Written by Sophie Mathiaut, marketing manager of the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA Program.

What are the most important factors to look out for when choosing an Executive MBA?

Managers who decide to advance their career by pursuing an Executive MBA (EMBA) need to consider both the tangible and non-tangible benefits of each program before choosing the one that fits best.

An EMBA requires considerable investment on a manager and employer’s behalf, in terms of both time and finances, and it is important that these personal investments achieve the expected outcome.

At the core of deciding on a particular program, a manager first has to define his or her goals and needs for studying an EMBA. Then, in order to choose the program that best matches his/her specific requirements, a manager will need to think beyond the general program details and consider a range of influencing factors.

Check the schedule and time commitment

One of the main benefits of an EMBA is that the coursework can often be interspersed with your working life, with some schedules designed to match the needs of even full-time executives.

However, you need to realistically consider how the extra workload will affect your professional and family life, as well as note any longer-term course obligations or travel periods that are generally a small part of every EMBA course.

In particular, you should be aware of the commitment required by EMBA programs that are short, (ranging from 14 to 17 months for instance) but very condensed. It is important to have at least some space in between modules for homework to optimize learning, as well as to catch up on things at work.

This can be particularly vital for your employer who may not be able to cover your absence if you are required to attend classes for several days or weeks, every two to three weeks. It is also necessary to calculate how much time you will have left for personal and family activities outside of personal study, which can be time-consuming.

Some educational institutions, however, are flexible and spread the coursework over a couple of years and hold classes on weekends. A good Executive MBA should fit in with your busy schedule by minimizing time away from work and home and maximizing learning and personal development.

This can be achieved by allowing enough time in between classes for you to complete projects at work, spend time at home with family, and prepare for the next module.

Investigate quality and the curriculum

An Executive MBA can push a manager’s career forward by incorporating advanced management skills and up-to-date market knowledge, as well as allowing managers to specialize in certain areas to target a specific skill set. As such, curriculum and electives play an important factor, as does the faculty’s connection to the business world.

Things to consider: the quality of the faculty, who is teaching the program, and its connection to the professional world are all important factors when assessing the value of an EMBA program.

» Is the school evolving its curriculum to teach the latest management topics?
» Will the topics be useful in your day-to-day working life?

Next, it is important to research the kinds of core and elective courses that are offered:

» Does the program have a particular emphasis?
» Are participants allowed to focus on a particular field if they want?

Look for an EMBA program that adapts its curriculum to new trends, or offers (international) electives that give participants the opportunity to study a specific region of the world or a specific knowledge area, such as finance or entrepreneurship.

Calculate costs and return-on- investment (ROI)

Evaluating a course’s financial ROI is of course important, but you should also evaluate every potential cost of an EMBA to get a true indication of its value. It's wise to look at the program fee and assess what costs the tuition fee covers and how much value they represent.

Also evaluate any extra expenses that are necessary to complete the course. Some questions to ask are:

» Is hotel accommodation during modules included?
» Are course materials and meals included during travel periods?

Some programs include these factors in their fee.

Additionally, it is important to add the value of accompanying features of a program, such as the assistance of a trained business coach or one-on-one leadership coaching.

Factors that enhance personal development can add significant value to your ability to lead, which can be even more important than professional development factors of an EMBA program.

Assess the non-tangible ROI

You can also gain major benefits from EMBA programs that attract experts from around the world and from a range of industries. Learning opportunities in a multicultural, expert environment are particularly enhanced when conducting group projects and working in peer-to-peer environments, as well as for global networking opportunities.

With this in mind, you should consider the value of non-tangible EMBA aspects, such as whether the business school is well-connected, the reputation of the program, and the compilation of current students and alumni.

Such knowledge and networking benefits boost the ROI value for professionals looking to increase their global opportunities, as participants can gain coveted opportunities to meet and network with senior corporate managers worldwide, as well as promote future business development and collaboration.

Look at the internationality / global connections

Globalization has made even the local workplace interconnected with the global market. Whether it is through global business activity or managing multicultural teams, managers who want to elevate their career to the executive level need to acquire cultural intelligence and skills for working at an international level.

Even if you’d rather not travel extensively abroad during your EMBA studies, looking at the internationality and diversity of a program is an important step in choosing an EMBA, as it can reveal a lot about the professional reach and connections.

Internationality is particularly important for anyone considering a country manager position within their company, starting their own business, or applying to positions in other countries.

Ready to decide

Once you have defined your goals and reasons for studying an EMBA program, and you've evaluated the tangible and non-tangible benefits, you will be able to refine your search and make a decision when choosing the perfect EMBA to suit your needs.