What to look for in an executive MBA program Featured

7:16pm EDT February 28, 2013
Carla Hayn, senior associate dean, executive & fully employed MBA programs, UCLA Anderson Carla Hayn, senior associate dean, executive & fully employed MBA programs, UCLA Anderson

Executive MBA programs are geared toward people who have been working in the business world for around 14 years and have quite a bit of managerial experience, says Carla Hayn, senior associate dean of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“Most executives who enter an Executive MBA program are more mature, experienced and about 10 years older (average age of 37) than people enrolling in full- or part-time MBA programs,” she says.

Smart Business learned more from Hayn about how to find the right MBA program.

How can an executive determine whether getting an MBA degree is the right choice?

It you are on the brink of being promoted or have already moved into a top management position, an Executive MBA program will enhance your skill set and your ability to succeed in your career. You’ll learn more about the specific areas in which you may need more specialized knowledge (e.g., corporate finance, brand management, supply chains, etc.). You’ll have classmates who are experts in their fields from whom you can learn. You can take an array of elective courses to acquire further expertise.

Why are elective offerings an important part of MBA programs?

All Executive MBA programs provide you with the ‘core’ business knowledge in accounting, finance, marketing, economics, etc. However, programs vary widely in the number of electives available to executive students. At UCLA Anderson, we provide 15 electives each year especially for our executive students in diverse areas such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Venture Capital & Private Equity, and Online One-to-One Marketing. In addition, executive students can travel through our International Study Programs (recent trips include Brazil, China, South Africa, India) and our exchange programs with partner Executive MBA programs throughout the world.

Are there other features that distinguish one Executive MBA program from another?

Absolutely. Among the other important factors to consider in choosing a program is the stature of the faculty. Exactly who will be teaching you? Are they excellent communicators? Is the classroom experience not only challenging but also invigorating? Ask to attend a class and find out for yourself if the students are engaged in the learning process.

UCLA Anderson is known as a leader in experiential learning. The Strategic Management Research Project is a capstone course that synthesizes the knowledge our executive MBA students acquire throughout the program. Five to six students work on consulting teams for a six-month period to solve a multi-faceted problem confronting an organization.

All first-rate Executive MBA programs should also stress leadership development to help you develop your own management style, building upon your strengths. Look for a program with experiential workshops, engaging seminars and informative guest speakers. Talk to the current executive students and find out how satisfied they are with the various components of their program — the students are an excellent source of information.

What is the return on investment of the Executive MBA program?

Most estimates show that the present value of the incremental earning power over an executive career due to an MBA degree is about $500,000. This high return is due to the fact that executives with an MBA degree are usually promoted faster, are considered for a wider array of executive positions, have access to more job opportunities through their increased business and social networks, and have a different view of themselves that prompts them to explore higher and more financially rewarding positions.

A survey of graduates of the UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA Program shows an average salary increase of 158 percent within five years from graduation. While this survey was taken when the economy was stronger, it is not unreasonable to believe that an executive’s salary would double within five years of graduation. The knowledge acquired in an Executive MBA program translates to a higher rate of business success, whether you are working for a large public company, a smaller private company, or are self-employed.

Carla Hayn is senior associate dean in the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach her at (310) 206-9225 or carla.hayn@anderson.ucla.edu.

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management