Hard work got you here. But in order to get there, it wouldn’t hurt to strengthen your business leadership knowledge, polish your executive skills and broaden your professional network. The timing might finally be right for that Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree. And you might even convince your employer to help pay for it.

The EMBA has become an appealing investment for C-suite executives. Surging international enrollment growth trends and salary increases for EMBA graduates suggest that the value of executive-level educational investments is being recognized by employers at the global level.

Many graduates view their time spent pursuing an EMBA as transformational,a life-changing experience — one that has helped to transform career aspirations into attainable realities. EMBA programs are often designed to build out professional networks, convert individual contributors into leaders, improve upon existing skills and enhance the value of the human capital within a company. In light of these many benefits, an EMBA can be highly valuable, commanding a strong return on investment for both the executives and their companies.

Executive Development
Known and respected as a leading accrediting body of business schools worldwide, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) maintains one of the most comprehensive databases on business schools in the world. This database shows that, among the set of AACSB member schools that completed both the 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 Business School Questionnaire, there was a 5% growth in enrollment at the EMBA level.

Now, more than ever, AACSB-accredited programs are offering flexible EMBA opportunities with an executive orientation and online/distance considerations to fit the scheduling demands of business leaders. EMBA programs can provide the breadth of business knowledge found in a traditional MBA program, but at an executive level. This increasing flexibility, coupled with a comprehensive executive business curriculum, makes the EMBA now more accessible and valuable than ever.

Of course, networking is also highly valued by executives and the EMBA is supportive in that regard. In a 2012 EMBA discussion panel, Betsy Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, commented that "one of the biggest benefits of participating in an EMBA program like Kellogg’s is the ability to network with other executives – to learn from each other, exchange ideas and make deep connections that last beyond graduation" (Ziegler, 2012). These connections can lead to future career opportunities, organisational partnerships, general idea sharing, and long-lasting professional relationships. Ziegler continued, sharing that "it’s really about taking yourself to a higher level: making deeper connections and broadening your professional network; gaining exposure to world-class faculty and innovative thinking" (Ziegler, 2012).

There are also significant financial incentives for business professionals to pursue an EMBA. A recent survey conducted by the Executive MBA Council found that salary for recent EMBA program graduates who had participated in the 2012 benchmarking survey saw an increase of 17.3 percent from the program start to program end, up from 16.3 percent from the 2011 survey. This survey collected salary data from over 3,000 students in 98 EMBA programs (Executive MBA Council, 2012).

Business Development Through EMBA Degrees
The executives themselves aren’t the only ones interested in EMBA programs. Many businesses also consider educational investments to be valuable strategies for enhancing a company’s greatest asset: its human capital.

Michael Desiderio, executive director for the EMBA Council, noted that while "it is good to see an increase in average salary packages for EMBA graduates, the return on investment of the EMBA experience is much broader than any salary data" (Executive MBA Council, 2012). Much of this return on investment extends beyond just the individual executive, impacting the company itself. Having more knowledgeable and capable executives can lead to increased productivity and performance in the workplace.

A fear for some employers is that sponsored executives will leave their organisation following the completion of the EMBA degree program, using their newfound skills to find job opportunities elsewhere. Dr. Claudia Jonczyk, academic director of the EMBA London track at ESCP Europe Business School, provides reassurance in this regard, noting that while some EMBA graduates do go onto other positions, it is at least equally true that the objective for many EMBA graduates is advance within his or her own organisation (Graham, 2012).

Dr. Andy Bailey, director of the EMBA at Lancaster University Management School, supports Jonczyk’s assertion, commenting that "we are seeing loyalty from the candidate to the organisation that has sponsored them" (Graham, 2012).

Ensuring Value
Despite the myriad of benefits that an EMBA can provide to both the executive and the company, not all EMBA programs can be considered equally valuable. Ensuring that the providing institution carries the appropriate accreditation should be one of the most important considerations when deciding upon where to study.

AACSB accreditation is, for many, the signal of high-quality management education around the world. Established in 1916, AACSB holds its accredited schools to stringent standards that ensure the schools have met internationally recognized thresholds for performance, quality and continuous improvement. AACSB offers global quality recognition through a rigorous application process for prospective schools and a continual peer review for those schools already accredited.

In fact, less than 5% of schools offering business degrees worldwide have earned the distinction of bearing the AACSB Accreditation seal. As of June 2013, AACSB has granted business accreditation to 681 schools worldwide, each offering unique and diverse approaches to management education. Of these, three institutions are located in Africa, 70 across Europe and the United Kingdom, 74 across the Asia-Pacific, and 534 in the Americas.

Companies have studied the differences between employees who have attended AACSB-accredited business schools and those who have not. Some companies have found that employees who were educated by non-AACSB-accredited business schools had lower levels of performance, and subsequently have chosen to only reimburse tuition from AACSB-accredited business schools. Moreover, in a study conducted by Clarion Research in 2010, 18% of accredited schools noted that many of their employers exclusively hired graduates with AACSB-accredited degrees. In addition, through a worldwide survey administered to AACSB-accredited schools, 89% of schools reported that AACSB Accreditation helps them to produce higher calibre, better educated graduates who are more desirable to prospective employers.

A Savvy Investment in Education
When investing in your future by way of education, getting the most out of a degree should be at the forefront. An EMBA is often an excellent investment for both the C-suite executive and his or her company. With strong benefits for both parties, choosing to pursue an EMBA can be a straightforward decision for some. More challenging, however, can be the decision over where to pursue that EMBA. This is where AACSB’s internationally recognized seal can help. Choosing a school with AACSB Accreditation provides assurance that the program will be of high-quality, thus offering a superior opportunity for a favorable return on investment.

Works Cited
Executive MBA Council. (2012, October 17). Survey Results Show Salaries of Executive MBA Graduates Continue to Rise. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from Executive MBA Council: http://www.emba.org/pdf/pressroom/2012_10_17_student_exit_survey.pdf
Graham, A. (2012, February 23). EMBAs provide real value for employers. City AM, p. 20.
Ziegler, B. in Clarke, C. (2012, October 17). Ask the Expert: EMBA 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2013, from Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/fe4e7868-138f-11e2-9cc7-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2WCSsp5LA