The Executive MBA, along with the part-time MBA, is the top choice for busy executives looking to earn their MBA within two years at most, while pushing their career to the next level.

Being international

Many business schools emphasise the international exposure that EMBA students acquire through their programmes. New campuses are opening in different regions of the world. Now is the time to consider applying to a top school that has recently opened a second or even a third campus. The IESE (Spain) Global EMBA programme allows students to elect to take a week-long module in Bangalore, India. This provides them with an ideal vantage point for understanding one of Asia's largest, fastest-growing economies. EMBA participants are able to witness first-hand the capabilities of this up-and-coming global player, which offers an array of commercial and cost-saving advantages. As its economy expands, India is playing an increasingly important role in the interdependence of the Asian, European, and US economies.

Career development

By focusing on career development, even for senior executives, EMBA programmes help students focus on what to do with the knowledge they acquire in the classroom. Research has shown how trained career professionals help EMBA students match their new skills with their companies' organisational needs, giving students visibility that will help them move forward. "Before the Executive MBA, I had a doctoral degree in chemistry and some management experience," says Livio Tedeschi, Head of Marketing for Crop Protection (UK, Ireland, Nordics, and Baltics) at BASF SE and ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Class of 2008. "Thanks to the EMBA, I have considerably broadened my horizons and opened up new perspectives on global business."

To help students move forward in their careers, INSEAD (France) has expanded the reach of its Global EMBA career services to include diverse geographies, functions, and sectors. The business school aims to promote advancement of students within their companies or to help them find new positions. In addition, it offers a series of activities, including workshops, discussions, and one-on-one coaching sessions to help programme participants define their individual goals for professional development.

Self-funding grows

While companies are pleased to endorse their employees in their quest for an EMBA by allowing them to take time off work for classroom sessions, an endorsement does not necessarily translate into full sponsorship. In fact, admissions officers no longer expect all applicants to secure sponsorships from their companies. In today's economic climate, a significant number of EMBA students, even those with years of experience, are discovering that they must rely on their own resources to cover the cost of tuition.

Networks and quality teaching count

As a result of the growing trend toward self-funding, mid- and senior-level executives have become even more selective about the EMBA programmes to which they apply. Students are paying particular attention to the global networks these programmes offer. While existing peer networks are important to MBA candidates, they want to make sure business schools offer the right location to expand their networks globally. Location is becoming even more of a critical factor, as students are happy to travel four to six hours to attend classes at a campus of a top business school. In addition, executives want to make sure that the coursework offered by their selected programmes corresponds to the realities of the changing and volatile global economy. In the case of the EMBA in particular, their employers expect them to respond effectively to the new opportunities and challenges that present themselves.

EMBA programmes are demanding

As EMBA programmes work hard to raise their teaching standards, students should be expected to apply the lessons they learn from the classroom directly. In applying their newly acquired knowledge to real-life situations, EMBA students will benefit from the modules and the recommended 15 hours of study per week between modules. The benefits of the EMBA programme will soon become apparent as each module adds an extra layer of knowledge that can be applied immediately.

Despite the exceptional circumstances candidates find themselves in, getting into a top EMBA programme requires careful attention to detail. Top business schools expect candidates to submit an application with carefully thought-out essays. The sooner candidates start the process, the better their applications will be. The admissions officers who supervise the application process are well aware of how the programme operates and who will benefit from it, so they already have an idea of who will succeed. But the advantage of exchanging ideas with high-level students lies in the quality of the interaction. Franz-Joseph Miller, CEO of logistics company time:matters Holding GmbH and a 1999 graduate of the Kellogg- WHU EMBA programme, comments: "My Executive MBA has definitely helped me to grow my general management perspective. The programme provided me with great tools to face the challenges of an entrepreneur and manage in a corporate environment, during growth and in the current crisis."

Return on investment

While salaries are rising across the board, EMBA graduates employed in some sectors of the economy may not see big gains in their pay packages this year. The finance and banking sector, which employs many EMBA graduate executives, is one such sector. Investment bankers and traders have been targeted in the media over bonus packages, so salaries in the financial services industry are not expected to rise as rapidly as in the past. Likewise, salaries in the consultancy sector, another area where EMBA graduates are found, are expected to remain stable this year. However, the salaries of EMBA alumni in the public and not-for-profit sectors are expected to rise, according to the Financial Times. Salaries are just one of the benefits of EMBA programmes, however. A study by GMAC revealed that EMBA graduates rate the quality of staff, fellow students, curriculum, admissions, programme management, student services higher than graduates of full-time MBA programmes.

Read: Choose the Right Executive MBA Programme

Companies benefit from better leadership

In addition to increased remuneration and responsibilities for EMBA graduates, companies endorsing and sponsoring EMBA students benefit too. Because their executives graduating from EMBA programmes apply what they learn in the classroom to the challenges they face at work, companies usually achieve a return on investment within 17 months, according to the Executive MBA Council. CEOs of major organisations also appreciate the leadership skills that are taught to their executives on EMBA programmes. Professor Roger Gill from the University of Strathclyde Business School (UK) says: "Executive MBA programmes, run part-time or on a modular basis, provide the unique opportunity for participants to address real leadership issues in their (work) contexts." At the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA programme, participants learn how to apply leadership skills to different roles arising in their work. To learn managerial skills, students work with professional coaches, who develop their self-awareness and reflexivity concerning personalities, emotions, and values. To learn teamwork skills, the same students are assigned to multicompetence groups for the duration of the programme. These teams include diverse cultures, educational backgrounds, areas of expertise, corporate roles, and schools of thought. This gives every participant the opportunity to constantly explore new and unexpected ideas, realities, and reactions. The EMBA programme at the London Business School (UK) puts the emphasis on "leadership skills to effectively motivate people, instigate change, and move organisations forward." Likewise, the EMBA programme of Cass Business School (UK) advances the view that: "Effective leadership depends on the ability to think beyond the obvious, to find answers from imperfect information."

In conclusion, the part-time MBA and Executive MBA offer students and companies alike a return on investment. Now is the time to think about your commitment to your career and a degree that can help take you to the next level of leadership.

Read: Advance Your Career With an EMBA

"Interest in EMBA programmes remains high, despite the challenging economy," says Michael Desiderio, Executive Director of the Executive MBA Council. "Programmes are also maintaining quality in their admissions standards. It is clear that students are seeing the value of the EMBA." Many success-driven executives are motivated by the value proposition of the EMBA, with a desire to acquire sound business knowledge, concepts, and methods within an international environment where they can exchange best practices with peers and experts from other industries. "Given all my education and work experience prior to Chicago Booth, I was not sure I would be learning a whole lot academically, but I was really surprised at the amount of knowledge that I have gained here," says Constantinos Economou, an MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business UK campus.

Flexibility is also important to senior executives, who cannot afford to spend much time away from work. Top EMBA programmes adapt constantly to the changing reality of the business world. At the Manchester Business School (UK), innovation in adapting the EMBA curriculum to the needs of mobile executives is paramount. The MBS Global MBA programme enables students to take advantage of its virtual learning environment, including webinars and podcasts, while requiring them to participate in some face-to-face workshops. Furthermore, Global MBA participants may take between three to five years to finish the MBA, giving them a much more flexible opportunity to apply their knowledge to real-life work situations.