The ABCs of Executive MBA Programs

Considering an executive MBA?  Shiny business school brochures promise enhanced critical and strategic thinking, freshly honed soft skills, exalted networks, and the chance to apply your classroom takeaways in the workplace in real time. While it’s true that a reputable and rigorous EMBA can be a career-changing experience, EMBAs don’t come cheap and as life commitments go, they are major, unavoidably impacting every part of your life: career, family, and extracurricular. So before you sign away two years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars, you need to ask yourself some hard questions:

What goals motivate you to consider an EMBA?

Better pay? Accelerated advancement? A qualified eMBA can certainly deliver these. The Executive MBA Council reports that in 2009, students increased their salary 9 percent on average on earning their degree (to a mean $136,722), and 2008 students increased it 17 percent. Likewise, a third of eMBA students were promoted and 44 percent earned greater job responsibilities.

But if you hope an eMBA will help you make a career change, you need to take a closer look: the eMBA will not give you the internship opportunities that enable full-time MBAs to sample new careers and get vetted by future employers. People do change careers with eMBAs, but you should not count on the school’s brand and placement office to do the work for you (and if your employer is sponsoring you, you may be committed to returning there, in the short-term, anyway).

Likewise, if you want an eMBA just to add a credential to your resume or to keep up with the Joneses, make sure you have no illusions about the time and financial price you’ll have to pay to fulfill these cosmetic goals.

Is an eMBA really the best way to achieve these goals? Can an eMBA program deliver what you want it to?

Executive MBAs are expensive (up to $172,200 total for Wharton’s San Francisco program) and can require up to 34 hours of your class and study weekly (excluding commutes).  Since you aren’t made of money and do have a life, you’ll need to really analyze whether the eMBA is the best way to achieve your goals. If you seek a higher income, perhaps a new position with another company or a new industry can accomplish that. If you seek faster advancement, maybe you just need to hone your golf game, add a certification or two, or get more involved in a professional association.

If you’re expecting a program to turbocharge your income or give you the CEO’s office by age 40, do you have evidence that your target programs’ graduates enjoy that kind of success? Check with the school’s placement office, of course, but also talk to graduates who’ve been out for a few years. Did the program get them where they thought it would?

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