While the Executive MBA remains among the costliest degrees, it is well worth your money. Not only does the ROI work in your favour but the degree also gives you fresh insights and valuable know-how that you can immediately apply to the workplace. And you gain an executive (soft-skill oriented) edge in a constantly shifting market economy.

The ROI is favourable

Studies show unquestionably that graduates of top tier programmes make more money. The most obvious way to measure the worth of an EMBA is salary growth. A first-of-its-kind 2010 survey of EMBA graduates dealt with those who had finished their studies an average of 9.5 years earlier. The survey showed substantial increases in participants’ salaries over the decade that elapsed from the time of their graduation to the time of the survey. The increase in salary averaged out as 131% from $92,000 at the time they entered the programme to $213,000 ten years later and many with the same employer. Thus, the survey suggests that an EMBA makes sense from an economic perspective for both the employer and employee. This trend has been maintained – according to data by the Financial Times, despite market turbulence, the salary increase of EMBA graduates in recent years has remained around 48%.

The ROR works even better

Nearly 90% of all EMBA graduates indicate the new business and personal contacts they have established during their studies as one of the biggest advantages of the degree. “Instead of ROI, I prefer to speak of ROR – the return on relationship – an emerging concept that evaluates value from engaging with others”, says publisher Daniel Kehrer, who decided to pursue an EMBA in order to better cope with a media world turned digitally upside down. “Connections are both short- and long-term assets that will pay dividends for years to come”, says Kehrer.

It is hardly a secret that B-schools are ‘a meeting point’ of individuals with similar professional interests. And one of the greatest benefits of the EMBA degree is that it gives students a chance to make new useful contacts, exchange ideas and even take their business to a new level – the professional acquaintances students make can prove to be especially fruitful for their business endeavours.

A good networker will not only be able to make the most of the opportunities an EMBA holds for their present work but will be able to build on these networks post-EMBA as well.

Real-life business issues and immediate application of new knowledge are a plus

There is no one reason to attend an Executive MBA programme - there are least twelve. The EMBA offers hands-on experience in starting, building, expanding and managing a business. Typically accomplished in two years, the programme draws many of the best and the brightest both in the faculty and student body. I feel the EMBA is an incredibly valuable degree. It means that the candidate is someone with tremendous practical experience, the kind of experience I evaluate to hire. I also feel that the EMBA offers the company, along with the individual, a richer, more thorough perspective of the issues they face within a competitive environment... I got my MBA early in life, between the ages of 22 and 24. Now, looking back, I earned this degree early in life, possibly too early, without first getting my feet really wet with experience. I am actually evaluating the decision to get a Ph.D. or an EMBA. Getting an EMBA is not just about getting a degree, but it is about getting educated”, says Synthia Molina, former admissions officer for Claremont Graduate University, the Drucker School and current CEO of Mission Accomplished/Intelliworks. “Obviously, attending the EMBA allowed me to continue to work, but it also allowed me to apply what was happening in my career. Whatever I was studying in school, the application of it was close by and reinforced the instruction”, recounts Shelley Boyce, Wharton EMBA graduate and the CEO of MedRisk.

While theory is part of the academic experience of an EMBA programme, classroom discussions are intense and provocative, interspersed with real-life cases. The learning environment varies from executive training centre to corporate boardroom. Some programmes rarely utilize their own campus, instead they hold classes at company headquarters or executive training centres, although cut backs have pushed more programmes back onto campus. Students study practical business issues, and many evaluate these issues first hand at the company and on foreign soil. Students meet with corporate leaders across the globe and participate in global joint consulting projects. NYU students consulted on media and technology for the Walt Disney Corporation while visiting Silicon Valley. Fordham University students consulted on a market entry strategy for a fast-growing computer company while studying in Beijing, China. While visiting Hong Kong, Wharton students studied go-to market strategies for mobile phone applications and their usage in day-to-day life. Georgetown students consulted on the privatization of air traffic control services for the British and Scottish governments. These are just a handful of the many dynamic and highly practical business school projects that have been part of Executive MBA curriculums.

Soft skills are a hard asset

EMBAs are aspirers and, as such, they put a special emphasis on the soft skills they can master and practise while in the programme. Hence, all quality B-schools aim to tailor their curricula to students’ needs and leadership challenges. Most programmes enhance the general managerial skills of their EMBAs by focusing on leadership, adaptability to new situations and self-awareness.

Flexibility, openness towards innovation and creativity are also among the soft skills employers value the most. These are honed in the classroom – through rigorous modules, one-on-one discussions – and applied outside it, in the workplace or through work collaborations with fellow students.

Communication also tops the list of indispensable managerial skills. Writing a report that people may or may not read no longer does the trick. In today’s world, the way you communicate and present yourself and how you lay your ideas on the table are extremely important for your success as a CEO. Your communication style is the thing that sets you apart. Many b-schools have modules that focus precisely on developing students’ communicative skills. Graduates learn how to read their audience, discern what content to present and how, and respond to questions in a way that shows they understand the content they are presenting.

The EMBA is a leap forward

The pros of the degree outweigh any of the cons. Research shows that most EMBA holders are set to get a salary increase in the long run. The employee retention rate is also quite high – a 2010 US study has shown that 40% of respondents are still with the same employer. Most graduates (91%) say the degree was worth the investment and 99% recommend the education. EMBA graduates overwhelmingly value the experience they gain and are practically unanimous in recommending the education to others. So if you’re still considering your options, you may start considering making the leap.