You know you need to get an MBA in order to advance your career but you’re not sure what program fits your experience. Do you have enough experience to qualify for an Executive MBA? What’s the difference between the Executive MBA and a Full-time or Part-Time MBA? What’s the long-term career impact of choosing an EMBA over the other MBA program options? We’ll ask all these questions and more from directors of top EMBA programs across the country.
You want to get an MBA to advance your career, but you can only go part-time? Do you have enough experience to qualify for an Executive MBA? And what’s the difference anyway between the Executive MBA and a regular part-time MBA? We’re asking those questions and more of the directors of top EMBA programs across the country. We’ll see who is attracted to the Executive MBA program; we’ll hear from Charles Jacobina, the Executive Director of VirginiaTech’s new EMBA program, the Pamplin College of Business Executive MBA Program. “The type of student that is attracted to this program is somebody who comes in on a Friday, wants to learn something on the weekend, and apply it on Monday.”
There’s Julie Cisek Jones, Assistant Dean for the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and Director of Executive MBA programs. “It’s an experience that absolutely will help you better understand marketing and accounting but, ultimately, it makes you think and reason and make decisions in a completely different way than you would have.”
And we’ll get a sweeping view of all the EMBA programs through the eyes of Maury Kalnitz who is the Managing Director of the Executive MBA Council. “In terms of payback, our studies have shown that the average students who’s paid for it by himself, gets a full return on his investment in about 44 months.”
And we’ll hear from Ethan Hanabury, Associate Dean for Executive MBA Programs at Columbia Business School. “Some of the things that they don’t expect are how this expands their horizons; it expands their way of thinking.”
Let us first discover the difference between the Executive MBA Program and your typical MBA Programs. We’ll put that question to the head of the Executive MBA Council, Maury Kalnitz. “Academically, there’s no difference—an MBA is an MBA. It’s not a matter of content. It’s a matter of delivery style. It’s a matter of the type of student that prefers to go into the Executive MBA program. They’re quite a bit older. The average age is about 37, with about 14 years of work, and about 7 years of management experience in the typical EMBA program.”
Let’s turn to Charles Jacobina who runs Virginia Tech’s new EMBA program. Who is the typical EMBA student and how does that differ from a part-time MBA student? “Typically, an Executive MBA student is somebody who is working full-time. They are typically in a higher management position, or they are currently managing a number of people within a company or an organization. They, obviously, have more work experience. Many of them would have perhaps a Master’s Degree or even a higher terminal degree such as a Law Degree or a PhD.”
Julie Cisek Jones also heads up an EMBA Program. If the applicants qualify for both the part-time MBA and the EMBA programs, which would you recommend and why? “I would have to say it depends. If you were looking to go back for a part-time experience—that can really give an opportunity for someone to dig deep. You can select a major and really focus on an educational experience which can help you hone a new expertise. It’s ideal for those who might be looking to career switch. An Executive MBA experience is ideal for the candidate who already feels that they have their experience well under their belt.”
Here’s another point of view from Maury Kalnitz who heads up the Executive MBA Council. As students would qualify for both MBA and EMBA programs, which would you recommend and why? “I went through an Executive MBA program as part of my development program when I was with IBM, and it was probably the best educational experience I’ve ever had because of the quality of the faculty and the quality of my fellow students. They were all experienced—all had a lot of management experience. So the dialogue in the classroom wasn’t just faculty to student, but it was also student to student. Secondly, we had an opportunity—as with almost any EMBA program I know of—to work in a team. You work in a team environment. So you’re learning within your team, and that’s just consistent with the way the industry is going today. It’s much more team-focused. All things being equal—and they never are—I would recommend an Executive MBA program. Assuming you qualify for that, I would definitely recommend it.”
