University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

7 Reasons You Should Consider an Executive MBA

Student Success

June 14, 2018 | By Mathew Waller

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Applications for MBA programs are on the decline all across the United States, even among the nation’s most prestigious business schools, which might lead you to think the Master of Business Administration degree has lost its luster.

A closer look at the data reveals a more nuanced story that leads to an interesting conclusion – the value of earning an MBA is as strong as ever. It turns out, the decline in applications at U.S. business colleges is primarily due to two factors – fewer applications from international students who can’t come to the U.S. or who are choosing to pursue a degree in other countries and a strong economy that is drawing students into the job market.

An MBA isn’t for everyone, but many leaders still want and need the skills they can learn in a reputable post-graduate business program. Executive MBA programs have become a particularly popular option because they provide a high-quality education that fits a busy schedule. Whether you want to switch careers, launch your own company, or move up in the organization where you already work, an executive MBA can provide the fuel for the journey.

Here are seven reasons to consider investing in this degree.

It’s Tailored to Executives


A full-time MBA program can be a demanding, life-consuming experience that typically takes at least two years to complete and involves 50-60 credit hours of course work. A part-time MBA program provides some flexibility but can take several years to complete. For some students, those are great options. But an executive MBA provides the middle ground – most are two-year, 36-to-40-hour programs structured to fit around the busy lives of executives and their families.

Many programs across the country combine online and in-class learning for a blended format. The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, for instance, uses online classes and videos that are supplemented with on-campus classes one Saturday each month.

Carter Calico, a senior national account manager at Mars, earned his EMBA in 2015 from the Walton College.The school’s proximity to Walmart’s headquarters has made it a popular option for leaders such as Calico who are part of the region’s vendor community and who want to continue their education.

“I was excited to get in, but I knew I didn’t have the ability to do it three, four, or five nights a week,” Calico said. The EMBA was a perfect fit, he said, because of the “flexibility and coming out knowing that you’re going to have a great degree from a fantastic program at a fantastic university.”

It Will Pay Off Financially


Earning an executive MBA in 2018 was worth a 14.6 percent increase in salary and bonuses, according to research by the Executive MBA Council. Exit interviews with students have shown compensation increases of 11.6 percent to 14.6 percent every year since 2014.

It Will Up Your Leadership Game


The reason EMBA graduates are better compensated is that they bring higher value to their organizations. Marc Ethier of Poets & Quants for Executives, a website that covers business schools, points out the exit interviews by the EMBA Council found that graduates “improved their critical thinking, leadership, and decision-making skills, and that those who complete the program have better insight into economic factors impacting businesses today, as well as accounting and financial acuity.”

A quality MBA program will help you develop your skills as an executive so you can create and cast a vision, develop and execute strategy, and become a better leader of individuals, teams, departments, divisions, and entire organizations. It will teach you to analyze information quickly and accurately, improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills, and develop your communications skills so you can inform, inspire, and motivate.

Those all are the types of skills a leader needs at the executive level, whether that’s an entrepreneur with a small but fast-moving team, an owner-operator of a small business, a director of a non-profit, or an executive in a large national or global enterprise.

You Will Learn From Others


An excellent executive MBA program brings together leaders with similar interests but diverse backgrounds. Vikas Anand, executive director for MBA programs and graduate innovation at the Walton College, said the Walton College is intentional in creating such diversity in its EMBA classes.

“We deliberately ensure that we have people with 20 years of experience in the same class as those with two years of experience,” Anand said. “The young benefit from the older students’ experience. The older students appreciate how the younger generation thinks. We may have 50 different companies represented in a typical class – ranging from Fortune100 companies to the U.S. Air Force to nonprofits. The diversity of experience and backgrounds create a fantastic perspective to learn. Students benefit from each other’s experience and form connections that continue to give year after year.”

Denise Bugos, who had 30 years of work experience when she pursued her EMBA, said the value she got from other students was her most pleasant surprise.

“I went into it just wanting a new experience,” Bugos said. “I thought I knew most everything, because I had been working forever. What I found was that over the past 20 years things have changed. Technology has changed. Terminology has changed. Information has changed. What I got from interacting with younger peers was a whole new breadth of knowledge on things that were current and relevant.”

Anand recalled teaching a case study for a business strategy class about a time when retailers had to pull several Chinese-made toys from the U.S. market because they contained unacceptable levels of lead in the paint. In addition to having students whose children had been affected by the crisis, he also had a student who had worked with a Chinese paint maker, a student who had been the buyer for toys for Walmart, and a student who had been the buyer for toys for another large retailer.

“They had all experienced that crisis together,” Anand said. “It led to a great discussion and tremendous learning.”

Jerra Nalley, who founded Leisure List shortly after earning her EMBA, said her classmates shaped what she learned and how she went about launching her business. “One of the biggest things I got out of the program was the network that I built through my fellow students,” Nalley said. “The variety of experiences and different types of people, I did not expect. And that variety of perspectives and experiences and different cultures was really helpful in opening my eyes… (And) my network from the program helped provide feedback that I used to start Leisure List.”

It Will Enhance Your Network


The relationships forged in an EMBA program don’t end after graduation. And because EMBA programs tend to draw leaders from within the same region, it’s more convenient for them to stay connected in person and lean on each other when they face challenges or new opportunities.

It Will Broaden Your Perspectives


In addition to learning from the experiences of other students, an EMBA program with a study abroad component will expand your global perspective.

“The experience I enjoyed the mostwas the study abroad,” Nalley said. “Being able to go to China and learn how people do things differently really broadens your horizons as a person.”

You Can Get a Degree, but Keep your Arms and Legs


The advertised price of an EMBA can be staggering. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which launched the first executive MBA program in 1943, now charges $194,000 in tuition and fees for its North American EMBA program, according to Forbes, which is a bargain compared to the $205,200 for an EMBA degree from Wharton.

Thankfully, those are the top end of the spectrum. According to U.S. News & World Report, “the average in-state tuition for full-time MBA students was slightly more than $42,000.” Many students earn merit scholarships and/or qualify for financial aid, which reduces out-of-pocket expense.

It’s worth noting that the closest EMBA program might not be the best option. The Walton College EMBA program, for instance, routinely attracts students who drive 2-5 hours from cities like Tulsa, Kansas City, Memphis, and Dallas because it is a more cost-effective option, with some even flying in from parts of the country, even farther away.

“Even with the cost of travel once a month,” Anand said, “it provided a significantly better value for students to get their MBA degree here rather than in local areas.”

If those seven reasons make an Executive MBA sound appealing to you, then the next step is to do some homework. That includes researching the business colleges that are AACSB accredited to see what they offer, but it also includes some self-reflection to ensure you are up to the challenges that come with a quality program.

As you go deeper to determine if an executive MBA is right for you, here are a few additional questions to consider. Does it fit your personal and professional goals? Do you have the time and money to commit to it? Will your family support you? Do you have the writing skills to handle the admissions essay? Do you have the math skills for quantitative aspects? And do you have the passion for it that will help you power through the inevitable times when the challenges are both deep and wide? Answering those questions should help you make an informed decision that will move you toward your next step in the process.

Post Author:

Matt WallerMatthew A. Waller is the dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair, and professor of supply chain management. His opinion pieces have appeared in Wall Street Journal Asia and Financial Times.

Waller is an SEC Academic Leadership Fellow, and coauthor of “The Definitive Guide to Inventory Management: Principles and Strategies for the Efficient Flow of Inventory across the Supply Chain” published by Pearson Education.

He received a B.S.B.A. summa cum laude from the University of Missouri, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He is the former co-editor-in-chief of Journal of Business Logistics.