An executive MBA can be a demanding experience. Typically taking one or two years, often costing eyewatering sums of money, and offered as full or part-time courses by business schools, these degrees are seen as a vital platform for experienced professionals to make the leap into more senior positions.
But they may also be useful for those looking to change career altogether. They offer “a life-long network of colleagues who might help you to make the jump to a new sector or even to start out on your own,” says Nicola Simpson, programme director at the London Business School.
BOOST YOUR CAREER
EMBA classes can be “a hot bed for innovation and experimentation in the safety of a learning environment,” says Simpson. The idea is to provide an executive with the basic competencies required for a senior management role. The London Business School EMBA, for example, has core courses in financial accounting, strategic management and data analytics, alongside classes like “understanding the global economy”. They also come with a host of electives. The Cass Business School part-time EMBA allows its students to get into the specifics of investment strategy, behavioural finance and managing professional services firms.
As Alison Greenwood of Cambridge Judge Business School says, an EMBA hopes to give someone a “comprehensive understanding of the constituent functions of their business, and a strong grasp of the global business environment.” And many use this experience to secure a promotion.
Andrew Jones, for example, trained as a doctor and was a middle-manager at Nuffield Health. But two years after finishing his EMBA, he is now managing director for wellbeing at the firm. “It has given me the tools, confidence and skills to keep moving up the career ladder,” he says. While many executives have based their careers on being experts and cultivating technical skills, “modern careers in management are far more about leadership, communication and self-awareness – these ‘soft skills’ are essential in running complex organisations today,” he adds.
But an EMBA can also be useful if you wish to change your location, your function, or even your industry. Why?
First, they are a useful way to gain access to new professional contacts and open doors to new ways of utilising your skills. Filip Corveleyn and Felix Rackwitz, for example, met while studying at Cambridge Judge Business School. From backgrounds in a traditional legal environment, both are now working at a Frankfurt-based startup that offers lawyers’ services “on demand” for customers who want to cut back on overhead costs.
Second, EMBA programmes increasingly offer opportunities for exploring new business locations and professional networks abroad. According to The Executive MBA Council, 93.5 per cent of its member programmes offered an international trip in 2014, a 9.2 percentage point increase over the last five years. Popular destinations include China, the US, Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Chile, and South Africa.
THE WAY OF THE ENTREPRENEUR
But EMBAs are also increasingly catering for people who want to start up on their own. The Oxford Said EMBA, for example, teaches students how to develop a complete business plan. At the Cambridge Judge EMBA, students can take courses about starting technology companies and innovation management.
Students can also get backing and mentorship to start up their own companies, as universities provide access to a network of academic institutions, incubators, and innovation centres. This makes them ideal for budding entrepreneurs like Eben Upton, the founder of Raspberry Pi Foundation. He says his EMBA degree helped him turn his original idea into a business, “thinking about it in a more structured way: how to develop the brand, how to work with partners, and the challenges of raising capital”.