In 2007, Steve Greenspon yearned to run his own business, but worried he lacked some of the requisite skills—despite working in the business world since graduating from Northwestern University in 1991. He turned to his alma mater for help, enrolling in the Kellogg School of Business's executive M.B.A. program. Because he was venturing out on his own, Greenspon was forced to finance his $130,000 education, but he doesn't question the investment.
He now serves as CEO of Honey-Can-Do International, which sells home storage products online. He started the company while taking classes in the E.M.B.A. program and credits the teamwork and leadership skills he honed there for making it possible to lead a company with 40 employees and offices in the U.S. and China. "From every class [at Kellogg], I've applied something to my business," Greenspon says. "I've never had a single day of regret about [enrolling] in the program or spending the money on it; I've never had any sort of buyer's remorse."
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Numerous other E.M.B.A. graduates are likely echoing that sentiment. Recent surveys indicate that the degree is in demand among employers; students are applying in record levels; and salaries continue to climb rapidly despite past years' economic tumult. The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, tracks applicant data annually. The group's 2010 Application Trends Survey, which reflects data collected in 2009, notes that 59 percent of E.M.B.A. programs experienced an increase in the size of their applicant pool, while only 41 percent of full-time M.B.A. programs saw an increase in application volume.
Michelle Sparkman-Renz, GMAC's director of research communications, notes that companies in industries like energy, manufacturing, and healthcare are placing an increased impetus on business acumen in their corporate culture and subsequently are investing more in their employees' business educations. "In the economic recovery you're seeing a more diverse selection of sectors looking for business talent and the talent thinking that this credential will put them in a position of power in their company."
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The rise in applicant volume can also be attributed simply to age and experience, says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive M.B.A. Council, an association of more than 200 colleges and universities that administer more than 300 programs. The programs target older students, typically already employed, who want assistance ascending the final steps of the corporate ladder. The average age of E.M.B.A. students in 2010 was 37.1, according to Executive M.B.A. Council data, and these older students turned to the degree as a safe haven from the brutal investment world and to keep pace with younger employees that are increasingly entering the workforce with advanced degrees, Desiderio claims.