EMBA: an alternate path to management education

What is an EMBA?

Executive MBA (EMBA) is a postgraduate curriculum that covers the basic components of management – finance, operations, marketing, strategy,human resources, etc.In addition, the EMBA offers courses focused on current theories and issues faced by senior managers. Many programs also include leadership and interpersonal skills development opportunities.

The program is designed for completion within 1-2 years through a combination of bi-monthly 2-3 day weekend sessions, ongoing Internet-based learning, a few weeks (usually in summer) of study on-campus, and sometimes a field-study or industry tour outside the country.

Currently,there are more than 200 EMBA programs worldwide offered by accredited universities. The EMBA should not be confused with an “eMBA,” which is primarily a distance-learning program usually offered by non-accredited institutions.

Who should consider an EMBA?

Most EMBA students work full-time and range in age from their early 30s into their 50s. These individuals are typically on a fast-track to senior or executive management, but lack the formal education to qualify for broader responsibilities.They need more training and a wider perspective to advance beyond their current role.

The cost for an EMBA education ranges significantly, but the top programs charge about $170,000 – equivalent to a traditional full-time MBA at the same universities. Those considering this path usually seek some financial support from their employer.The payback can take years, so this is an investment that merits serious consideration.

What are some advantages of an EMBA vs. a Full-time MBA?

  • Easier to gain admission to a top-ranked program. Less emphasis on prior education, grades and standardized test scores. More focus on professional achievement and potential.
  • The opportunity to continue working – and earning money — while attending classes.
  • Interaction with accomplished, motivated peers who are already managers, senior managers and business owners.
  • Class size tends to be smaller and more intimate, which can enhance learning and foster more dialogue with the instructors.
  • Faculty tend to be all-star veterans rather than rookies.The schools know that the pedigree of the profs is a major draw when corporations are picking up some or all of the tuition tab.

What are some disadvantages of an EMBA vs. a Full-Time MBA?

  • Coursework can sometimes be streamlined or diluted in order to emphasize higher level issues rather than basic learning.
  • Little or no support in terms of recruiting and career services; the assumption is that the student is already in his or her preferred organization or career path.
  • Lower recognition in the marketplace as a “credential”; this has prompted some institutions to rename their program as “MBA for Executives” or “Weekend MBA.”
  • Less bonding and interaction with classmates.The relative maturity of the EMBA students and the time span between class sessions don’t encourage the kind of camaraderie associated with full-time MBA programs.
  • Having the employer provide sponsorship and absorb some of the cost can constrain the student from seeking a better opportunity during or shortly after completing the program.

How should a future EMBA proceed?

  • View the current rankings of top EMBA programs at Business Week.com or FT.com.
  • Get an expert evaluation of your candidacy so you know whether your targeted schools are the right ones for your background and goals.We offer such evaluations at www.mbaexchange.com.
  • Talk with your family about how the demands – and rewards – of an EMBA education would impact them.
  • Approach your boss to see how he or she feels about you pursuing – and hopefully funding — an EMBA for you.
  • Visit the schools to observe classes, meet students, talk with administrators, and get a feel for the culture.
  • Go for it!One thing is for sure: if you don’t apply, then you will never get admitted. If you are targeting the more selective programs, consider engaging a professional admissions consultant such as The MBA Exchange (www.mbaexchange.com) to help you maximize your chances.