The executive advantage
Teodora Ivanova, Education Consultant and Candidate Manager at Advent Group, has comprehensive experience in higher education guidance. She has been advising prospective MBA, EMBA and Master’s applicants globally in the shortlisting of their best options among leading business schools around the world. Prior to joining Advent Group, she served as a college counsellor at a private English language school. Teodora has herself been immersed in international education. She has a BA in Hispanic Studies and Russian Language from the University of Nottingham and an MA in Politics from the University of Sheffield.
How do MBA and Executive MBA (EMBA) programmes differ, since they provide the same academic degree – the Master of Business Administration?
It is true that MBA and EMBA programmes award equal qualifications on graduation, but they are tailored to different participants. The EMBA programme caters for professionals with a minimum 3-4 years of managerial experience in high executive roles and managing teams. Usually, these professionals are planning to switch their career path, to start their own business, or to prepare for a transition into senior leadership roles at their current company.
Although both MBA and EMBA programmes cover the same core knowledge base, they approach it from different perspectives and enrich it to meet the level of the respective group of participants. Leadership coaching is a major focus in an EMBA; another feature is global immersion. Classes are extended with a variety of international travel and company visits in regional or industry-specific business hubs. Study trips and customised seminars are designed to explore a specific theme related to the business environment in all its dimensions. For example, Copenhagen Business Schools’ EMBA involves a Change Management Seminar in Paris, a European Business Environment Seminar in Brussels, a Regional Leadership Seminar in Brazil, China, India or Singapore, an Innovation Seminar in the US, and a Closing Seminar in Madrid. This approach increases the networking opportunities and participants’ understanding of foreign markets and diverse types of organisations.
What is the delivery format of EMBA programmes? What should applicants factor in when planning their studies?
Embarking on an EMBA journey requires great organisation, precise time management, discipline, and dedication. Most EMBA programmes are delivered in a part-time format, which could be evenings, weekends or modular. IESE Business School’s (Spain) EMBA, for example, offers two residential weeks every second month, the whole programme lasting 16 months, of which 14 weeks are contact teaching weeks. IMD’s (Switzerland) EMBA comprises six one-week modules and 50 weeks of distance learning modules in the programme lasting 14-15 months.
Executive applicants should plan for strong global exposure and be open to international travel. The intensity varies between schools, so they can choose what suits them best. IESE Business School delivers its EMBA in Barcelona, New York, Silicon Valley, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo. Similarly, IMD’s core teaching classes take place in Lausanne (Switzerland), China, India, Brazil, Silicon Valley, Kenya, and Vietnam.
What is the diversity of the curricula and specialisations among EMBA programmes?
Most EMBA programmes follow a similar general management curriculum which covers modules on Finance, Leadership, Marketing, Human Resources, and Strategy. In addition, each school offers a variety of specialisations which complement the core modules. The elective classes could focus on business integrity management, compliance, corporate governance or forensics, as well as the latest design thinking concepts and technological developments such as blockchain, as at ESMT in Berlin, for example. Another approach, such as the one of IESE, is to explore business specifics in particular regions with elective classes in Doing Business in Asia, Driving Business Success in Latin America, and Opportunities and Challenges for Doing Business in India.
Apart from the knowledge base of the EMBA, more and more frequently EMBA participants are obtaining extensive hands-on experience with on-campus or on-site projects, since they are required to complete an in-company project and a business plan.
Network building is among the top benefits of the EMBA experience. How do schools achieve it?
Connections built during EMBA studies last beyond the duration of the programme. Often they grow into business partnerships. Therefore business schools emphasise this aspect of the programme and facilitate networking. Schools and student clubs at the schools organise numerous events including cocktails, conferences, company visits, and guest lectures with executives from leading companies such as Accenture, Apple, HP, The World Bank, Deloitte, Citigroup, Google, and Amazon. Naturally, business schools would also encourage cultural activities and get-togethers with local citizens in the case of international study trips. For instance, The Africa Summit is a two-day conference bringing together entrepreneurs and business leaders to inspire, inform, and debate with the student population of the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) about the rapidly growing potential of the African continent.
What are the career growth prospects of EMBA participants?
The career goals of EMBA participants are quite diverse. However, based on business schools statistics, most often EMBA graduates advance within their company or establish their own companies. Some examples of career progression after or even during the EMBA are of participants who have grown from sales manager to executive director, from project manager to director of Venture Technology & Corporate Entrepreneur, or from internal auditor to CFO.
How can executives identify the best business schools for them?
Most importantly, executives should explore how joining an EMBA programme will improve their career progression, professional and personal development, and leadership growth. Then they should do extensive research on business school offerings. An in-depth look into the programmes’ content, study trips, and specialisations will help them decide which option will best suit their future career plans.
Great insight can be obtained from direct contact with school representatives, but also with alumni who speak from personal experience. Many prospective applicants check EMBA school rankings, such as those of The Financial Times and The Economist. However, when selecting an EMBA it is not recommended to base the final decision on rankings alone, as they follow various methodologies and have ranking criteria which may differ from what matters most to the applicant.
Of course, you should consider the financial investment in each EMBA programme too, but most importantly, research all possible funding options before taking a final decision. As they have managerial experience, applicants already have good planning and budgeting skills. At their stage of life and career, they enjoy access to diverse funding options such as personal savings, loans, and employer sponsorship. Business schools themselves provide diverse scholarships, and grants from foundations or other organisation are additional options.
Executive applicants are best positioned to grow through EMBA studies because of their maturity and self-awareness, career focus, and access to resources. The diversity of transformational business school programmes is to their advantage.