An executive passport Featured

8:00pm EDT August 29, 2006
For many white-collar workers, the MBA degree is their passport to moving up in the company. For those already in the work force, the executive MBA (EMBA) combines education with real-world experience.

“An EMBA is a graduate-level program designed to provide current and potential executives with the knowledge and skills needed for effective management and decision-making,” says Tom Green, Ph.D., who is associate provost of National University in San Diego.

Smart Business asked Green about the particulars of an EMBA.

What is the difference between an EMBA and an MBA?
There are really two main differences. The EMBA typically requires prior work experience for admission to the program, which relates to the second difference: the EMBA is less a generalist degree than the MBA and more of an integrative experience.

So while the typical MBA provides a broad background in business-related disciplines (for example, management, marketing, leadership, finance and accounting), the EMBA addresses these disciplines more from a management perspective and should help students understand how they are all integrated.

Which is more prevalent in the marketplace and why?
The general MBA is more prevalent. There is really more of a demand at the entry level for graduate business education — students who either recently completed an undergraduate degree or who are looking to advance in their careers. The EMBA is really designed for those who already have achieved a certain level of success.

Historically, executives have promoted through the ranks and received much of their executive ‘education’ on the job. However, it is very difficult for a CIO or CFO to move into a CEO position without a broader-based understanding of the different business functions. In addition, it is difficult to be competitive in a global economy with educational experiences that may be 10 or more years old.

How long will the EMBA program take to complete?
Our EMBA consists of 12 courses that can be completed in 12 months. Typically, EMBA programs tend to be shorter than MBA programs.

Is financial aid available?
We offer financial aid for all of our students, regardless of the program. To find out if your company offers tuition reimbursement, you should talk to your HR department.

How is an EMBA more meaningful to a minority MBA holder?
Historically, the barriers for minorities to middle and upper management positions have been education and [accrued] time in positions of progressive responsibility. Clearly, there is a link between the two: one does not get in those positions without a strong educational background, and one does not promote without the experience. An MBA helps to level the playing field for historically underrepresented groups.

Women are making progress, but are still underrepresented in managerial positions. Again, executive education and experience have been the barriers, and the EMBA, like the MBA, is a great equalizer.

Given the EMBA is a great door-opener, is it really of value to someone with 15 or 20 years in the work force?
For people at that number of years in the work force, the EMBA provides three benefits. First, it provides the most current research and business trends. Second, it provides a broader understanding of all business functions. Third, the program provides excellent networking opportunities with executives from other organizations.

How much more money will workers typically see in their paychecks after earning an MBA?
Many variables affect what a person makes, many of them beyond the scope of the graduate degree. While estimates vary, the median income of persons with a high school education in 2003 was $26,000; associate degree, $33,000; bachelor’s degree, $43,000; master’s degree, $53,000; professional degree, $81,000; doctorate degree, $70,000.

In 2005, MBA graduates with less than three years of work experience had an average salary of about $68,000; with three to six years of work experience, the average was about $89,000.

What are reasonable expectations for a student embarking on an EMBA program?
Students should be clear about what they expect to get from a graduate degree. For example, the average salary of a Stanford MBA is $100,000. The cost of tuition is significant, and students graduate with a great deal of debt. However, there is a valuable network to which graduates have access. But is the quality of the instruction significantly different? That is hard to say. It is important for prospective students to have a good idea of what they need in a degree program and to find a program that matches.

The bottom line for potential MBA/EMBA students is to find the right program. The most important aspect of a graduate education is the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and how to apply those in a real-world context.

TOM GREEN, Ph.D., is associate provost of National University in San Diego (www.nu.edu). Reach him at (800) 628-8648 or tgreen@nu.edu.