaves them with a renewed level of confidence setting them on a more sure-footed executive MBA career path.
We all love a role model
There are plenty of human stories that illustrate how an EMBA can reroute and propel a professional career, with one very recently published account being that of Linda Jackson. From stapling invoices at Rover in her teens, to her ascension to CEO at Citroën, Jackson not only broke gender stereotypes by rising through the corporate hierarchy in the car industry, but her EMBA also convinced her to leave a struggling company after thirty years of dedicated service. She says, “I really do believe that I wouldn’t be here [as Citroen CEO] without it. I had gone into the industry without a degree... it [an EMBA] widens your eyes and your perspective as to where you might go.” This year, Jackson was named as the UK’s most influential woman in the car industry, proving how hard graft and a vision inspired by her executive MBA pushed her achievements to the apex.