By Marie Field, QS Network
You may be sitting there thinking about how routine your professional world has become, yet thinking you have no choice but to follow the path you've chosen. You may be a consultant, a marketing manager or perhaps a software analyst, and be convinced that you're far too old to start anything new. After all, fast-track careers are for eco warriors fresh out of college, tripping over each other on their way to destination boardroom.
If you've told yourself that changing careers or going back to school simply are not options for established professionals, you may miss out on the one thing that will bring back the enthusiasm of a fresh graduate. Thirteen per cent of respondents to a recent QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey had ten or more years of experience under their belt before applying for an MBA program. It's clear that when it comes to business education, age can be an advantage rather than the hindrance assumed by many.
The Executive MBA
The EMBA is a popular program amongst the over thirty group, as it equips the experienced manager with a sophisticated set of diverse skills and strategic thinking that can be immediately applied on the job . In comparison to full-time MBA programs, the EMBA is focused on gaining a broader understanding of the business as a whole, with the confidence, leadership and communication skills required to reach the C-suite. Further, the executive programs are tailored to the professional with a tight schedule – weekend classes or modular weeks of study are the norm.
The other attraction of the EMBA is the networking and the opportunity to learn about business methods practiced in other industries and countries. "With the diversity of companies, functional areas, and geographical representations, students gain insight and unique perspective from their classmates. It's like having potentially 87 free consultants looking at a problem – not to mention expert professors!" explains Arnold Longboy, Director of Recruitment and Corporate Relations at Chicago GSB.
Jason Price, Director of EMBA World, explains that age should not be a factor in deciding to take on business school: "You are never too old to learn something new. What makes the EMBA program so compelling is that it draws an experienced crowd of students from 27 to 45 or older. There is a lot a senior can learn from younger and newer perspectives of the business world and vice versa."
And the benefits extend. As business schools continue to respond to strong demand for their Executive MBA (EMBA) programs, the results of a recent survey confirmed the return on investment for those who have made the commitment to an Executive MBA. The percentage of students who received promotions increased from 34% three years ago to 43% last year, according to last year's Executive MBA Council Survey of their member schools.
Why not the regular MBA?
Most EMBA programs are open only to those with comprehensive experience in the professional world. Many choices of courses exist, from 24-month programs to 18-month programs, to programs with specific focuses like global business. The Global Executive MBA at Duke, for example, focuses simply on this area through sending its students to "Asia, South America, Europe and the United States with Internet-enabled distance learning allowing students to live and work from anywhere in the world," in addition to offering conventional classes. Arnold Longboy, Director of Recruitment and Corporate Relations at the Chicago GSB European campus near London's Guildhall, reports an increase in interest amongst the more experienced: "We saw a record level of interest in our EMBA program last year and all indications this year lead us to believe that interest is growing."
Take, for example, a 43 year-old IT manager who wants to make it to Director status but doesn't yet have the organizational or analytical skills to pull it off. This is exactly what the EMBA is for. "The Executive MBA, says Nunzio Quacquarelli, Director of QS, the educational and career specialist network, gives you the extra push you need to make it to boardroom prominence. Particularly, after gaining a number of years work experience, the EMBA is maybe the only thing that will give you what you need to reach your professional goals. Entering an EMBA program after 40 presents you with a unique advantage over a 27 year-old with a lack of experience of business dilemmas and undeveloped management skills."
When time is money
For many executives, being away from a job for a fair amount of time is not an option. This is where distance learning and online education come into play. According to the latest survey of online learning in the USA, for example, more than 2 million Americans are opting for online learning, while on the Pacific Rim the amount spent on online learning is expected to triple by the year 2008. Business education – MBA and EMBA programs in particular, are becoming accessible through online access. Online tutorials, groupware, simulations and virtual group assignments all play an important role in the learning model. George Hill, Chief Technology Officer at BellSouth International has been impressed with the richness of the distance-learning segment of Emory University's Modular Executive MBA Program. "It is a virtual extension of the classroom. The ability to have discussions via the web is a powerful tool and has allowed me to participate frequently as I travel internationally. I found the online discussions as engaging and intense as the classroom case studies."
If you think distance learning isn't as reputable as physically attending lectures at a top school, think again. In some of the top distance learning programs, like Indiana University's Kelley Direct Online, students are taught by the same professors that teach in the prestigious full-time program. When considering that the Princeton Review has ranked Kelley's full-time MBA core faculty as number one for the past four years, this is not something to be taken lightly. As an extremely busy executive who traveled non-stop, Dr. Jeffrey Riesmeyer, a Kelley online MBA alumnus appreciated the fact that he had the same high-quality education available anywhere in the world through the use of his computer and an internet connection. "The teaching level is extremely high and I got that same level wherever I was in the world."
Whether it be business education or lessons in a sport you have never before attempted, learning new skills can only be an investment in yourself. And if you choose business school, this investment is likely to be a rewarding and profitable one.