What to look for in an executive MBA program Featured

8:01pm EDT March 31, 2011
What to look for in an executive MBA program

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 (with an 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 definitely enhance your skill set and your ability to succeed in your career. You’ll have opportunities to 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 make use of the array of elective courses to acquire further expertise in your field.

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. Executives can also choose from the wide array of electives offered in our full- and part-time MBA programs. In addition, executive students can travel through our International Study Programs (recent trips include Brazil, China, S. Africa, India) and our exchange programs with partner Executive MBA programs throughout the world. Executives can even earn certificates in finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, sustainability, or international studies, officially recognizing their accomplishments in these areas.

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 multifaceted 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.

Additionally, though executive students are quite accomplished, they still benefit from career guidance. A top program should have a knowledgeable career services director who is dedicated to the program and has a proven track record dealing with executives.

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.

Are there other benefits that Executive MBA students should expect from the program?

Beyond relevant knowledge, there are wonderful networking opportunities. Not only will you be sitting in class and working on teams with your classmates, they will be part of your lifelong network. A number of our Executive MBAs have gone into business together. Schools with strong alumni networks like UCLA Anderson’s make sure that you have the opportunity to know past and upcoming executive students, members of the other MBA programs and graduates from all of the schools on campus. UCLA Anderson’s network is very strong with access to more than 37,000 alumni. If someone is moving to Hong Kong, I can easily find a person among the 95 active alumni there who is eager to provide friendly advice and introductions.

Finally, what is the return on investment of the Executive MBA program?

Investing in an MBA degree is one of the most rewarding investments you can make, even when compared to the return during a bull stock market! 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 recent 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 (increase by 100 percent) 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 the senior associate dean of UCLA Anderson, in charge of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs. Reach her at (310) 206-9225 or carla.hayn@anderson.ucla.edu.