Getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years, and nowhere more so than online. As an increasing number of professional workers determine that an MBA is an important, if not required, step to move up the corporate ladder, MBA programs have responded by offering an increasing number of online and on campus short-term programs often called an Executive MBA (EMBA) program.
The EMBA programs are designed to enable the student to remain working full-time while taking classes offered either online or in intensive time bursts that do not interfere with the students’ job responsibilities.
BusinessWeek reports that a recent study by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research found that nearly 3 million students are pursuing online business degrees, making it by far the most popular field for online degrees.
When the highly regarded Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina decided, several years ago to enter the online MBA market top professors were initially opposed to the idea. Now, according to a recent article in Fortune, as the school graduated its first class of online MBA’s in June 2013 they have become enthused with the program.
For Kenan-Flagler, the move into the online education field has paid dividends that were not originally envisioned. The program has attracted an exceptional group of high earning students who, in turn, have praised the Kenan-Flagler program, and the program has earned the school much praise in the academic community. For Kenan-Flagler, the move into online degree offerings has proved very successful.
However, in some quarters there is still concern about the legitimacy of online education. At Duke University, which offers a global executive MBA degree where 40% of the work is done online, the director of the executive MBA program stated to Fortune: “The last thing we want to do is dilute the brand, and so we would never use the word ‘online’ or call it distance learning program.” That viewpoint seems increasingly to be a minority one as EMBA programs continue to search for new ways to attract professional students who are no longer willing to accept the traditional method of earning their MBA. Business schools that refuse to develop innovative new ways of offering their programs are seemingly ignoring one of the basic rules of business, which is “the customer is always right.” In the case of Duke, the customer who is the student, is demanding more flexibility in their educational choices and scheduling and may be less inclined to want to attend a school that is unwilling to acknowledge the changing world of education.
A fundamental and practical reason that EMBA courses have proliferated in recent years is that they can often command a higher tuition than traditional MBA programs. Most EMBA programs have a requirement that the applicant have a minimum of five years or more of professional, managerial experience. That narrows the potential student pool to people who are more likely to have greater financial resources than the traditional MBA student who has just completed four years of undergraduate education and is likely already indebted for the cost of their undergraduate degree. Moreover, because the EMBA student is most likely already a successful manager in their company, the likelihood of the company underwriting all or a significant portion of the costs of getting the EMBA, is high.
The first EMBA program debuted 70 years ago at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business and in recent years, the concept has experienced rapid growth. Today, more than 300 schools worldwide offer EMBA programs, a number that continues to grow at a rapid pace as universities respond to the demand for new and innovative ways of teaching business education online and on campus.
For professionals in their early to mid-careers, getting an MBA it is probably the single most important career move one can make. The dilemma presented by the traditional MBA programs is that they can take two to three years to complete, and taking that much time away from your career can be a setback. The EMBA programs solve that issue by shortened the time required to get an EMBA degree down to as little as a year. Schools are increasingly offering innovative programs where classes may be held over an intensive 3-day weekend once a month, or in several weeks’ segments of intensive participation every several months, while also maximizing the amount of online learning.
Another creative alternative is to get your EMBA or MBA online. In the US News 2014 rankings of business schools, it was noted that one in every four of the nation’s most highly rated business schools also has a full online degree program. A student can now earn their MBA or EMBA from a top tier school without ever having to set foot in a traditional on campus classroom.
It is logical that the top-ranked full-time on campus MBA programs are also the top ranked distant education programs. The number of top ranked MBA and EMBA programs that offer a fully online learning experience is rapidly increasing in response to the dramatic increase in demand from students and companies for this creative alternative to the traditional on campus program.
There are also opportunities for the inventive student who may choose to attend a lower ranked EMBA program greatly to enhance their value by taking a variety of business and technology related courses offered free by MOOCs. Adding business courses from Harvard or Stanford or technology courses from MIT or Caltech to your EMBA resume cannot help but make you a more valuable employee.