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How EMBA Programs Could Work For You

While many students pursue traditional MBA programs, executive MBA programs seem to be gaining more and more attention. Research from both the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, and the executive MBA Council, two organizations that regularly conduct research on business school programs, show that EMBA applications, student satisfaction and future compensation remain high.

Executive MBA programs help prepare students for senior positions in their organizations. They can also help enable entrepreneurs to take promising companies to newer levels. EMBA students are typically already working professionally and usually attend school part-time, either self-funded or sponsored by their employers. MBA programs, meanwhile, cater more toward younger students who are hoping to enter the business world or move into mid-level positions.

"Enrolling in an executive MBA program is a good investment," Michael Desiderio, executive director of the executive MBA Council, said. "During tough economic times, EMBA programs are working hard to provide high quality programs and additional services, such as career services for students and alumni, networking opportunities and strong partnerships with businesses."

Growing EMBA compensation and alumni satisfaction are considered to be among the many draws attracting more and more applications into global EMBA admission offices.

Executive MBA programs: growing compensation, satisfaction and applications

Overall, executive MBA programs have maintained their net growth in 2011, according to the GMAC's 2011 Application Trends Survey. Sixty-seven executive MBA programs participated in the survey and submitted data accounting for 5,352 applications for the fall 2011-2012 class. Forty-two percent of executive MBA programs reported increases in application volume in 2011. Sixteen percent reported steady application volume. The remaining 42 percent reported decreases in applications. That is compared to 67 percent of full-time MBA programs that reported declines in application volume.

One of the reasons executive MBA programs remain popular is the fact that they pay off, Desiderio said. According to the executive MBA Council 2011 Student Exit Benchmarking Survey, the salary and bonus packages of recent EMBA graduates increased 16.3 percent from program start to end. The average salary and bonus package at program start for students in the 2011 survey was $135,323. By the end of the program, it rose to $157,423. In 2010, the previous year, the salary and bonus package increase was lower or 11.4 percent -- from $127,955 in average starting salary and bonuses to $142,534 in average ending salary and bonuses.

EMBA salary and bonus package increases could be back on their way to pre-recession levels. Desiderio reported an EMBA salary increase of 21 percent in 2007, 23 percent in 2008, and 9.4 percent in 2009. The increase was 11.4 percent in 2010 and 16.3 percent in 2011.

The executive MBA Council 2011 Student Exit Benchmarking Survey tracks the opinions of EMBA graduates and the return on investment of the degree. The survey included 3,212 students from 102 programs. Besides reporting increases in salary and bonus packages, graduates surveyed in 2011 reported high levels of satisfaction with their EMBA experience. Students gave program quality 8.4 on a 10-point scale, willingness to recommend their program 8.7, and the likelihood of supporting the program as alumni 8.2. They rated the overall value of the program highly or 8.0.

In addition, 37 percent of students surveyed reported receiving promotions during their time in the program.

One EMBA student's financial gains

Originally from California, Jennifer Durbin completed an EMBA at the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She attended EMBA classes on campus two nights a week for two years. When she started the EMBA program she was a manager of corporate financial planning and analysis at her company. She is now head of IT security and compliance.

"While there are always areas in which a program can improve, I was extremely satisfied with my experience," Durbin said. "Between the time I started and completed my EMBA [a 2-year period] my salary increased 37 percent. Since graduation, my salary has increased an additional 25 percent for an overall increase of 72 percent in base salary since beginning the program seven years ago."

Durbin , who acts as a program ambassador and sits on alumni panels to speak with prospective students, said she would recommend her EMBA and other reputable programs to experienced professionals.

Consider making an EMBA work for you

With EMBA student satisfaction high and compensation and advancement increasing, it's no wonder that more and more people are drawn to executive management degree programs. EMBA programs could be a key to success for working professionals.