Careers for Graduates: Jobs After Executive MBA

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Executive MBA programs have long been considered a fast track to the C-suite. An intensive course of study created to develop high-level management skills, critical thinking capacity, and decision-making ability, the EMBA was designed to prepare promising business managers who already had several years of experience to move into executive positions.

In the past, corporations often paid for all or part of an EMBA education, considering it an investment in the executives climbing their corporate ladders.

Understanding the mindset of today’s EMBA graduates

Today’s Executive MBA aspirants have different goals than seeking traditional Executive MBA graduate jobs, according to the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), an academic association that represents the EMBA industry. They are more likely to finance their own education and follow their own career paths after graduation.

“Executive MBA programs not only help business leaders grow, they help them make significant career transitions, find a new job or garner a promotion, or launch a new business,” EMBAC notes on its website. “Simply put, EMBA programs are designed to broaden the horizons of students. They offer fundamental knowledge that can be applied to all kinds of situations while also supporting personal and leadership development.”

Part of the reason for the shift in career direction can be attributed to changing expectations in the workforce. Washington State University’s Executive MBA Online students are finding that the knowledge they develop as part of the program can help them succeed in a variety of endeavors.

Benefits of an EMBA Program

The first EMBA program began in 1943 as a way to develop new leaders who could help expand American industry during World War II, Financial Times notes in its article, “Moving with the times – 75 years of the EMBA.”

Similar to today’s programs, it targeted senior managers who had significant career experience but needed an educational option that did not affect their full-time work schedules. The model was a success, and today more than 260 institutions offer EMBA degrees, Financial Times adds.

There are many reasons for the degree’s popularity. The benefits of an executive MBA are numerous, EMBAC notes, and can include:

Significant salary and potential increases

Opportunity for a high salary and potential for wage increases are one major reason to pursue an EMBA. According to PayScale, professionals who hold this degree make an average annual salary of $120,000. For those pursuing C-suite roles and other specialized positions, this is generally the base pay, with the opportunity to make much more throughout your career.

Leadership development

EMBA programs are laser-focused on developing leadership skills. Students often design their own leadership or personal development plans tailored to their particular objectives. Program elements that help them realize their goals may include:

  • Use of self-assessment tools to enhance self-awareness and provide a greater understanding of strengths and weaknesses
  • Emphasis on improving “soft” skills such as communication, negotiation, and relationship building
  • Executive coaching
  • Leadership residencies and courses
  • Leadership programs

Global perspective

Because modern business is international in nature, leaders need a more comprehensive and diverse mindset, which EMBA programs can help develop. Gaining a global perspective across industries can give you the tools you need to pursue opportunities overseas or work with an organization that handles business transactions on a global scale.

Influential networks

EMBA programs focus on helping students develop more significant connections with professional peers. Collaborative opportunities in the program incentivize team-focused learning and encourage you to get to know your colleagues on a higher level, so you can foster professional relationships well after graduation.

Female professionals working together

Graduates also come away with better critical thinking skills, increased confidence, stronger communication skills, and a greater ability to lead a team, according to EMBAC.

Why Pursue Your EMBA?

The mix of hard and soft skills acquired in an EMBA program can be put to use in a range of leadership positions, whether in business or at other types of organizations. Some popular recent opportunities for EMBA graduates include:

Switching careers

For all the attention to higher salaries, more money wasn’t the top reason EMBA graduates initially chose the program.

The ability to “change one’s career trajectory” was more important than money to EMBA alumni who responded to a survey conducted by EMBAC and LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Core business knowledge took the top spot in the survey, while increased earning potential only ranked fifth.

Aspiring managers, as Financial Times notes, have “realized the need to invest in their own professional qualifications to give themselves an advantage in an increasingly competitive job market.”

Starting businesses

Planning for one’s own corner office, rather than moving into a corporate executive suite, is becoming an increasingly popular option for EMBA graduates and students — especially for those with a background in technology, engineering, or science.

They have the technical skills, notes, but want to acquire the management perspective necessary to start or scale up their businesses. EMBA studies help them develop business expertise and increase their confidence level.

