The Executive MBA (EMBA) scene witnessed new and exciting developments once again when the 17th edition of the Financial Times annual EMBA ranking was released, listing the world’s top 100 Executive MBA programmes for senior working managers. With increasing competition, new entrants, and ever higher standards to comply with, there is a lot to cover in the world of business education.

Highlights from the ranking

One of the definitive trends that can be highlighted after examining the programmes topping the list is the global direction of the market. The top five heading this year’s ranking are intercontinental degrees offered jointly by two or three renowned institutions from different geographic regions. The results are indicative of the main purpose and value of an Executive MBA degree – namely to cultivate an understanding of an increasingly global and interconnected business landscape. Educational institutions that choose to form a partnership and offer a joint degree have the opportunity to benefit from each other’s expertise. This is certainly good news for future EMBA students as well. When set up successfully, such partnerships are able to produce a unique learning experience for EMBA participants by presenting the best practices from each school.

Read: EMBA - Global Education for a Global Leader

Forging a global mindset among EMBA participants is just one of the important elements that form a successful and outstanding programme, according to the Financial Times. In the case of the FT methodology, the average salary three years after graduation and the average difference in salary pre and post the EMBA are two of the figures that carry the most weight in the formation of the ranking. Each of them accounts for 20% of how the list is generated.

The top three

The significant weight of the average salary in the methodology already comes through when taking a look at the number one business school programme on the list – Kellogg (US)/HKUST (Hong Kong), which managed to maintain its place from last year. Next to the rave reviews received about the programme, this is the degree that features the highest average salary three years after graduation at USD 478,000. According to the business publication, this is the eighth time that this programme has taken the top spot ahead of other participants. “The excellent class environment provided rich networking opportunities,” says one graduate of the joint degree. “Much business has been done amongst my class, including at least six startups.”

Nevertheless, the programme that steals the show this year comes in second after having been submitted for participation in the ranking for the very first time. The EMBA-Global Asia is a cross-continental joint degree delivered by Columbia Business School (US), London Business School (UK), and the University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong). It has a strong focus on entrepreneurship and according to the Financial Times, more than 40% of graduates from the class of 2014 set up their own business during or since their EMBA. The still very respectable third spot is taken by the Tsinghua University (China)/INSEAD (France) programme.

Even with a rigid methodology and a lot of refinement, rankings are still just an indication of the diversity of programmes out there. Before putting all your trust in this one medium, it is important to become familiar with the essence of an Executive MBA and get to know the different programmes on offer. Following your own research methodology which is not limited to a single ranking will ultimately help you find the right EMBA format for you. So, where do you start?

All ends of the spectrum

For dedicated participants, EMBA studies are a means of enhancing their leadership skills and attaining a unique business approach. In our interconnected world, the Executive MBA is also crucial for developing a global perspective and achieving senior leadership roles.

Executive MBA programmes are designed for experienced professionals aspiring to senior management and business leadership roles. On average, EMBA participants have 14 years of professional experience. However, some programmes require less work experience or explicitly state that they are interested in the managerial roles and responsibilities of their applicants. For instance, the Executive MBA class profile at IMD Business School (Switzerland) features 39-41-year-old participants who usually have 16 years of work experience. In comparison, the average work experience at Kellogg-WHU is 12 years. In any case, the leadership qualities and tangible managerial achievements of participants will be evaluated in more depth than the number of years spent in the workforce.

Executive MBA programmes are usually set up in a part-time format which gives participants the flexibility to follow their studies without having to compromise their job or personal life. However, applicants should keep in mind that in some cases long-distance travel is required for the attendance of modules or electives on campus. For example, the joint programme offered by National University of Singapore Business School and UCLA Anderson School of Management (US) features six segments held in four different locations – Singapore, Los Angeles, China, and India. As mentioned earlier, the global nature of some of the most renowned degrees means that business professionals will still need to get accustomed to a study environment that requires significant effort and dedication.

Read: Going Beyond MBA Rankings

Beyond these common features, there is a remarkable diversity of EMBA programmes in terms of curriculum focus, teaching methodology, networking opportunities, international exposure, and class profile. So, what does it all boil down to in the end? Good research is needed before taking on the challenge of applying for an Executive MBA programme.

Get a feel for the top EMBA programmes

One of the most efficient ways to get a better grasp of the specific EMBA requirements and programme offerings is by attending specialised events such as the Access EMBA Tour and Premier EMBA where business professionals meet business schools to assess which programmes are best aligned with their own career vision.

The Access EMBA Tour was created as a natural follow-up to the already acclaimed and successful One-to-One event format for MBA programmes. A great variety of business schools meet carefully preselected professionals ensuring a match between the aspirations of high-profile business professionals and the offerings of the programmes. The formal one-to-one meetings in a calm environment and a well-organised setting are complemented by the opportunity to share experiences with other executives during the networking lounge. Access EMBA events are usually combined with Access MBA events enabling participants to get a feel for  different programme formats – full-time MBA, part-time, distance and  blended MBA, Executive MBA, and to identify the one that suits them best.  

Premier EMBA is another prestigious option for professionals researching their best options among the top 30 EMBA programmes. The exclusive nature of the format, the top locations in business hubs around the world such as Paris, Moscow, Vienna, Zurich, Mexico City, and Dubai, and the specially curated programme guarantee that Premier EMBA events are equally enjoyable as they are useful. This high-profile event features presentations by HR, career or industry speakers, panel discussions with top business school admissions directors and EMBA alumni. The networking cocktail, combined with one-to-one meetings, further guarantees that business executives will be able to exchange insights with professional career coaches, local EMBA alumni, and like-minded professionals. Gaining membership to the Premier EMBA Club provides privileged personal access to a network of professionals and top business schools around the world.

Whichever event format you settle on, or whichever publication you decide to consult during your decision making process, it is important to expand your sources of information further. In the end, your individual requirements will be the major factor pointing you in the right direction, rather than any particular ranking in itself.

Top 30 from the 2017 Financial Times Executive MBA ranking

  1. Kellogg/HKUST Business School
  2. EMBA-Global Asia: Columbia/HKU/LBS
  3. Tsinghua University/INSEAD
  4. EMBA-Global: Columbia/LBS
  5. TRIUM: HEC Paris/LSE/NYU: Stern
  6. Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Antai
  7. Washington University: Olin
  9. University of Oxford: Saïd
  10. ESCP Europe
  11. MIT: Sloan
  12. IESE Business School
  13. IE Business School
  14. CEIBS
  15. University of Chicago: Booth
  16. University of Pennsylvania: Wharton
  17. University of Cambridge: Judge
  18. London Business School
  19. National University of Singapore Business School
  20. Korea University Business School
  21. Duke University: Fuqua
  22. UCLA: Anderson/National University of Singapore
  23. Kellogg/WHU Beisheim
  24. Singapore Management University: Lee Kong Chian
  25. Warwick Business School
  26. Northwestern University: Kellogg
  27. Kellogg/York University: Schulich
  28. City University: Cass
  29. IMD
  30. Nanyang Business School