Jones has a more graphic example. “One of my favorite illustrations for this is to maybe talk about the engineer. Maybe they started out as an engineer and they moved into project management and up the chain, and 15 years later, they’re the Vice President for Research and Development. And what they’re doing has a lot less to do with engineering and a whole lot more to do with managing on behalf of the organization. So they come back to Graduate School not just to hone an expertise in finance, or accounting, or marketing, but to rather give them the opportunity to understand both the theory as well as the application of broad-based business disciplines from a strategic and decision-making standpoint.”
Let’s check out the types of programs available. Charles Jacobina of Virginia Tech. When we say “cross-study programs”, do you have that and, if so, what is the purpose? “In terms of cross-study, we’re only teaching two courses at any one given time in this program. They have to complete the two courses, and then they move on to the second two courses in that module. A number of the faculty will share cases of cross courses—one, to omit any duplication, but also to have some consistency across those two courses. For example in accounting, they might be studying a case that involves Sarbanes-Oxley. Well, our Ethics professor obviously would talk a lot about Sarbanes-Oxley and the implications there for students to understand from an ethical as well as a managerial point of view.”
And, Julie, you’re speaking of a time commitment being a very huge piece of this whole thing. So how do you set your program up? Some are every other weekend; some are every weekend. What’s yours like? “It’s a complicated answer at the Kellogg School because we actually have three different deliveries on the Evanston Campus—four, if you count what we’re doing on our Miami Campus. Each has the same core curriculum, the same faculty pool, the same contact hours, the exact same educational experience, but it’s done on four different calendars so that the student can find the best way to balance this into what is already a pretty hectic mix between their personal and professional lives. All of the classes tend to be weekend-based. They’re everything from a one-day-a-week delivery which tends to be extremely attractive to people who live and work in the Chicagoland area—very close to our home campus. We also have more concentrated weekend deliveries which only bring students to campus every two weeks. And that tends to be extremely attractive to what I would consider the long-haul commuter. But there are four different deliveries all total.”
If you choose an EMBA program, you won’t be going it alone. Here’s Ethan Hanabury who is the Associate Dean for Executive MBA Programs at Columbia Business School. It seems there’s a lot of focus these days in the EMBA programs on teamwork. Would you please speak to that? “Yes, very much so because they’re mid-level executives where both their leadership skills and their teamwork skills are especially important, and where their sponsors for the program are looking for them to hone those skills even more. We try to give them a lot of opportunity in the program to work as teams. Much of the coursework is done in what we call ‘study groups’ of three or four students. We set those study groups at the beginning, and it’s based on bringing together a very diverse set of students based on industry experience, what function they’ve worked in, diversity in terms of sex and race—which is part of the learning experience of being able to work with a team where the other members have different strengths than you do.”
It seems like we’re headed into much more of a global consciousness when it comes to corporations, and the EMBA programs contribute to that. Is that true? “Yes, in fact, 27% of our students were born outside of the United States which is pretty high considering the fact that our program runs every other Friday and Saturday. We do have some students that commute from other parts of the country and some even from other countries. But, for the most part, you’re dealing with a population that’s in the Greater New York area. And we find it pretty amazing that so many of them, even though they’re working in New York, are from other places.”
So how does that fit in with the opportunity for international students who want to participate in EMBA Programs? “We have a number of ways that they can do that. One is that we’ve got a partnership program with a London Business School called EMBA-Global. And that program alternates between London and New York. It’s designed for professionals who have global responsibilities and are traveling quite a bit anyway for their jobs, so half of that class is from outside North America. That’s one of two partnership programs that we have. We also have a partnership program with Berkley where they spend some of their time in California in Silicon Valley and some of their time in New York. And among the three programs we provide opportunity for networking among the three programs. So you might have students in an international seminar to Shanghai who are based in the New York program, some that are participating in the global program and some that are in the Berkley-Columbia program.”
