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UI Researchers Study Value of Executive MBA Degree

University of Iowa researchers hope their new study will determine if the Executive MBA degree pays off for its graduates and their employers.

"We want to know if the two years a student spends in an EMBA program reflects a positive value on their and their employers' investments," said Amy Colbert, an assistant professor of management and organizations in the Tippie College of Business who is leading the study with Greg Stewart, also a Tippie professor of management and organizations.

Colbert and Stewart have begun collecting career data from current Tippie EMBA students to determine their present salaries and job levels as they enter the program. They will follow-up with students upon graduation in two years, and again several years later to see what kind of long-term impact the EMBA had on their careers.

Executive MBA programs are management education programs in which students take one class at a time for one or two days a week, often on a weekend. The students are usually referred to the program by their employers, who see them as future managerial or executive level talent, and who frequently pay all or part of the tuition as part of their training.

Previous studies have shown the full-time MBA degree is valuable in attaining promotions, increased career responsibilities, and higher salaries. But Colbert and Stewart said measuring the value of a full-time MBA degree is fairly simple when compared to the EMBA. Because students put their careers on hold for two years in a full-time program, it's easy to compare the salary they were paid before they started the program to the salary they received in their first job after graduation.

But EMBA students attend class while continuing to hold their full-time jobs. That makes it harder to determine whether any subsequent promotion or pay raise they receive after graduation was the result of their degree or would have happened anyway.

Stewart and Colbert will gather data through self-assessments from students, as well as reports from their employee supervisors and from co-workers who report to them to measure leadership effectiveness. So far, they are working only with Tippie EMBA students, but they hope to expand their study to other schools that might be interested in participating with them.

Stewart said that so far, companies have cooperated with their research.

"Employers have been very supportive because they want to know if they're getting a return on their investment," he said.


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