Online learning, women seeking Executive MBAs rise

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to push business leaders seeking education to remote instruction

Distance learning options for Executive MBA programs have increased substantially since 2019 and female enrollment has increased to its highest level in 2020, according to new data being reported by the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), the non-profit academic association that represents business industry leaders.

In an annual survey done of its members, EMBAC says that online executive education programs being offered in some form by institutions jumped from 55.3% to nearly 74% year over year, largely fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic but also serving business leaders who are increasingly looking for more flexible options.

“While the percentage of schools offering some form of distance learning has been increasing slightly each year since 2016, the big jump from 2019 to 2020 is evidence that EMBA programs responded quickly to the impact of the pandemic,” said Michael Desiderio, executive director of EMBAC.

More than 90% of schools that have EMBA programs deliver course materials electronically and more than 75% purchases cases electronically, according to the EMBAC. Those are both significant jumps from previous years.

One of the most significant numbers released by the EMBAC is the increase in women looking to further their careers. Enrollment for 2020 reached 32%, which has made a steady climb up from 29.7% in 2016. However, one gap that still exists between men and women is in the funding for EMBA programs from employers, with 54% of women saying they receive no assistance, compared with 51.4% for men.

The EMBAC also reported that although the cost of programs has remained steady at just under $83,000, the amount of students who must pay fully for them has risen from 41% in 2016 to 54%. Still, with the need to boost career skills, those students – who average 38 years old and have almost 15 years of experience, including nine in management roles – are showing increased interest.

“Despite the challenges brought about by the current global pandemic, the value of EMBA programs has never been higher,” said Desiderio. “Executive MBA programs equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate times of uncertainty. And while working professional education programs have certainly been impacted by the coronavirus, the amount of inquiries, completed applications received, and applications accepted have trended slightly upward since 2016.”

The EMBAC also noted two other important trends in its report, which includes more than 85% of the 200 colleges and universities that have programs:

  • The two industries with the highest representation are healthcare/pharma/biotech (12.7%) and technology (9.8%).
  • Full sponsorships have fallen from 22.5% in 2016 to 18% in 2020.

Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for University Business. He can be reached at

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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