The programs do require sacrifice, given that the typical E.M.B.A. student will take classes on weekends for about two years, forsaking the little free time they have after completing already demanding workweeks. "Where were they going to invest these last few years? You couldn't invest in real estate, you couldn't invest in the stock market, but you could invest in yourself and hopefully you could control that return," says Desiderio. "[But], someone looking to get an M.B.A. that thinks this is the easy way to do it is going to be sorely disappointed."
Salaries, along with demand, have risen. According to a 2010 Executive M.B.A. Council survey E.M.B.A. students' salaries jumped by 11.4 percent from $127,955 to $142,534, on average, from the time they entered an E.M.B.A. program until their graduation—this is up from the 9.4 percent hike reported in the 2009 survey.
Desiderio notes that the salary inflation can be attributed in part to companies incentivizing their best employees to pursue E.M.B.A.s by rewarding performance with E.M.B.A. funding. In 2006, 35 percent of E.M.B.A. students got full funding from companies. That figure fell to 30 percent this year, highlighting companies' increasing reticence to fund average employees who seek advanced degrees.
"Companies are being more selective with who they send, and as a result, there's a higher percentage of people who are going to come out of it doing well," says Desiderio.
[Find out how to get into business school from admissions officials.]
Though E.M.B.A. salaries continue to climb and new industries are sending workers to programs, GMAC expects the growth to be curtailed this year. The volume of GMAT test takers who indicated they plan on applying to an E.M.B.A. program fell by 19 percent from 2009 to 2010, but still remains at a relatively high level, according to Sparkman-Renz of GMAC. "I think there's going to be a mixed picture," she says. "It's softening slightly, but E.M.B.A. programs are still popular."
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