Wharton Tops New EMBA Ranking

Wharton EMBA students engaged in a class discussion.

At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, John Sampson balances his business studies with his full-time job as a brain surgeon at Duke University Medical Center. And Mick Cornett, a second year EMBA student at New York University’s Stern School, is commuting from Oklahoma, where he serves as mayor of Oklahoma City.

For Harkov, who quit singing opera professionally to go into real estate, the executive version of the MBA was an attractive alternative to a full-time program.

“The idea of taking two years off from work for a full-time program wasn’t practical or appealing to me,” he says. “Yet pursuing a part-time program meant I would have to sacrifice the camaraderie and networking of a full-time cohort. I found the executive MBA to be the perfect solution in terms of the blend of coursework and networking.”

Generally, those who opt to work through graduate school are looking to make a transition into a new career or opportunity.

“Personal growth was the key factor in deciding to pursue an executive MBA,” explains Oklahoma City Mayor Cornett. “That, coupled by the fact that I won’t be mayor forever. I tend to think that whatever chapter is next, this will lead me to something I can’t imagine today.”

Happy graduates, (relatively) skinny wallets

Despite the high tuition, studies consistently show that executive MBA graduates are overwhelmingly satisfied. Some 97% of graduating EMBAs say the programs met or exceeded their expectations when it comes to impact on their careers and their organizations, according to a recent exit survey conducted by the Executive MBA Council. A third of the grads won promotions at work, while 44% received additional job responsibilities.

Even though the latest study was conducted in the midst of the most severe recession since the Great Depression, graduating EMBAs last year reported an average 11.4% increase in salary and bonuses, to $142,534 from an average of $127,955 when they started their programs.

“Despite the difficult economy, the data is still very positive,” says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive MBA Council. The council’s student exit survey reflects the view of more than 3,674 students from 116 programs.

What’s more, executive MBA programs are a fertile place for experimentation. IE Business School in Madrid recently launched a joint venture with Brown University, which does not even have a business school. Brown is the poet in this marriage, with faculty slated to deliver liberal arts courses in topics like medical anthropology and international politics. IE is the quant, carrying the bread-and-butter MBA classes. The upshot: a 15-month EMBA program that will likely be more Einstein and Tolstoy than Welch and Gates.

Wharton now offers a set of new, globally oriented courses in eight different locations around the world, ranging from a healthcare innovation program in Hyderabad, India to one on understanding and marketing to the Chinese consumer in Beijing.

Every June, the executive MBA program at Chicago’s Booth School of Business admits 90 mid-to-upper level executives to each of its campuses in Chicago, London and Singapore. All 270 incoming students start the program by spending a week at Chicago’s Hyde Park campus.

Then, they return to their home campuses until the following summer, when each cohort spends a week at the other campuses. The objective: to give the execs a true global learning experience.

Those kind of global excursions drive the costs of these programs up. But no one expects the fancy meals, overnight lodging, cruises, and international residencies of many of the premium programs to go away.