Executive MBA | TopMBA

The executive MBA (or EMBA) is an MBA program aimed at experienced and senior professionals who want to continue to work full time while pursuing a degree. A complete ranking of the best EMBA programs around the world can be seen in the QS EMBA Rankings 2019.

This means that everything that you learn in an executive MBA program can be tried out in the workplace almost instantaneously. However, the average work experience of participants in an EMBA cohort will set it apart from a full-time MBA program.

The level of expertise and industry knowledge found among a good EMBA cohort is one of its most important qualities, such is the emphasis on peer-to-peer learning and drawing from the experiences of participants.

These clear distinctions aside, the curriculum of an EMBA program will resemble that of a full-time MBA in much of its subject areas and content.

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Who Makes Up a Typical Executive MBA Cohort?

Average cohort statistics among those who choose an executive MBA degree haven’t changed much in the past five years, according to the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC)– a membership body spanning 300 executive MBA programs in 25 countries.

The average EMBA student possessed 14 years of work experience, of which nine years came in management roles, and had an average age of 38, according to EMBAC’s most recent survey.

For comparative purposes, even though QS data shows that MBA applicants around the world have been getting older in the past five years, the average age of candidates is 28 years old globally. In addition, according to the QS Global MBA Rankings 2020, full-time MBA students have nearly a decade less work experience than the average EMBA student.

How is an Executive MBA Program Structured?

A typical EMBA program from a top school can be completed in around two years and will often revolve around classroom discussions and group projects that are coordinated and led by a business school’s senior faculty members.

As with a full-time MBA program, the EMBA has taken on an increasingly international mindset in its teaching, in recognition of the globalization of business. As of 2018, a huge 93.2 percent of EMBA programs offer an international trip, according to EMBAC.

The need for EMBA degrees to be international in their outlook – while recognizing their students’ busy schedules – has undoubtedly been a key factor in the creation of multi-institution EMBA degrees.

Such programs are offered between business schools in different countries (and often continents) with allotted time spent in each location. The fact that joint EMBA programs now number among the world’s most highly regarded executive MBA programs shows how well received they have been in a way that hasn’t really been seen in the full-time MBA program format.

Career Progression and Personal Development

The executive MBA helps with career progression, but also has personal development at its core.

One of the reasons for this is that its participants already possess high-level management experience. Therefore, they will often have less need for the career springboard most full-time MBA students are seeking.

However, an EMBA often allows graduates to reach higher levels of management in their current work or even to switch companies or role if they so wish.

Nearly 40 percent of EMBA students received a promotion during the program, according to a 2018 student exit survey carried from EMBAC, and 54 percent took on new responsibilities in their existing role. Increases in salary are, of course, also very much the norm among graduates – in what is likely to be a key consideration for self-funding students.

However, an EMBA is about far more than money. Personal development is often cited by students as the most rewarding aspect of their studies. Programs will aim to give participants a chance to take stock of their career to date and to reflect on their performance, and professional personality. This can give professionals a fresh outlook on long-held values and techniques and allow them to identify areas for growth.

Alongside the access it provides to the latest industry trends and knowledge, an EMBA program can also work wonders with an individual’s professional confidence – particularly among those looking who may have worked at the same company, or even held the same position, for several years.

The Alumni Network

A further aspect of an EMBA program’s career benefits stems from the opportunity it provides to access a valuable alumni network. With a wealth of experience in any one cohort, the alumni network for a leading executive MBA program – into which all students will be welcomed – is a key selling point, as indeed it is within the full-time MBA program format.

Remember, a business school’s alumni network won’t be limited to its EMBA graduates – the full extent of the community extends to encompass the far larger number of MBAs and related graduates that also call the institution their alma mater.

Getting into a Top Executive MBA Program

Admission into an executive MBA degree program isn’t too dissimilar from its counterparts in postgraduate business education.

There is likely to be more than one step in the admissions process, involving a written application and one or more interviews.

Expect the written application to consist of:

  • Application essay(s): These will vary along with the questions asked by individual schools, but common topics will require an applicant to express what they want to get out an EMBA degree and/or to reflect on the career path they have taken to date.
  • Recommendation letters: Penned by those who can vouch for your credentials and suitability for a program, these are an important third-party perspective for EMBA admissions officers.
  • A full CV/resume.
  • All previous university transcripts.
  • A language test: As most executive MBA programs are delivered fully or partially in English; you may be required to take a test like the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) to show a proficient level of English if it is not your first language.

Unlike most full-time MBA programs, not all EMBA programs will require a GMAT or GRE score as part of the admissions process, although some higher ranked schools will. Many schools have in-house executive education admissions tests or use tests more appropriate for an executive candidate.

It’s especially important in the case of an executive MBA that an applicant has the backing of their employer – even if the employer is not funding the degree. EMBA admissions officers will be wary of problems that may arise during the program if a company does not support their employee’s studies – and the time commitments outside of work that it will necessitate.

Financing Executive MBA Programs

Traditionally, students of executive MBA programs most often had their studies funded by their current employers. This is understandable from a company’s perspective, given that the employee can continue working full time for the duration and is able to use what they learn as they go along – something that could clearly benefit the company.

Indeed, when it comes to the return on investment (ROI) of an executive MBA, you will often hear experts talk of it as being a ‘two-way’ consideration between both the individual and the company they work for.

However, more recently, executive MBA programs have seen their number of self-funded students rise. In 2018, more than 45 percent of students were self-funded, and just over 35 percent received partial sponsorship. Around 20 percent received full sponsorship (EMBAC).