October 24, 2011 12:24 am

Ask the Expert: Studying for an EMBA

Q&A Bradshaw

Once the Cinderella of the MBA world, executive MBA (EMBA) programmes - MBA degrees for working managers - are now the luxury products of the business school world, with business schools regularly charging more than $100,000 for these programmes. What is increasingly apparent, is that a growing number of participants are prepared to pay the fees themselves, a far cry from the days when all EMBA students had corporate sponsorship.

So, why are EMBA students taking responsibility for their studies into their own hands? Are these programmes worth the expense? Is this the right time to enrol on an EMBA programme?

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IN Ask the Expert

On Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, between 14.00 and 15.00 BST, a panel of experts will answer your questions about studying for an EMBA.

On the panel are:

Elizabeth Ziegler is associate dean of MBA programmes and dean of students at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Before joining Kellogg in 2011, Ms Ziegler served as a principal in McKinsey & Company’s Chicago office where she led the firm’s life insurance operations and technology practice and co-led its financial institutions operations and technology practice.

Carla Hayn is senior associate dean of the EMBA and MBA programmes and a professor of accounting at UCLA Anderson. Prior to her academic career, Professor Hayn held the position of chief financial analyst for the State of Florida Legislature and served as a commercial loan officer in a commercial bank.

Della Bradshaw is business education editor at the Financial Times

Post your questions now to ask@ft.com, with “EMBA” in the subject line, and they will be answered on the day on this page.

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I am in my mid thirties and working full time in the US with a work visa for a fortune 500 company and I have a BS in engineering. Will a full time accelerated programme (like Kellogg’s 1 yr programme, Insead etc) or an EMBA programme from a top school (like Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago etc) make more sense in terms of return on investment and future opportunities? Please consider factors like overall expenses of attending the programme, work visa, future employment quality & leadership scopes etc.

Vivek Dhariwal

Elizabeth: The choice you make should be based on your personal and professional goals. If you’d prefer the intensive daily experience of being a Kellogg student, and would like to return to the workforce quickly, our one-year programme could be a good fit for you. If instead you would prefer to maintain your current role, and have the ability to apply what you learn in class over the weekend to your job real-time, our EMBA programme could be fitting for you. The average age of our one-year students is 28 with 3-5 years of work experience. In EMBA the average age is 35-38 with 10+ years of experience.

Regardless of which programme you decide to pursue, a Kellogg MBA would equip you with a balanced understanding of markets and management, a keen understanding of the dynamics of the team, and an ability to move organisations, markets and communities forward.

Della: I think the big question is where you would like to be five or 10 years from now. If you want to stay in the same industry and continue to work in the US, then an EMBA would be ideal in accelerating your career. If you want a change, then go for the full-time option. My concern is that you are already at the top end of their usual age bracket.....

Carla: Overall, statistics from the EMBA Council show that the typical return on investment for EMBA students is 3.3 years.  That means that you will make back in “extra compensation” the amount you invested in the EMBA degree in 3.3 years.  Top EMBA programmes like Wharton, Kellogg or UCLA obviously have a higher return on investment.  The Wall Street Journal ran some statistics on ROI among EMBA programmes a few years ago and actually ranked the schools on ROI.  I recall that we at UCLA EMBA were number four on that list with a projected five-year salary of $ 283,000+ (entering salary of $100,000).  It seems that such an increase would certainly justify the cost. 

One of our UCLA Anderson graduates told me recently that he received his “dream job” right after graduation and his salary was “doubled.” That is not an uncommon result.  For ROI stats in the WSJ article, click here.

I have a PGDM with a specialisation in finance and have had a job since February 2010, in a construction company - working in the project finance department. I did my PGDM studies at IMS Noida, India. Now should I do a CA, a CFA, or an EMBA? If an EMBA, then from where and how?

Gautam Anand

Elizabeth: If you are looking for a broad-based, general management learning experience an EMBA could be a good fit for you. If you would prefer a more focused, concentrated education then you may want to consider one of the other degrees you specified. At Kellogg, we offer our EMBA programme on two campuses: Evanston (outside of Chicago) and Miami. Our EMBA students also have an opportunity to take elective courses on our four international partner programme campuses in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Canada.

Della: The CFA and EMBA will take you down different career paths, one focusing your career in finance, the other opening up your career to other industries. So the choice is yours. It is hard to tell from your question how many years of work experience you have, but an EMBA usually requires at least seven years, so might not be appropriate for you now - but the CFA would help you get a place on a high quality EMBA later, if that is what you would like to do.