At Kellogg near Chicago, there’s also a strong international component. “We have an active, joint-venture campus in Frankfort which serves the European market as well as in Hong Kong which serves the Asian market. That’s been recently complemented by a campus in Miami which serves the Latin American market. Each of the different students can do an exchange program and study overseas. If you were attending classes on our Chicago campus and had an interest in learning more about doing business in Asia, you could go for 12-day periods of time and do intensive coursework with our program in Asia. If you were in Asia and had an interest in doing business in Latin America, conversely, you could come to our campus in Miami and take our elective courses also in that residential week. That’s particularly powerful because it integrates those international students with their international colleagues. When the students from the US go to Asia to learn about doing business in Asia, they’re integrated into the classroom with our Asian-based students. When the students from Asia are interested in learning more about doing business in Latin America, they come to Miami and are integrated with our Latin American students. So you’re learning both from a classroom standpoint as well as a rich opportunity for peer-learning.”
The head of the EMBA Council, Maury Kalnitz, comments on the international aspect. Now is this a major distinction between EMBA programs and MBA programs, or do we also have something like this coming up in MBA programs? “This has been a very unique attribute of the EMBA programs for a very long time. It’s a part of the program. It’s a course, and you’re graded on it.”
Not only is there a similar international component at Virginia Tech, there is also cutting-edge technology. Now you’ve enticed the attention of Apple with their iPod program. Tell me what this is about. “I saw an opportunity to; basically, expand the collaborative communications when students aren’t here on the weekends. And Apple came out with some very interesting products with regard to their Power Books which are now Mac Book Pros. They have a built-in iSight camera which means you can do multi-point video conferencing of up to four people when you’re not here. And that works out perfectly for our program because there are approximately four people on each team. So when the students aren’t here, they can collaborate through multi-point video. We also give them an iPod. And now they have the video iPod, and that allows students to tape the sessions in class, or tape their team meetings and they can play that back on the video iPod. I even had one student who was on a cruise ship off the coast of Sardinia in a satellite uplink and was able to attend class. One of his team members, basically, turned the camera on the faculty member and the student was able to attend and participate. So it’s a whole new world out there in terms of providing these technologies to enhance communications.”
But this is not inexpensive. Is there a big cost difference between the various EMBA/MBAprograms? “Not when you look at it in an apples-to-apples way. The Executive MBA Program fees are bundled. We have an inclusive tuition which includes things like books and materials, all of the student fees, room and board when required by the program, parking—the whole nine yards. Our students are already extraordinarily busy. So we try and build in a high level of service to be able to take all of the noise out of a being a student. So when they come to us, all they have to worry about is what’s going on in the classroom. So as such, all of those extraneous costs are bundled into the tuition amount. But when you look at it from an apples-to-apples sort of way, there’s not an enormous price difference between the two.”
Are we seeing significant cost differences between the regular part-time and EMBA programs? “Yes, the biggest difference in price points for executive-style program has to relate to the international residency which, typically, is not included in a full-time or part-time program. We cover all their incidental expenses such as books and their meals. We also give them a lap top computer as part of the tuition. So there are a number of expenses that are not included in a part-time program. But, on the other hand, we also do all the registration of their classes and all their books are bought here. So it has more to do with providing these ancillary services that go beyond a part-time or full-time program.”
Do prospective students have to be sponsored by their company? And how about the financing? “It’s a three-way understanding between the student, the organizational which employs them, and the school. And it heavily focuses on the issue of time and support. The organization needs to understand the program and what is involved in that student being able to successfully participate in the program. Financial support is not required, but the issue of time support absolutely is. That being said, the majority of our students receive some level of funding. The vast majority of them are fully funded by their organizations. But I would agree there is a shift in how companies are deciding to spend their developmental dollars.”
Let’s put that question to Kalnitz who heads the EMBA Council. Do you find that students are sponsored by their companies more or less these days? “The percentage of students who are 100% sponsored is decreasing. It’s been going down fairly steadily for the last couple of years. And the number of students who are fully self-funded has been growing. So, today, we see about a third full-funded and about a third partially-funded.” That’s got to make it a little harder for students. “It can be a little expensive. And they’ve got to understand what the risks and rewards are. In terms of payback, our studies have shown that the average student who has paid for it by himself gets a full return on his investment in about 44 months. That’s not a bad return. But it is a decision that a student has to make. It’s not just a financial decision. He or she has to look at the impact on work and family because it is a very intense program.”
