Survey: EMBA Demand Strong, Class Size Up

Demand for graduates of executive MBA programs remains strong, especially globally, according to a recently released annual survey of hundreds of EMBA programs. That strength is reflected in an increase in average class sizes and in an uptick — for the sixth year in a row — in the percentage of enrolled women.

The Executive MBA Council released its annual Membership Program Survey results on Tuesday (October 10), showing that in a time of rapid industry change in an evolving global market, graduates of EMBA programs are more desirable than ever. The percentage of enrolled female students grew yet again, as it has every year since 2012, reaching its highest point ever at 30.1%, while the percentage of programs offering scholarships and the average number of scholarships per program rose for the fourth consecutive year as well.

EMBAC, a nonprofit association of universities and colleges that offer executive MBA programs, attributes the growing demand for EMBA programs to more students seeking to augment their skills as workforces continue to globalize and new technologies emerge. Average class size grew to 47, driven mostly by larger programs outside of North America.

“An executive MBA is an investment in one’s future,” Michael Desiderio, executive director of EMBAC, said in a news release accompanying the survey results. “With an increase in demand for future leaders, these programs are a catalyst for students to explore new professions, new industries and even new countries. Global opportunities are available, and those who’ve completed an executive MBA program are positioning themselves as invaluable players in the market. As a result, the need for these programs is only increasing.”


Michael Desiderio

EMBAC currently includes more than 200 colleges and universities that administer over 300 programs in more than 30 countries. Using the current methodology, the group has conducted its Membership Program Survey annually since 2003. This year the survey was conducted by Percept Research from April 5 to July 9, and was completed by about 90% of EMBAC member programs.

Desiderio was particularly heartened by the continued growth in women enrolling in EMBA programs, a number that climbed from 29.6% last year and from 25.3% in 2013. The long-term upward trend shows the desire for women to continue pushing the glass ceiling higher, he says.

“Obviously we have quite a ways to go (to achieve parity), but we’re excited to see that climb,” he says in a phone interview with Poets&Quants. “We’ll take it.”


Among the other trends uncovered by the survey:

• For the fourth straight year, electronic delivery of course materials remains the most commonly implemented technology change, with video delivery of coursework/lectures and business simulation usage among other fast-growing methods.

• The trend toward more self-funded students and fewer fully-funded students continues: In 2017, more than 45% of students were self-funding, while fewer than 35% of students received partial sponsorship. The number of fully funded students (20.9%, down from 22.9% last year) dropped to its lowest ever as the practice of company sponsorship continued to fade.

• The average age of enrolled EMBA students remained steady, at 38 years old, and the average amount of experience held at 14 years’ work experience and approximately nine years of management experience. After slight increases in recent years, the average age and students’ full-time work experience and managerial experience show early signs of stabilizing, Desiderio said.

“At about age 29 or 30, people start transitioning to managers, without all the necessary tools, so even with students self-funding, it makes sense that EMBA demand remains strong,” he said.


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