MBA Now Or EMBA Later? How The Great Resignation Is Affecting Applicants’ Plans

Paul Bodine, founder and CEO of Admitify, says he hasn’t seen more clients inquiring about a choice between MBA and EMBA programs. “But I don’t doubt that fewer potential applicants are willing to apply now when the economy and salaries are booming,” he adds. “I would certainly not tell someone who is enjoying accelerated professional opportunities in their chosen career to drop it for a traditional two-year, full-time MBA. But for most of the applicants who come to Admitify, the hot economy is not reason enough to delay a needed career change or risk being ‘too old’ for a traditional MBA.”

Paul Bodine, founder of Admitify

With certain clients, Bodine says, he and his team definitely do explore the MBA versus EMBA question, “usually those who are not fully competitive at top full-time programs because of test scores and/or GPA or because they are older than 30 or so. For them, I mention the EMBA as a smoother path to a branded MBA in terms of selectivity: top EMBA programs are much easier to get into.

“I have worked with countless applicants who had weak undergrad records but leveraged their professional/managerial success to get into top EMBA programs; in fact, this is almost the default profile. The Executive Assessment is also much less daunting than the GMAT or GRE and most EMBA applicants take advantage of it.”


Bodine also shares with his clients the downsides of pursuing an EMBA — in particular the higher cost vis-à-vis the two-year MBA. But there’s more.

“A tougher work-life balance equation, eight years’ required work experience, non-immersive experience with access to fewer resources and even fewer extracurriculars, and most importantly, no summer internship to facilitate a career change,” he says, adding that the longer duration of the EMBA is not usually a big factor in clients’ evaluation of the EMBA. “These downsides are deal-breakers for the vast majority of my applicants who are considering a full-time MBA now or an EMBA later. But for some, the EMBA is really the only viable option to gain a branded MBA and access to an elite network.”

Then there’s the bottom line: ROI. Bodine points to exit survey data from the Executive MBA Council showing that its exit-survey students enjoyed a 14.7% pre- to post-EMBA salary increase ($166,549 to $190,989). “EMBAs from the top EMBA programs probably do even better,” he says. EMBA programs, moreover, “have lower opportunity costs, can be even more reasonable if your employer is contributing, and do plug you into the school’s network and brand.” But there’s a downside: “EMBA programs give you fewer working years in which to earn out the ROI, and the ROI of the traditional two-year, full-time MBA seems to be much stronger, including doubling of pre-MBA pay at graduation, a shorter debt repayment window, and more.

“While the vast majority of my EMBA admits are happy they earned their EMBAs, among my clients who are in a position to choose between a traditional two-year, full-time MBA versus the EMBA, the vast majority choose the former,” Bodine says.


Candy Lee LaBalle, founder of LaBalle Admissions

Candy Lee LaBalle is founder of Madrid, Spain-based LaBalle Admissions. She works with a small group of around 30 applicants each year. Of those admitted in Round 1 this year, she says, two have decided to not attend, turning down admits to Columbia Business School and INSEAD. Why?

“Both because of very good job offers that would be what they might hope for post-MBA,” LaBalle says. “Not sure if that is a ‘Great Resignation’ issue or not.”

LaBalle says she often has conversations with clients “at a crossroads,” and her approach is always “person first, applicant second.”

“I ask them what is best for them, for their families, for their current situation,” she says of her clients, 90% of whom are international. “Are they ready now to apply for full-time? Have they reached a point in their career where they are stuck or facing a slow slog to upper levels? Is the FT they are seeking going to help them get what they really want — which is usually a better job, but also a transformational experience, usually abroad, and a life-lasting network and brand?

“If everything points to yes, now is the time. Then the key for me is getting them in the absolute best program possible.”

And if now isn’t the time?

“If, on the other hand, they are in a really exciting job with loads of growth, then maybe only leave that if you are heading for a really top program,” LaBalle says, pointing to a client who is working in a unicorn, tasked with rolling out country-wide programs.


LaBalle says the MBA versus EMBA question leaves out other options available in graduate business education that offer many of the same benefits.

“First we have to add in the mid-level immersion programs, the Stanford MSx, MIT Sloan Fellows, LBS Fellows,” she says. “These one-year, immersive MBAs aimed at older applicants can be the perfect compromise. You still get the immersive, on-campus experience, but a little later in the game.”

The biggest difference with an EMBA program is “you miss out on the immersive campus experience,” she says. “Yes, there are usually weeks or weekends on campus, but it is not the same. Also, most EMBAs require you to be fully working during the program. So imagine doing a top EMBA, which is very demanding intellectually and time-wise, balancing that with full-time work, AND family, as most people of EMBA age are married and have young kids. It is the ultimate balancing act. I think only working moms have it tougher — said as a working mom!”

LaBalle, like her colleagues at other admissions consultancies, adds that money must be a major consideration. EMBAs are, by and large, more expensive.

“Plus if you are doing a global program like Trium, Booth EMBA, INSEAD’s GEMBA, etc., you need to add in a LOT of travel,” she says. “If your company is paying, fantastic, lucky you! But if not, it is a financial beast and you need to be very, very sure it will pay off in the end. So for that reason, when I have self-funded EMBA applicants, I advise them to take a good look at what they will get in terms of career support.”


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