Most senior professionals looking to accelerate their career with an executive MBA (EMBA) face what is, without dispute, a very common conundrum – ‘where do I begin in my search?’ “You only take an MBA once in your life, so you really need to make the right decision,” says Ignacio Gafo, vice dean for global and executive MBA programs at IE Business School.
Today, there are more executive MBA candidates than ever, and the world’s business schools are extending their scope of offerings to meet with the demand. This, on the one hand, is very helpful but, on the other hand, makes choosing a ‘best-fit EMBA’ from the panoply of options available a little more complicated. In order to guide the perplexed, Gafo shares some tips designed to help future students get on track for an executive MBA program that works best for them.
Make a full assessment of your needs and circumstances
There is no sugar coating the fact that an MBA of any shape or form takes considerable resources, both personal and financial. In fact, one reason many candidates opt for the executive MBA over other formats of the program, is the course’s flexibility and modular nature - instead of taking a year off to study full time, students can remain fully involved in their organisation’s operations, and study part time.
This leads to Gafo’s first point, that before beginning your search, “you need to consider, on top of traditional criteria, how the degree fits into your personal and professional life.” Will your employer; (a) give you the time off to study and (b) will this time offered be paid leave, or must you work overtime to compensate? A second employer/employee consideration is funding. If luck, and perhaps merit has it, your company may fully, or partially, sponsor the costs of your EMBA course. This is worth looking into, alongside more personal considerations such as family obligations, travel flexibility and so on.
The second point Gafo mentions is that, “what works for a full-time MBA, doesn’t necessarily work for an EMBA”. Executive MBA candidates are almost by definition ‘senior', with the average student having 14 years of career experience and being just two years shy of their 40th birthday. “This means that interpersonal skills, for instance, may be even more important than for the full-time MBA,” states Gafo – a point worth noting, not just to decide whether an executive MBA is the right program choice, but also when honing those soft skills to prepare for admission.
Plot a clear course in your executive MBA search
Now that you have assessed your finances, time flexibility, family obligations, and have your employer’s and/or your own backing, you can be rest assured that the optimal conditions are in place for your program search to begin in earnest.
At this juncture, you may nevertheless find yourself in something of a quandary. To start, “there might be some misunderstanding about what an executive MBA is – different institutions may define their programs differently," explains Gafo. This means that a course may not be formally branded as an executive MBA, but still is, to all intents and purposes, an EMBA. The Thunderbird School of Global Management’s ‘Executive Master of Global Management’ is one such example.
As a solution, IE Business School’s Ignacio Gafo suggests that you refer to these three main sources to filter out the programs most suited to you:
- EMBA rankings
- Word of mouth (This could be references from business school alumni or friends)
- Accreditation (EQUIS, AMBA, EPAS and AACSB as examples)
Providers of executive MBA rankings are, as you might expect, essentially performing the EMBA classifying task for you. For example, it can be hugely reassuring to know that an EMBA program is listed in most, if not all executive MBA rankings, as a signifier of quality.
EMBA rankings can not only indicate who the top business schools are, but they can also (depending on the ranking) give you information on specific points of interest, such as salary uplift as well as factors pertaining to class and faculty diversity. Indeed, it’s very much worth comparing the various executive MBA rankings together since their metrics on the strengths of each program will vary.
Gafo lists 'word of mouth' as another excellent way of getting the inside view on the whole EMBA experience. Business schools will encourage you to reach out to their alumni network, and friends should be a definite first port of call.
The release of the QS Global EMBA Rankings 2017
With EMBA candidates in mind, and acknowledging a greater need for prospective students to be granted access to a more holistic view of the strengths of EMBA programs globally, QS has launched two brand new executive MBA rankings; the QS Global 100 EMBA Rankings by Region 2017 and the QS Global Joint EMBA Rankings 2017. Gafo describes the methodology behind the new rankings as, "smart and innovative," adding that QS has, "considered stakeholders and criteria, assigned them different weights and has come up with a new perspective for potential students." QS hopes these latest rankings will provide candidates and readers with an invaluable new tool - helping them to further fine tune their EMBA program search, and to set them on a clearer trajectory to ever greater career successes.