If you choose an EMBA, then location is obviously important - you will have to travel there regularly. I don’t know whether your are living in India at the moment, but if so there are not many EMBA programmes there - I know the Indian School of Business started an EMBA recently, though. However, there is a whole range of options from top schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Carla: Gautam, I would strongly recommend that you enter an EMBA programme. Having an MBA will give you a much broader education than would a CA or CFA, enabling you to tackle a fuller range of responsibilities within an organisation. Thus you would be qualified for more top jobs in a company and have the opportunity to progress more rapidly. Correspondingly, your expected salary would be higher with an MBA degree than it would be with a more narrowly focused finance degree.

Being in India, consider attending an EMBA programme with a strong global focus since the number of international companies working in India is increasing significantly. A global programme would broaden your network and give you access to people around the world.

Taking into consideration that the average salary of new graduates from the MBA range is USD 100,000 to USD 120,000, it will not be a great investment if a candidate already earns around USD 111,500, correct? In this case what would be the motivation of this candidate to take an MBA, especially if it is self-financed? Is the average salary disclosure on the reports, net or gross salary? And what is the maximum age to enroll for a MBA?

Bruno Habib

Della: Bruno hi, I am not sure whether you are referring to our MBA rankings (full-time) or EMBA rankings (executive - part time). However, the way we report salary data for both of these is the same. To begin with, we do not report salaries from new graduates, but from alumni who graduated three years previously - that is, the salaries they are earning three years after graduation. For our EMBA ranking, published on Monday, you will see that most alumni earn 50 or 60 per cent more three years after graduation than they did when they began the programme.

Your question is, when you already earn $111,500 would the salary hike be worth it. That would depend on what kind of salary hike you would expect without an MBA.

A lot of business schools will tell you that studying for an MBA or an EMBA is all about the education, but when the FT surveys alumni there are always two things they wanted most from their MBA: a better job and a strong network. You should not discount the latter.

As to age limits, there aren’t any really, but a full-time MBA student is usually between 25 and 32 and an EMBA student between 35 and 45.

Elizabeth: More and more students are realising the benefits of an MBA degree beyond just salary. An MBA degree has long-term value both personally and professionally - our MBA students have an opportunity to make deep connections and broaden their professional networks, they get exposure to world-class faculty and innovative thinking/practices, they develop themselves professionally and as leaders, and are positioned to take their organisations to new levels.

We do not have a minimum or maximum age range; admittance is based on a range of factors including: work experience, leadership potential, and previous academic record.

Do you think that courses that include international globetrotting are a fad or do you think that their benefits will ensure longevity?

Thomas Wallace, Devon UK

Elizabeth: Today’s global business climate is changing so quickly, and it demands a new, different kind of leader…leaders with the courage and skills to build strong organisations and wisely leverage the power of markets. From our point of view, management education institutions have to focus on global competitiveness to prepare leaders for working in a truly global economy. It’s no longer about being competitive in just the US or Europe, but also in China, India, and other global markets.

Kellogg has long valued fostering global awareness among students. In fact, we pioneered the global partnership model in the 1990’s. Today, students from each of our partner schools is required to come to Evanston for a week long “live-in period.” In addition, our students based in Evanston and Miami have an opportunity to take advantage of global electives at our partner campuses.

Carla: I firmly believe that international study courses are here to stay and not a fad. Becoming familiar with the day-to-day working environment, the history, the cultural norms and the economy of another country is vital as businesses become increasingly international.

Our students here at UCLA Anderson would not have gotten to know, for example, China nearly so well if they had not participated in courses there, toured local companies, met with business people, and participated in consulting projects with partner companies. Several of our students have taken positions in other countries as a result of our international activities.

Seriously studying how to do business in another country and making professional contacts definitely provides one with a greater understanding of what it takes to actually work with – or in – another country, critical knowledge that cannot be obtained merely by visiting a foreign destination as a tourist.

Della: I think the survival of any so-called global brand is dependent on having senior executives that understand that people in different countries and cultures have different needs and expectations. So, I don’t think it is a fad.

I am thinking about studying for an EMBA in London, to advance my career. With schools here charging about $100,000 for these degrees, how can I justify spending this amount of money? Is it all worth it? Or am I better off studying a series of short executive management courses? Thanks.

Della: I agree, it sounds like an awful lot of money, doesn’t it? In the short term I think one benefit - especially in such a rotten job climate - could be to persuade your employer that there are real, quantifiable benefits that the company can accrue from your studies, and with no cost to them. Involving your company in your project should secure your position and hopefully give you a step up to a more senior position.

Elizabeth: In today’s complex environment, management education is more relevant than ever. I would argue that now is an ideal time to make the investment in an EMBA degree – to propel your career forward, to open up new opportunities, and to become a leader of lasting impact.

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