Are You Ready to Apply for an Executive MBA?

Are You Ready to Apply for an Executive MBA

A professional career tends to develop in quite distinct stages. Early careers are often defined by uncertainty – this is a period where the learning curve can be at its steepest, and is also, for those go-getters among us, a time where progression up the ladder is frequently at its fastest. Then comes the plateau. Thirtieth-birthday celebrations pass, the plaque on the door says 'manager', but keys to the corner office still seem to be very much out of reach. There is, or so it can appear, a painfully perceptible gap (what might even feel like a chasm) to be bridged in order to get from the confines of middle management to the c-suite.  

The GMAC 2016 Alumni Perspectives Survey found that the three main reasons senior professionals choose to do an executive MBA (EMBA) are to further their personal development, to extend their existing knowledge and skills, and to increase their salary. An executive MBA from a top business school can go some way toward granting these wishes; however it is important that prospective candidates are ready to put in the work in order to fully benefit.  

Here are four points to consider before you apply for an executive MBA.

Committing to the executive MBA means recommitting to textbooks

Many years may have passed since you leafed through the pages of a doorstop-sized textbook. The executive MBA program will, among other things, immerse you in the core concepts of finance, strategy, marketing, operations, and so on. It is therefore important to assess what kind of learner you are, and to determine whether going back to study and investing 12 to 15 hours a week on coursework is viable.

Each top business school will also have its own teaching approach. IE Business School is, for example, well known for its use of the case study method. NYU Stern meanwhile, places significant emphasis on experiential learning. Kellogg School of Management embraces the team-based approach, while other business schools may be more about individual work. Most schools accommodate all of the above to varying degrees, but it’s important to determine which school’s or schools' approaches best fit your learning style before you apply.

Self awareness: Can I successfully do this?

With fees for EMBA programs at some elite business schools hitting six-digit figures, it is important that you assess your commitment levels before you or your employer commits. In the build up to applying, make a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Will you be able to balance work, study and family responsibilities? Can you ride out challenges at the office alongside EMBA project deadlines? Will you be able to stay chipper through the course of the program, or could stress levels exceed sensible levels? 

Will your employer be amenable to the EMBA?

It is of course crucial that you do not jeopardize your job or business in any way. You will have to evaluate whether your work is conducive to doing the executive MBA. This is also where you have to sift through the various flexible program choices on offer. Many business schools can fast-track your EMBA so that learning is covered in as short as a 15-month period, but are also open to extending the duration of the program as may be required. Different executive MBA programs also offer different flexible schedule options. Classes could be one-week long residentials, or they could be offered over weekends or evenings. For applicants interested in global projects, a large number of top business schools incorporate overseas study stints. 

Bear in mind that work obligations may also be an impediment to your performance in the classroom. You will need to have  a supportive boss who sees the overall value and transferability of the EMBA; that is, its potential to positively influence both you, your team's and your company's performance over both the short and long term. Understanding this, your line manager will need to be open to giving you sufficient time sponsorship.

Family matters

The average executive MBA candidate is 38 years old. This means that many students on the program are not only juggling work and study, but the needs of family as well. It’s essential to consult your partner, children, parents and friends before filling out the first boxes of the EMBA application form – these people know you best, and, like your employer, will need to accept the time cost, albeit informally.

The EMBA is the most likely degree to be recommended by alumni

Once you have both family and employer approval, and you know that you have the mental energy and time resources to commit to the EMBA program of your choosing, you can rest assured that you have set yourself up well to get good return on investment (ROI).

The GMAC 2016 Alumni Perspectives Survey found that it only took EMBA graduates two-and-a-half years to recoup their investment, largely because they didn't have to quit their jobs to study full-time. Median ROI three years post graduating was 198%, which rose to 486% after five years, and to a staggering 1,747% after 10 years.

The same report stipulates that the executive MBA format, as opposed to full-time, part-time and online formats, was the most-favourably recommended by alumni.

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

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