So you’ve been climbing the corporate ladder for the past 10 years and you finally see yourself as the successful businessperson you always wanted to be. The problem is you still have this nagging feeling that this isn’t it for you. You’re convinced that you can reach an even higher level at your firm if you could just work a little harder. You’re right. Further advancement is just one reason seasoned professionals make the decision to earn an Executive MBA (EMBA).
In a U.S. News Education article titled “3 Kinds of Professionals Who Can Benefit From an EMBA,” reporter Delece Smith-Barrow writes, “while an MBA often appeals to people wanting to switch industries, an executive MBA can attract those who simply want to switch offices. Graduating from middle manager to a C-suite position – such as CEO or COO – within their current company is a common goal among EMBA students, experts say.” Before we talk about some of the most elite EMBA programs to consider, let’s take a quick look at how they work.
While traditional MBA programs prepare students to enter the business industry, EMBA programs are designed for mature, working professionals that already have years of work experience. In fact, according to the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), the average EMBA student age is 37.5 years, and the average years of work experience is 13.7. Because students are almost always working professionals with demanding jobs, EMBA programs offer flexible evening and weekend schedules. And based on the sheer number of industries represented in most student bodies, curriculums are incredibly flexible as well.
By choosing from a wide range of electives, EMBA students can become fluent in one or more areas ranging from Finance and Entrepreneurship to Marketing and Strategic Management. Some schools also offer specific degree specializations such as Management of Technology (MBA-MOT), Global Business (MBA-GB), and more. Besides flexible schedules and curriculums, EMBA programs offer one of the best gateways to career advancement, a new career path, and a higher salary.
According to the Washington Post’s Grad Guide, the EMBA degree “remains one of the most solid investments you can make in yourself: intense leadership development, greater strategic vision and immediately applicable skills are all benefits for an EMBA graduate. But perhaps the most commonly quoted and highly anticipated benefit is that of a greater salary.” Further, The Executive MBA Council reports that around 43 percent of EMBA graduates can expect a promotion, and the GMAC Global Graduate Survey reports that these graduates are “more likely than graduates who received promotions from other programs to report an increase in their budgetary authority.”
An added bonus is the opportunity to network with experienced professionals and managers from other industries as well as executives who are already successful in the business industry and are seeking even greater success.
Admissions requirements vary by school, but in general, students must have a bachelor’s degree and career experience totaling several years or more. Programs typically take two years to complete, but some accelerated programs can take as few as 18 months to complete. However, all programs are fast-paced and rigorous, and most are expensive—regardless of program length.
1. Kenan-Flager Business School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Established in 1919, Kenan-Flager Business School at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has an Executive MBA program known at the Global OneMBA. Although the program offers all coursework online, students will be required to attend one in-person orientation, a weeklong global residency (U.S. residency), and immersive class weekends every 6-8 weeks in Chapel Hill. During these in-person experiences, students will have the opportunity to meet their UNC OneMBA class, which will be made up of just 25-30 students from across the U.S. and Canada. Students in the program typically have an average 15 years’ work experience, nearly 25% are advanced degree holders, and more than 30% work in the tech industry.
According to the school, students who attend the immersive class weekends will benefit from “shared experiential learning and networking opportunities” that the cohort-based EMBA is “valued” for. “Class sessions in Chapel Hill, NC are held at UNC's Rizzo Center, a facility specifically designed for executive residential education with state-of-the-art classrooms, multimedia technology, and beautifully appointed hotel accommodations.” Between meetings, students and teams will collaborate remotely using email, conference calls and Web-based conference tools.
Sample courses for the 21-month Global OneMBA include Analytical Tools for Decision Making, Global Macroeconomics, Financial Accounting, Management Communication, and Strategic Microeconomics. In addition to these required courses, students may choose a number of electives to enhance the degree. Categories include Finance and Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Management/Organizational Behavior/Strategy. From these categories, students may choose from courses such as Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Investments, Marketing Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions, Negotiations, and New Ventures – Discovery.
An added benefit to the Global OneMBA is after graduation, alumni will have the opportunity to keep their MBA current by continuing to take elective courses in Chapel Hill for a nominal fee.
UNC Kenan-Flagler is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
2. Carson College of Business, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
Established in 1963, Carson College of Business offers around a dozen programs to more than 4,600 students across five campuses. The school, which consistently ranks among the nation’s top business schools, has an MBA program designed specifically for seasoned professionals looking to advance to the next level. According to the school, the WSU Executive MBA Online engages students “through a convenient online format that's perfect for busy professionals.” An impressive “seventy-five percent of the EMBA online student body has more than 10 years of management experience, providing ample opportunities” for students to expand their “network and build a broad perspective on business leadership.”
Other program highlights include international field study, no GMAT requirements, and a 44 credit hour curriculum that emphasizes strategy, innovation, and leadership. Sample courses for the program include Administrative Control, Business Analytics, Database Management, International Business Management, Management of Innovation, Managerial Leadership and Productivity, and Strategy Formulation and Organization Design. Eight of the 44 credits in the program are dedicated the capstone project and final presentation.