At Virginia Tech, Charles Jacobina: There’s less support for EMBA students than there has been in the past by their companies and corporations behind them. What have you seen, and what difference does that make for a student who wants to pursue the EMBA? “That’s a trend that maybe occurred about four or five years ago. Where companies now say: ‘If I support you financially—one—you have to guarantee to me that you will stay with us for a period of time. In other words, to pay back what the tuition was that we supported you.’ The other thing that companies are saying: ‘If you leave my employment, then you would have to repay us for the amount of tuition that we’ve, basically, funded you for over this time period.’ On the average, you’re probably going to have a quarter to a half of the class that would supplement what their companies are paying with student loans. I think that trend’s going to continue.”
What are the benefits of going for it because there’s a lot of energy and money that goes into pursuing the EMBA? “Very few students can quit there jobs and go back to school full-time; particularly, when they’re in their late 30’s or early 40’s because now they’re approaching their peak earning potential. So they look around and they see: ‘Hmmm….I have maybe another 20 years that I want to work. I really can’t quit my job and go back to school. So what’s the alternative?’ The alternative is the Executive MBA where you still can maintain your job. You can still, obviously, move up in your position. But you don’t have to take that reduction in salary. So that’s probably the biggest difference in terms of EMBA versus full-time or part-time.”
What are some of the changes that you see in the immediate future? “The international piece of the puzzle is absolutely mission-critical right now. Even these smaller organizations are doing business on an international basis. And if they’re not doing business outside the US, maybe their competitors are. And they really need to have a better understanding of how they can continue to reposition themselves to succeed in a global workforce. And I think that that’s a place where Executive MBA Programs, in particular, not only have an opportunity but a responsibility to bring that kind of an educational opportunity to their student body.”
The future looks bright for the Executive MBA, according to Managing Director Maury Kalnitz. What value do you find the council gives to students and professors who are undergoing the EMBA program? “We provide a vehicle for making sure the best practices are disseminated so that things that are learned and tried at one school are then made available to other schools for them to try. Our philosophy is a rising tide raises all boats. And, therefore, if we find some interesting ideas being done by a couple of schools and that is passed along to other schools, then everybody benefits by that.”
Can you look into the future at least a little bit and forecast what trends might be rising? “I talked about the international, and that’s going to continue to grow. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth in Europe in the Executive MBA programs—especially Eastern Europe—and a lot of tremendous growth in Asia and, especially, in China. I think we’re also going to continue to see US programs partnering with international schools. Delivering programs in non-US locations will continue to grow. I think the other thing that’s happening is that programs are looking at their delivery. And it used to be in the old days, (if I can use that term), the class would be held once a week on alternate Fridays and Saturdays. And that was alright. But in this day and age with people traveling a lot, more and more programs are going to meet less frequently but for a longer period of time. In other words, instead of meeting one day a week every week, you’d meet once every three weeks for three day. If you were traveling back for the class, you’d only have to travel once instead of three times for the three weeks. You’re seeing programs that are introducing some of the on-line component—not completely but a little bit of it at least—so that there’s interaction during the interim between class meetings. We’re seeing an increase in that also.”
Any more advice from the experts? Here’s Charles Jacobina: “Plan ahead because there has to be a buy-in from the company. I’ve had students work for the same company and one student’s getting it totally paid for and the other student might be getting half or nothing. So you have to plan ahead if you want tuition reimbursement for this program. The other thing is you have to get buy-in from your spouse. That’s critical because you’re here every other weekend, so you have to postpone a lot of family outings or vacations and things like that. So those are things that have to be considered. The other thing is the amount of travel that people do for their jobs, and when a program is designed to meet only every other weekend, you can balance that out. So I would encourage students to look at the theme of the program. I would look at the bios of the students in the program. And I would plan ahead to make sure I give myself enough lead time that I could convince my boss to help me pay for this program.”
