Does it make sense to opt for an Executive MBA at a younger age?
Some younger professionals consider enrolling in an Executive MBA programme before they turn 30 as they want to benefit from graduate business education without having to leave their jobs for a full-time course.
On the surface, the idea sounds logical. A more flexible programme will allow you to keep working while gaining knowledge and new skills. However, a deeper inspection reveals a more nuanced picture. Let’s dig deeper.
A career on hold? No, thank you!
So why are younger managers and executives drawn to Executive MBA programmes?
One reason major reason is the hot labour market. The unemployment rate is currently around 3% in the United States and 6% in the European Union – both historic lows. Currently, the hunger for talent among companies is so big that some students are fielding offers from consulting firms before their MBA programmes even begin, the Wall Street Journal reports. Demand for MBA and Executive programmes is “counter-cyclical”: When the economy is booming, interest in the graduate business degree declines. When the economy hits trouble, interest in the degrees increases.
Some young business leaders don’t want to pause their career ascent and think it unwise to leave when everything is going well. Imagine playing a vital role in a start-up that is just beginning to take off. Chances are you will find it hard to quit even if you feel that you need to upgrade your knowledge and skills.
What are its advantages?
One of Executive MBA’s attractive features is that it allows you to keep working while studying. You’ll be able to apply your new-found knowledge to your current job instantly, thus testing the effectiveness of what you learn while helping your company grow. If you impress, you may step into a more senior leadership role more quickly than your peers or get a pay hike.
Another great benefit is networking. Executive MBA programs often bring together a diverse group of professionals from different industries, backgrounds, and perspectives. You will expand your network and make valuable connections that can support you throughout your career.
Last but not least, you will grow as a person. Executive MBA programmes are challenging. They will take you out of your comfort zone and help you get a better idea of your values, goals, and leadership style.
Why could it be a bad idea?
The EMBA is a part-time programme, which means you may miss out on some networking opportunities compared with the full-time MBA, where participants spend time with each other almost every day for a year or two. This doesn’t mean that EMBA programmes don’t offer networking opportunities. You can still connect with peers during consulting projects, seminars, networking sessions and various events. Some business schools also provide access to local business and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as to alumni. “Most executive MBAs have a lot of networking with their past alumni. It allows current students and future students to rely on a network of people,” Caryn L. Beck-Dudley, president and CEO of school accreditor AACSB International, told Fortune.
The age difference may be a more serious issue. EMBA participants learn mainly from each other, which is great, because each student gets exposure to new perspectives and insights from different industries. Enrolling in an EMBA at a younger age may diminish your potential ROI because you are very likely to end up being surrounded by older and more senior professionals. Their ideas and experiences may not be that relevant to you, or you may find it difficult to contribute to discussions.
EMBA students, on average, are nearly 39 years old with 14-plus years of work experience and more than 9 years of management experience, according to a 2022 survey by the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC). At the end of the day, it is schools that decide which applicants to admit based on their requirements. Although a program may not point to a specific age limit, it will certainly require a specific number of years of work and managerial experience. Besides, admissions teams will evaluate the quality of the experience because the EMBA is designed for senior managers.
Read more: 5 Top Management Skills Executives Gain with an EMBA
Part-time MBA options may be a good alternative
The Executive MBA is not the only MBA program that offers flexibility and the possibility to keep working. The part-time MBA is a good option for working professionals as classes are scheduled outside normal business hours. In addition, tuition fees for part-time courses are generally more affordable. Part-time programmes require fewer class hours per week, so it can sometimes take up to six years to complete the whole programme, which may at some point test your determination to complete the study.
Business schools have responded to demand for more flexible programmes by launching various blended and fully online alternatives. The blended MBA offers the opportunity to experience the benefits of both on-campus and online learning. This hybrid approach involves completing most coursework online, with periodic group workshops or sessions, typically spanning several days and taking place on-campus every two to three months.
Online/distance-learning MBA programmes offer a great deal of flexibility, enabling you to manage work, studies, and personal responsibilities effectively. However, one of the downsides is that there is limited in-person interaction with instructors and classmates. To compensate for this, many educational institutions have established virtual platforms that allow students to connect and participate in online group study sessions.
Consider all factors
You need to consider the above factors, and probably a lot more that are unique to you personally, when deciding whether it’s worthwhile to pursue an Executive MBA degree at that point in your life. “You’re going to have to weigh that for yourself,” Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), told Fortune. And he is right. The only person who can make this decision is you.