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Executive MBA Requirements and What to Expect

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Executive MBA Requirements and What to Expect

Managers aspiring to EMBA studies usually have an impressive professional path behind them and even more ahead of them, and don’t need lecturing about what it takes to succeed. Still, for those who have come this far and are striving to make a difference through EMBA studies, three things are worth noting.

First – make sure you know the Executive MBA (EMBA) application process well. Second – it is up to you to make it work. Finally, do not underestimate the importance of good preparation as that will ultimately open the door to senior business leadership.

Do you belong to an EMBA?

Before plunging into the specifics of admissions, let us take a quick look at who the EMBA is really aimed at. The Executive MBA programme is most suited to experienced professionals and managers who aim to combine MBA study and a successful career. According to a survey by the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) – an organisation representing the executive education industry – the average age of EMBA students is 37.8. Understandably, at this stage people have more specific educational needs and requirements than those in “regular” MBA programmes. Those aspiring to EMBA programmes have already worked for an average of 13.7 years, with middle management experience of about 9 years.

Since 1943, when the Executive MBA was first introduced at Chicago Booth (US), little has changed in the components of the admission process and the evaluation of prospective EMBA participants. The same holds true for the study process in prestigious business schools. As Silvia McCallister-Castillo, EMBA Programme Director at London Business School (UK), said to the Financial Times:

We select people that we are sure will be 100% successful in the programme. We stretch them to go beyond what they thought was possible. But we knew definitely it was possible.

Smart EMBA application

Obtaining first-hand impressions of your chosen programme, and especially talking to professors, alumni, and current EMBA participants, is much more enlightening than reading brochures and websites. Campus visits, EMBA information sessions, and networking events are the smart way to make up your mind about the university, and also to make a good impression on the B-school admissions staff. This is also an opportunity to meet future peers and current competitors for EMBA admission.

Thus, you get to know what the programme holds for you, as well as how you can stand out among your competitors for admission.

According to EMBAC, the application preparation normally takes 6-12 weeks, but if you are required to sit the GMAT, factor in an additional three months. Early preparation is the best strategy for EMBA candidates and although preparation takes time, admission results come quickly – usually within two weeks of the admission interview.

Highlighting your professional and especially your leadership background cannot be overstressed. EMBA eligibility requirements include at least five years of professional experience. However, even more important in your application essays and admission interview is to make sure you outline a coherent career plan that is unambiguous about how EMBA studies at that particular B-school will lead you to your goals. You may be wavering between various careers, industries, and options, but make sure that you give enough arguments to the EMBA Selections Committee to make a decision. The committee need to understand your vision and business aspirations as well as your potential for growth as a senior business leader.

Check out: What’s the Difference between MBA and EMBA? (Video)

Make sure you outline a coherent career plan that is unambiguous about how EMBA studies at a particular B-school will lead you to your goals.

GMAT still remains the standard way of assessing candidates’ analytical and quantitative skills. However, some B-schools make use of the Executive Assessment exam introduced by GMAC in 2016, and others have their own tests that can be an alternative to the well-established standardised exams. Some B-schools have waived the requirement for a test, as EMBA candidates have already proven how proficient they are in business. Others put less weight on the GMAT, and more on the quality of professional experience and the overall development potential of applicants.

The carefully focused CV/resume, application essays, letters of recommendation, and the data, facts and stats on the application form complete the documents in the application package. The interview arguably carries the most weight, as it gives valuable information about the candidate that cannot be extracted from the other elements of the application process. The interview, being more of a two-way discussion than a test, is also an opportunity for you to make your final judgement on whether you belong to that particular EMBA programme.

Why and how does employer endorsement come into play?

Business schools require employer endorsement as part of the EMBA application. This is the commitment of the company to secure the resources needed for its employee to be successful while combining job responsibilities and MBA studies.

Sylvia Haas, EMBA Executive Director of Admissions, UCLA Anderson School of Management (US) confirms the importance of employer endorsement in a 2016 interview for Access MBA:

We work with all our applicants before they begin their programme to make sure that the company knows that this person will be investing time away from work.

Endorsement does not necessarily imply sponsorship. In 2015, 23.2% of EMBA students were fully supported by their companies and 41.2% fully financed their own studies. The EMBAC also reports that 53.3% of EMBA programmes provide scholarships and fellowships.

Employers view the decision to commit to EMBA studies as a component in a person’s determination to excel in their career and they are likely to reward it. The percentage of salary increase of EMBA graduates cannot be compared to that of MBA alumni, as the latter start from a much lower level. However, the figures are still impressive. The average pre-EMBA annual salary of candidates was USD 157,298 (including bonuses) compared to USD 175,621 (including bonuses) when leaving the programme, according to the 2015/2016 EMBAC Student Exit Survey.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain. Today’s managers need to know how to deal with change, enjoy challenges, and search for them, because this is what makes their companies more successful.

Petra Joerg, CEO of Rochester-Bern Executive Programmes (Switzerland), shared this essential highlight in a 2016 podcast for Access MBA. Your EMBA application should convey a similar message and illustrate how the B-school of your choice will help you make a difference as a visionary business leader.

Check out: New Entrants in the FT Executive MBA Ranking

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2017-2018 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Dancing in the Rain”. It is co-authored by Dimitar Ganev. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.

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