It’s not just about the money. Here’s Ethan Hanabury, Associate Dean for Columbia MBA programs. When an EMBA students graduates, what will they be taking away from your program that may even be surprising to them? “I think they come in expecting to broaden their knowledge and to be learning from some of the top scholars in the world and some of the best practitioners. I think some of the things they don’t expect are how this expands their horizons; how it expands their way of thinking. We absolutely see an increase in their level of confidence, partly, because they’re taking such a rigorous program while they’re working, holding down challenging positions, and many of them have families because they’re in their 30’s. So I think that’s another thing that they don’t expect—that they reach a new level of confidence and maturity that they might not have anticipated.”
What are some of the surprises you’ve encountered over the years in dealing with the EMBA programs? “I think maybe less surprises and more happy confirmations. It never ceases to amaze me that every year we get towards graduation, and students will come into my office and really talk about how it has changed their lives. They’ve gotten so much more from the experience than just an education. They think differently, and in many instances, they say that they feel like they’re different people. It’s an experience that will absolutely help you better understand marketing and accounting. But, ultimately, it is so much more than that. It makes you think and reason and make decisions in a completely different way than you would have. What is most gratifying, in my opinion, and somewhat surprising is the doors that it opens in each different candidate’s mind as opposed to, necessarily, the doors that it opens from a job interview standpoint.”
For more information, advice, and to register for your weekly MBA podcast visit mbapodcaster.com. Thanks for listening. And stay tuned next time when we discuss special considerations and advice for international students who are thinking of applying to US business schools. This coming week—a week before our regularly scheduled show—we will be featuring the first part in a special three-part series produced by the Graduate Management Admission Council. They’ve brought together recruiters from the world’s leading technology firms who better understand the opportunities that are available to MBA’s in the tech world. Find out more on our website mbapodcaster.com.
Listen to our "Day in the Life" podcast featuring Virginia Tech's EMBA program. Virginia Tech’s Executive MBA program,offered in the National Capital Region, is fully accredited by the AACSB, Association to Advance the Collegiate Schools of Business, the top MBA accredidation organization. Graduates of the Executive MBA program are awarded a full-time Masters of Business Administration degree on their diplomas and the official Virginia Tech transcript. The graduates are granted the same degree as those going through full-time MBA program in Blacksburg.
The EMBA program at Virginia Tech is taught in a cohort format to provide an intense learning environment which takes full advantage of the advanced business background of the students, who average 12+ years post-graduate experience. Through the cohort format, the program insures an environment that capitalizes on different academic, cultural and professional profiles of the group. The extended two full day long classes over every other Friday and Saturday delivers an intense curriculum tailored for MBA students who travel during the week and cannot attend courses at other times. The lockstep program allows for no deviations or partial credit, does not permit interruptions and strictly adheres to the attendance requirements of the Virginia Tech MBA degree.
The program is a ‘lock-step' program taught in 18 months with two brief breaks. We do not give credit for any course work completed elsewhere or work experience, and reserve the right to ask for a GMAT score. The grading is done on a letter scale, and we will provide letter to you on an on-going basis with the grades, course registrations & detailed descriptions, etc - whatever is required by the employer to monitor a students’ academic progress. Tuition for the program is $73,000 and includes all classroom materials, registration fees, a majority of your international residency, and a complete Apple laptop system with accessories. The courses are taught by the same world-class faculty, full and associate professors from Pamplin College of Business, as the full time MBA.
Our program is unique because faculty who are based in Blacksburg travel to the Northern Virginia Campus on their teaching weekends. It is not uncommon to find department chairs teaching courses. Visit the EMBA program at Virginia Tech at www.emba.pamplin.vt.edu/.
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