While the WSU EMBA is offered entirely online, the program offers the opportunity to travel abroad for a ten-day residency to “gain a firsthand perspective on a dynamic market” and “meet face-to-face with peers and network with professionals outside the U.S.” Past residencies have taken EMBA students to Shanghai, Beijing, and Xian in China “to get an inside look at businesses such as Nike, Boeing, Porsche, Baosteel, Han Kun Law Offices, and Careers International.”
The WSU EMBA Online requires a completed bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution, seven-plus years of management, senior management, or executive business experience, and a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, among others. As mentioned earlier, the GMAT is not required for qualified applicants and the program can be completed in as few as 18 months.
The Carson College of Business has achieved full AACSB-accreditation in both business and accounting.
3. Chapman Graduate School of Business, Florida International University, Miami, Florida
The Alvah H. Chapman Jr. Graduate School of Business at Florida International University (FIU) is known for producing leaders. In fact, more than 20% of FIU Chapman’s 30,000 alumni have launched their own companies. The school, which offers a number of online business programs, offers a flexible online Executive MBA program known as the Corporate MBA (CMBA).
According to the school, the school prepares graduates to effectively evaluate the financial position of organizations by analyzing balance sheets, cash flow statements and budgets; build, develop and lead teams, and promote collaboration; identify ethical problems and choose appropriate resolutions, and to analyze complex business issues and recommend sound solutions in local and global governments. Three tracks are available including:
~Track A: For the student who needs a non-accelerated pace of study:
Take one class per quarter and complete the program in two years, nine months.
~Track B: For the student who likes flexibility in their studies:
Take courses based on your schedule. You can start with one course, and then take two the next quarter. By selecting this track, you can complete the program in approximately one year, nine months.
~Track C: For the student who wants to graduate sooner:
Take two classes per quarter and complete in only 18 months
Students in all Tracks may choose from seven specializations to enhance the degree. Options include Business Analytics, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Finance, International Business, Leadership, Marketing Channel Strategy, Real Estate, and Strategic Negotiations.
This fully online program requires 42 credit hours of study, with fall, spring, and summer start dates.
Chapman Graduate School of Business is AACSB-accredited.
4. College of Business, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Established in 1972, the College of Business (CoB) at James Madison University (JMU) offers an Executive Leadership MBA. According to the school, the program is “intended for high performing individuals (mid-level managers with a minimum of five years’ work experience) who have potential for organizational leadership and who will likely hold C-Suite positions.” Offered in a flexible hybrid format using the latest online technologies, the Executive Leadership MBA is “designed to develop skills and abilities required to effectively and ethically lead in dynamic and highly competitive business settings.”
Here’s how the program works: a cohort of students takes fourteen 8-week courses, one course at a time, for a total of 42 credit hours. Each course meets face-to-face for four hours at the beginning, four hours at mid-term and four hours at the end of the session on a Saturday. Instruction between face-to-face sessions is online, using synchronous and asynchronous teaching methods. An international residency is recommended, but not required. Students who choose to opt out may choose between two courses as a replacement.
Sample courses for the program include Corporate Financial Decision Making, Cultural Awareness Experience, Financial Statement Analysis, Global Business Leadership, Information Systems Strategy, Leadership Accelerator, Leadership Through Big Data Analytics, Managing Innovation, Managing Risks in Global Environments, and Strategic Organizational Leadership. Note that Strategic Organizational Development is considered the capstone course and replaces the comprehensive examination requirement for the program.
The Executive Leadership MBA takes 28 months to complete.
JMU’s business and accounting programs in the College of Business (CoB) have both earned reaccreditation from AACSB International.
5. College of Business, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
The College of Business at University of Wyoming offers a part-time Online MBA designed for experienced business professionals interested in an accredited, 100% online program that fits their busy schedules. Applicants must have five or more years of progressive, full-time professional work experience including three or more years in a supervisory/managerial role. Although a GMAT of 550 or better is also required for admission, this may be waived based on experience at the discretion of the MBA Program Director.
Known as the UW EMBA, the program is a cohort-based, lock-step program that begins each fall semester and consists of 30 credit hours of coursework. Sample courses for the program include Business Research Methods, Decision Science Modeling for Managers, Energy Finance: Project Evaluation, Enterprise Information Systems, Fundamentals of Accounting in the Energy Industry, International Business Practices, Marketing, Markets, and Society, New Ventures, and Supply Chain Management in the Energy Industry.
Some courses may require a prerequisite. Students must earn a “B” or better in all prerequisite courses. If prerequisites have not been taken prior to applying to the program, students may take all prerequisite courses online through the University of Wyoming Outreach School.
The UW EMBA, which takes two years to complete, has no on-campus requirements, there are no proctored exams or live-streaming, and all students have access to networking events both on and off campus.
The College of Business at University of Wyoming is AACSB-accredited.
Note: The business schools on our list are not ranked here and all information was obtained from each school’s website. At the time this article was published, all information was current.
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