Michael Desiderio, Executive Director at EMBAC (Executive MBA Council)

Business managers and executives have chosen an MBA to learn new management skills and advance their careers for over a century now.

However, balancing an inspiring but tough academic programme with the equally rigorous demands of work can be extremely challenging for an executive. Some may find this off-putting. This could explain why only 35.6% of women are considering an MBA compared to 45.2% of men globally. The Career Advancement Survey 2018, undertaken by the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), also found 55.9% of male respondents already possess or have started an MBA compared to 48.8% of women worldwide.

The existence of a gender gap highlights how we need to continue to evolve management education to ensure organisations are maximising all their human capital to the best possible advantage at a time of dynamic change in their markets.

So how can the century-old MBA be adapted to how modern organisations need to operate in the age of digitalisation and globalisation? This is where the Executive MBA (EMBA) can play a crucial role for business executives who face these complex challenges.

While the outcome of obtaining an EMBA is very similar to an MBA in terms of distinction and value, and is taught by the world’s top business schools, an EMBA is taught in ways that are better suited to what many executives need from management education.

Unlike an MBA, an EMBA is designed for working professionals. What does this mean? Instead of needing to quit a job and take classes during the day on-campus, EMBA programmes use compressed formats that are more conducive to the working professional. For example, meeting once per month for three immersive days. There are a multitude of other formats as well, all designed with an eye towards the needs of the working professional. And while EMBA programmes certainly tap into the value of face-to-face learning environments, they also find ways to use technology to enhance learning. This can include business simulations, classroom video recording, teleconferencing, virtual learning, webinars and more.

So, who are choosing to take EMBA programmes as part of their professional career development? The EMBAC’s latest survey said the average age of enrolled EMBA students remained at 38 years old with approximately 14 years of work experience and about nine years of management experience. By contrast, MBA students tend to be younger and in their twenties.

The profile of an average EMBA student illustrates how these courses are ideally suited to those experienced executives who need to develop leadership skills on the job. They seek out EMBAs because of the high collective experience base of their fellow EMBA students, which creates invaluable opportunities for business networking with their peers across all industries while simultaneously allowing them to learn from each other’s experience while in the classroom.

The extent to which EMBAs are integral to advancing careers is illustrated by EMBAC’s own data. In a study conducted in partnership with LinkedIn, EMBAC surveyed alumni of EMBA programmes globally. 72% said the EMBA programme had a significant impact on their career, in the form of promotions, increased job responsibilities, salary increase or launching their own enterprise. These opportunities for career advancement are augmented by how the majority of business schools that offer EMBA programmes provide career services to help students manage their career and programme goals.

And while the business world continues to wrestle with solving the gaps associated with gender differences, EMBA programmes may help reduce this gender gap in business leadership. While there is a long way to go, it is gratifying that the number of female executives taking EMBAs is rising with EMBAC saying that 2019 saw the highest enrolment rate of women ever.

The growth of EMBA programmes over the last few years serves as a testament to their value in meeting the organisational thirst for leadership development. EMBA programmes give students the tools they need to position themselves as invaluable leaders within their organisations at a time when strategic guidance is of the utmost importance. It also enables them to have the opportunity to venture outside of their current careers, become small business owners, entrepreneurs. The complexities of today’s business climate requires leaders that are as creative and ingenious as possible, and EMBAs are helping answer that call.

Michael Desiderio, Executive Director at EMBAC (Executive MBA Council)

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