Is executive MBA worth it? As someone who has done both full-time MBA and executive MBA, Abhishek Sareen breaks down the difference between the two programs and helps you make your decision.
What’s an Executive MBA?
Before I get to answer the question ‘is executive MBA worth it’, let’s talk a bit about the program itself. An executive MBA is a business studies program conducted by business schools that has a duration of anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. It’s a short term program that is usually customized with a specific focus, depending on the requirement of the attendees.
An exec-MBA, as the name suggests, is usually targeted towards experienced professionals with an experience of 8 years or more. It’s most suited for professionals who have more of a technical profile like engineers, finance or sales professionals. It is best for those who usually have no formal training on business management subjects like business strategy, organization behavior, marketing, etc.
However, many management professionals who have an MBA do opt for an executive MBA after 8 to 10 years of experience. They do this in order to refresh and update their knowledge. An executive MBA mostly deals with advance management & strategy related courses as it is targeted towards executive who have over 10 years of experience.
My Own Experience with Exec-Ed
I did my executive MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). The name of my program was Young Leader’s Program (YLP) custom built for my group company’s mid management professionals. It was an 8 month program, including 2 weeks of lectures on campus. Various lectures and workshops spread across the rest of the duration at various locations. I completed this program in 2016, after I had had 10 years of experience and regular full time MBA.
The estimated cost of the program was ₹8-9 lacs, which was fully sponsored by my company. 20 people including me were selected for this program amongst 165+ mid level managers from the group companies. My selection process started with an application with resume & essay. Then, I had to succeed in online aptitude tests, case study analysis, group discussion and a personal interview.
The program was primarily based on case study method involving topics like strategy, finance, negotiation, economics and inter personal skills. Other topics were organizational behavior, team management, supply chain & operations, etc.
What’s the Difference between Executive MBA and Regular or Full-Time MBA?
Some of you who’re wondering, “Is executive MBA worth it?” may be deciding on whether to do a regular full-time program or putting it off for an exec-ed program later.
An executive MBA is not a substitute for a full-time MBA program. Regular MBA courses focus on the basics and gradually explore advance management curriculum. Regular MBA courses are targeted towards fresher and industry professionals with 5 years of experience or less. On the other hand, executive MBA programs target industry professionals and managers with 10+ years of experience.
Regular MBA programs are usually 2 years long, whereas executive MBA can be anywhere between 1 to 9 months long, depending upon the program, institute and applicant/company requirements. A lot of institutes offer customizable executive MBA programs, which companies usually sponsor for their employees. Although MBA in general is supposed to be very intensive, executive MBA programs are much more intensive compared to regular ones since the institutes try to include as much curriculum as possible within a short duration.
In my own experience, you can’t really compare executive MBA with a regular MBA. I have done both types of programs, and I feel it’s impossible to compare a basic program spread over 2 years vs. a short-term program that is primarily designed for experienced professionals.
In a regular MBA, the curriculum gradually intensifies, starting with basic theory and business fundamentals, and then moves on to more advanced topics and case studies. Whereas in executive MBA, there is no fundamental training, and the focus is on peer-to-peer learning through case study analysis, group discussions, simulations and experience sharing.
Who is the Primary Target Customer for B-Schools for Executive-MBA Programs?
If you’re asking, “Is executive MBA worth it,” you may first want to see if it’s even meant for you. For business schools, executive MBA programs’ primary customers are large co-operations who want to train middle management to senior management. These courses are also meant for senior management professionals to prepare themselves for top management positions.
Programs like these act as a tool for collaborative learning from their peers and out-of-the-box thinking. These course primarily discuss various case studies and encourage debates & discussion so that participants can learn from one another, rather than theoretical lectures. Students are expected to be prepared for class discussions through study material.
A lot of individual industry professionals who sometimes feel stagnated in their organizations because of formal management exposure also opt for such programs, which help them to rise up the corporate ladder.
How Much Do Executive MBA Programs Cost?
Compared to regular MBA, executive MBA programs and courses are more expensive, if you look at their duration and value in the industry. They cost approximately one-third the cost of regular MBA programs. Cost of the programs vary based on their duration, curriculum, reputation of the college and type of faculty.
Let’s talk about numbers. In India, an exec-ed program at IIM-A costs ₹6-8 lacs for 50-60 lectures spread over a year. Short term programs ranging from 3-7 days cost ₹80,000 to ₹5 lacs. Similar programs for 2-4 days in IIM-Bangalore cost between ₹80,000-1.5 lacs. Those in Harvard Business School (HBS) start at USD 10,000 for week-long programs and go up to USD 80,000 for 2-week or longer programs. These are just the sticker prices, feel free to hard-negotiate your fees, as institutes may be willing to give heavy discounts, especially for large groups.
Executive MBA programs are certainly an expensive option for self-financing individuals hoping to enhance their careers or jobs. However, they may be more financially accessible for individuals whose company is sponsoring their exec-ed.
Most b-schools subsidize their full time MBA programs. However, they make good money on executive programs as corporates with big pockets are their primary customers. Corporates use executive programs for inculcating the idea of knowledge enhancement and out-box thinking. Additionally, they use them as means to motivate and reward their high-performing employees. An executive management program often gives employees a legitimate reason to promote them to higher responsibility jobs and acceptability in the organization.
Furthermore, corporations use these programs to increase retention among high-performing or talented employees. By sponsoring their exec-ed, companies can make employees sigh a two-year contract or bind them with other perks.
How Competitive are Executive MBA Programs?
Executive MBA programs are super-easy to get in, so go for the top schools. Most schools are dying to get students as it means easy money for them. This is because for expensive short-term courses, students are paying more per lecture.
Can I Get a High Paying Job after Doing an Exec MBA from a Prestigious B-School?
Yes, an executive program adds value and weight to you resume. However, it’s unlikely going to be a spring board for high paying jobs that many would like to believe. After completing my own education from IIM-A, I do have a big b-school brand associated as a part of my education qualification. But I doubt how companies look at it while hiring an employee. However, if competing for the same job with candidates having similar experience, it gives you an edge over those who don’t have any management education at all.
So is Exec-MBA Really Worth the Money?
Yes, so the now comes big question of worth. Is executive MBA worth it? Nowadays, every b-school from Harvard to IIMs to b-street-side schools to unknown online universities offer executive MBA programs. Top b-schools like IIMs, Harvard, Stanford offer multiple executive MBA programs throughout the year for every profession, experience level.
I too, have done an executive MBA from company targeted for young leaders. Yes, I would like to believe that it was extremely helpful and opened my mind to new ideas and concepts. It was informative and trained me on various new management concepts, to think through different perspectives. It helped me understand different types of members we encounter in a team, and self-analyze my management style.
Exec-ed helps you re-learn the management concepts after a lot of industry experience. In such programs, management lessons seem more relevant after ten or so years of experience, than they did back when you’re fresh out of college. However, this is a subjective thing, since everyone’s exec-MBA experience will be different based on their faculty and institute.
Personally, it felt worth it for me since after completing the program, I feel more confident and a part of a club. IIM-A is the top b-school in India. Having this qualification makes my resume way stronger, since my regular MBA was not from a top b-school.
I also did sign a bond with my company for 2 years. And it was an expensive course as I know it. So is executive MBA worth it? For me yes it was, since I didn’t pay for it. But would I have invested so much as an individual? I doubt it, considering the returns.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.