Alumnus insight: Why should I study for an Executive MBA?

Alumnus insight: Why should I study for an Executive MBA?

Hearing from alumni is important when deciding if a business school and Executive MBA programme is right for you. We’ve had to cancel some face-to-face information sessions recently, meaning we can’t connect you with members of our alumni community face-to-face.

However, you can speak to our alumni ambassadors using our ‘chat to us’ feature. Members of our community are happy to take your questions about what studying at Cambridge is like, and to tell you about their experiences.

Chat to our alumni ambassadors >

David Wilson, alumnus from the 2020 Executive MBA cohort, had planned to join our alumni panel at an upcoming information session in London. He has written three blogs about his experience on the programme, covering the criteria he used for choosing a programme and business school, and his tips for striking a good work-study-life balance. Today, we’re delighted to present David’s first blog.


Participating in an Executive MBA program is a life-changing experience – but it also involves a significant commitment of time, energy and money!

In this article, I will help you to think about your personal motivations for seeking to achieve an Executive MBA qualification. This will improve your chances of finding a business school and program that is right for you.

Based on my conversations with Executive MBA students and graduates, here are some of the most popular reasons for studying towards an Executive MBA:

Accelerating career progression. You might be seeking to achieve a major job promotion with your existing employer or take a more senior role elsewhere in your industry.

Moving to a different industry. You may be looking to make a major switch between industries – for example, from financial services to the technology sector. During your studies, you can expect to meet classmates from many different industries and professional backgrounds. Many business schools will actively seek to ensure a mix of students from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. I personally learnt a huge amount about different industries from conversations with my classmates.

Changing from a specialist role to a management role. If you are a technical or functional specialist, an Executive MBA can be a good way to develop the skills to succeed in a management role. The breadth of subjects covered by an Executive MBA can help you to understand and communicate more effectively with other functions within your company. For example, I met Executive MBA students who were engineers taking on new management responsibilities such as running a departmental team or managing a budget.

Cambridge Executive MBA (EMBA) participants working on a group assignment

Building a network. In your current role, you are likely to have built a strong network within your own company, industry and country. However, you might want to use the Executive MBA program to expand your horizons and build a wider and more diverse network of contacts.

See the Cambridge Executive MBA class overview >

Filling gaps in knowledge or skills. These gaps could relate to ‘hard’ skills like corporate finance or ‘soft’ skills like how to lead and manage a team. I started my career as an accountant and, as my career progressed, I was spending increasing amounts of time on strategy, business development and people management. Filling my knowledge gaps in these areas was one of my motivations for studying for an Executive MBA.

Earning more money. When organisations such as the Financial Times publish rankings of Executive MBA programs, salary increases of alumni are often one of the criteria they look at. Being able to put the letters ‘MBA’ after your name might help you to earn more money in some circumstances. However, it is more likely that the increase in your earning power will be due to an improved ability to create value for your employer or customers because of what you have learnt.

Prestige and recognition. It does feel good when you tell someone that you are studying at a well-known business school and they recognise its name! If this is important to you, it is worth paying close attention to the reputation of the business schools that you are considering and their brand recognition.

Becoming an entrepreneur. Studying for an Executive MBA is one way to build skills that are relevant to entrepreneurship, find co-founders and gain access to an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Find out more about entrepreneurship and the Cambridge Executive MBA >

Cambridge Executive MBA participant working in a study group

Passion for learning. You might want to study for an Executive MBA simply because you enjoy the intellectual challenge of learning about the academic theories that are relevant to business.

Increasing your self-confidence. Overcoming challenges and developing new skills whilst you are studying for an Executive MBA can help to increase your self-confidence.

Personal achievement. Graduating with an MBA can provide a tremendous sense of achievement. What this means varies between individuals – it could mean the milestone of graduating, achieving good grades on assignments or participating in extra-curricular activities like volunteering projects.

Learning about how businesses are run. This can be an especially strong motivation if you are looking to make a move from the public sector to the private sector.

When you read the above list, which of these motivations resonated most with you? I suggest that you write them down. You can then refer back to them when you are researching different Executive MBA programs.

Being clear about your motivations will help you to to choose an Executive MBA program that is right for you!

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