Shortlisting EMBA Programs to Fit Your Priorities |

Shortlisting EMBA Programs to Fit Your Priorities

By Sophie Mathiaut

Updated June 29, 2020 Updated June 29, 2020

In order to shortlist executive MBA (EMBA) programs that will match up with your needs and expectations, it’s important to ascertain your priorities. To do this, consider writing down the factors that you feel are most important to you.

Here is a list of seven of the most important factors that candidates will commonly consider when shortlisting EMBA programs

Location of campus

Is a program close to your home important to you?

Many executive MBA candidates choose to pursue their studies in a neighboring country while others will even opt for a completely different part of the world. In most places, transportation systems are now well-developed and it is possible to get from one point to another easily and within a few hours.

As an EMBA will only require you to be physically present in the classroom during modules (which occur, on average, once every six weeks), you have the flexibility to choose a remote program that fits you best. Many EMBA participants also recognize that traveling to the business school campus and boarding there for a week actually provides the perfect 'retreat feeling' busy executives need.  

Reputation of school

Is the business school’s reputation a major factor for you?

First thing to look for is accreditation: You need to make sure that the EMBA programs you have picked are all accredited by a reputable MBA authority, such as the AACSB and EQUIS.

After that, a school’s reputation in terms of subject matter – let’s say entrepreneurship, for instance – might be important to you if you intend to start your own business after the EMBA. Alternatively, you might be looking to gain a specialism in marketing, in which case attending a business school with the most reputable marketing experts will be a strong proposition.

Reputation in terms of business school brand might also be attractive in terms of global networking as many famous business schools, such as the US's Ivy Leagues members, will have an extensive and extremely influential alumni network globally. But you shouldn’t underestimate the power of the networks applicable to the so-called second-tier business schools – the strength of alumni networks are very much the product of a business school’s culture. (See consideration #7 for more on alumni networks).

Global content

Are you looking to internationalize your profile?

Most executive MBA programs offer some sort of internationalization in the form of global electives or residential units. Discovering and studying in other regions of the world not only provides you with different perspectives and expands your reach, but it can also be very attractive for an employer with ambitions of expansion into new markets. A global component could be the extra 'plus' that will turn your already accomplished profile into a winning one.

Quality of faculty

Do you want to learn from the best business experts in the world?

Faculty members play an important role throughout your EMBA journey. They provide potential solutions to complex business cases, access to other business experts and global influencers as well as mentoring opportunities. Many EMBA programs have clinical professors, those who have practical experience across various business fields and who are able to share their knowhow in the EMBA classroom. Don’t underestimate the faculty quality factor when shortlisting programs as the superstar faculty members you meet during your EMBA will accompany you throughout your EMBA journey and way beyond.

Admissions process

How much time and effort can you dedicate to the admissions process?

Everyone is aware that executives are busy. So, it is important for you to make sure that the admissions process of your EMBA shortlist fits your limitations. Evaluate what is required of you from your chosen school(s). Is the GMAT needed? Most EMBA programs actually do not require the GMAT. The latter can be very time-consuming and if you need a decent score to get into an EMBA program, you will need to dedicate at least two to three months to test preparation.

Other than that, find out if you are required to do any or all of the following: Write a statement of purpose; fill out an application; supply letters of recommendation. In addition, some EMBA programs will require that your employer consents to the time away from the office to participate in the modules. Lastly, you should work out whether you will have to apply for financing to fund the program.  

All these potential requirements take time and as a rule of thumb the decision-making process for an executive is, on average, 18 months. This is because you need to make sure that you thoroughly understand the admissions process and that it fits your current schedule.

Strength of alumni network

How important are professional connections to you?

Your current classmates are important but an EMBA program’s alumni network is even more crucial. Alumni, especially those who graduated from the same program three or more years ago will most likely be able to help you post-graduation, particularly when it comes to your career aspirations. Some alumni networks have a better sense of legacy than others. Other networks are more local/regional than others. So, it is important that you understand the dynamics of the alumni networks in order to make sure it will serve you well.


Do you need quality assurance before making a decision? Are you number-driven?

If you have even the slightest business acumen you are probably number-driven in one way or another! Rankings are a great way to start your search as they provide important data about career progress and program diversity. However, as is the case with any data, there is room for interpretation and creativity. The qualitative aspect of statistics can only really be figured out by visiting the business school campus and talking to former alumni in order to really understand the school or program’s culture.

This article was originally published in August 2016 and was most recently updated in April 2019.

This article was originally published in June 2020 .

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Written by

Sophie M Mathiaut has been working in higher education management for over nine years in both North America and Europe, and now heads QS’s executive MBA product division. Prior to this, Sophie worked for the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA Program in Germany, and the New York Institute of Technology and World Education Services in New York City. Sophie specializes in higher education marketing & recruiting, research, and executive education.


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