“Oftentimes, taking the dream to the next level requires a mastery of soft skill items like influencing change and leading people,” according to’s article “How an Executive MBA might propel your career as an entrepreneur.” “And there is not a replacement for confidence in your business acumen when seeking loans, talking to investors, or recruiting that next superstar to your team.”

With the increase in aspiring entrepreneurs seeking these degrees, EMBA programs have begun changing to meet these more diverse needs.

“As students have picked up more of the check, they’ve demanded an experience more finely tailored to their goals and interests,” U.S. News & World Report noted.

To meet that demand, some schools now include such electives as entrepreneurship and strategy, while others focus on customized programs ranging from national security to health care, the article continues.

Working in the nonprofit sector

Like corporations, nonprofit organizations need strong fiscal management to be successful and sustainable. “No margin, no mission” — a phrase credited to Sister Irene Kraus, the founding executive of Daughters of Charity National Health System (now Verity Health System) — is the mantra of many nonprofit executives.

Sister Irene was also the first female chair of the American Hospital Association. When she took the reins of Daughters of Charity in 1986, the operation’s annual budget was more than $3 billion, according to her 1998 obituary in The New York Times.

An EMBA degree can help nonprofit executives taking a path similar to Sister Irene’s to develop skill sets that are comparable to the abilities of their peers in the corporate world.

Alternatives to the C-Suite Career Route

A C-suite role may be the most common career path to pursue after earning an EMBA degree, but there are other high-level opportunities to consider. If you don’t want to start your own business or gain a C-suite position after graduation, the following career options may meet your professional needs:

  1. Executive project manager. Much like a general project manager, this person is responsible for planning, implementing, and overseeing projects from an executive level. They report to the main stakeholder of the company and project potential outcomes based on the progress of each project. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, project management specialists and business operations specialists make a mean annual wage of $84,290.
  1. Executive secretary and administrative assistant. Viewed from a high level, this individual is responsible for conducting research, creating statistical reports, and handling information requests from stakeholders. Other administrative tasks include scheduling meetings and conference calls, as well as training and supervising team members. Salary opportunities range from around $40,000 to $94,000 per year, with professionals in the 90th percentile making $94,830 per year, per the BLS.
  1. Training and development managers. This person is responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing specific training programs that will help to enhance the knowledge and skills of an organization’s staff members. The job outlook is positive for this position — at an expected growth rate of 7% between 2019 and 2029 (which is faster than for all occupations) the prospect of finding a job as a training and development manager is favorable: Many organizations understand the importance of continuing education for their staff members and are willing to invest in this process. The pay is also promising: The BLS reports that the average salary for training and development managers was $115,640 in 2020.

Washington State University’s EMBA Degree Program

Whether you’re in a management or director position and want to learn how to better lead your team, or you’re simply looking for an opportunity to grow in your current position, the EMBA program at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business can lead you to success.

We want to create the highest-quality learning experience for you. That’s why we’ve put together a program that consists of working with industry-leading faculty members, gaining access to necessary support services, and taking on your coursework in a convenient online format from anywhere, at any time.

By pursuing the online EMBA program at Washington State, you also gain access to the annual two-day Leadership Conference. Here, you can participate in keynote speaker sessions and network with other EMBA students and Carson College of Business alumni and faculty. By the end of the conference, you can feel confident about your ability to move forward in your career and gain potential leads on job opportunities in the near future.

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business Executive MBA Online program can prepare you to become a strong, influential leader in whatever business ventures you opt to pursue. Contact Washington State for more information on the program.


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Fuel to propel your advancement, Executive MBE Council

EMBA Career Paths Are Becoming More Diverse, AccessMBA

Moving with the times — 75 years of the EMBA, Financial Times

Industry insights, EMBAC

The Executive MBA Council and LinkedIn Team Up to Measure Return on Education for Executive MBA Graduates, EMBAC news release

EMBA no longer just a corporate degree as entrepreneurs sign up, Financial Times

Executive MBA: Boost a Career While Working, US News

Irene Kraus, 74, Nun Who Led Big Nonprofit Hospital Chain, New York Times

Project Management Specialist, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Executive Secretaries, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training and development manager, Bureau of Labor Statistics

EMBA salary, PayScale