EMBA vs MBA, Which is Right for You?

January 24 2023 By The MBA Exchange
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There are lots of emergent movers and shakers out there looking for the next step on their path to securing an elite resume and the type of high-level qualifications that lead to promotion, increased salary and more.

There’s really no standard path to the top – everyone who makes it in today’s business world finds their own way up through the crowd. That said, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or an executive MBA (EMBA) degree could provide you with a significant boost in professional performance and career trajectory.

So what’s the difference between MBA and executive MBA degrees? Full-time MBA programs at top business schools offer immersive, intensive learning environments that can change your path and life in impactful ways. EMBA programs offer more flexibility in scheduling, catering to a more established student who has already established themselves in a career.

Depending on where you are in your life trajectory and career path, either a traditional MBA or an EMBA could be the ideal option for you. When you’re considering the weighty question of executive MBA vs MBA, here are some points you want to reflect seriously on before making the right choice for you.

Difference between MBA and executive MBA programs

Both an MBA degree and an EMBA deliver the same proof of skill and capability, and both win you equal respect in the eyes of current or future employers. So, what’s the difference between an MBA vs an EMBA?

Mostly the difference between MBA and EMBA programs lies with you, the prospective student. MBA programs target younger students with less-developed career trajectories, while EMBA programs support working professionals. Depending on where you are in your life and career, an MBA or an EMBA may be better tailored to your experience, needs and goals.

Key points of difference between MBA and executive MBA programs

Consider these points when you’re deciding between MBA vs EMBA programs to guide you to the right type of business school experience.

Program length and pace

MBA students focus primarily on studies during a 1-2 year program. Full-time MBA students are often looking for an integrative, holistic educational journey, including plenty of networking opportunities and global exposure.

EMBA students target specific studies with flexible scheduling on a part-time basis. An EMBA can take 2-6 years to complete. EMBA students also benefit from networking and international opportunities, but may prefer more collaborative environments and smaller work groups.

MBA vs EMBA course curriculum

Core curriculum elements between EMBA vs MBA programs are pretty much the same: you study finance, accounting, management and other critical business knowledge and skill sets, including plenty of collaborative and international opportunities to get you in touch with the rest of the movers and the shakers.

Some business schools offer classes to EMBA students that aren’t available to traditional MBA students, as in the case of the EMBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Other MBA programs offer a wider range of course options to full-time students than EMBA students.

Lifestyle and networking opportunities in MBA or EMBA programs

MBA students are usually around age 28, young people getting started and looking around for the right place to plant themselves and grow.

In an EMBA program, your classmates will be established professionals with an average age of 38, giving you the chance as a group to accelerate learning and development, as well as valuable networking connections.

EMBA vs MBA tuition and costs

EMBA programs can cost upward of $100,000, and top programs may cost above $200,000. However, EMBA students continue working while admitted, and can pay as they go, reducing the burden of tuition and fees

As calculated at Poets and Quants, the cost of attending a top-25 two-year MBA program in the US comes in at an average of $195,416.

You may be able to seek financing or financial aid for MBA or EMBA study. MBA scholarships ease tuition burdens, and many EMBA students receive full or partial funding from employers who act as sponsors.

Return on investment (ROI)

An MBA or EMBA significantly boosts your likely earnings and promotion potential. Depending on whether you’re pursuing an MBA or an EMBA, what you’re looking at in terms of ROI may differ.

EMBA graduates are likely to already be employed long-term. Executives earning an EMBA can expect a notable salary bump, and many companies offer EMBA bonuses on graduation. On average, EMBA graduates received a 14.1% increase in compensation—including both salary and bonuses—after completing a program, according to the 2020 Executive MBA Council’s student exit survey. Students started the program earning an average salary and bonus package of $169,269, according to the survey. By graduation, that amount had risen to $193,200.

MBA graduates are typically earlier in their careers, so the numbers aren’t quite so dramatic. U.S. News & World Report places the average base salary and bonuses of 2020 graduates at $101,034. The National Association of Colleges and Employers project that MBA grads from the class of 2021 may see increased average starting salaries by 11.3% in comparison to 2020 grads.

Ideal candidates for EMBA and MBA programs

The ideal candidate for traditional MBA programs is looking for a full-time academic environment, and may not want to work at all while focusing on studies except during summer internships. MBA applicants typically have less job experience, with 2-4 years of full-time work experience under their belts on average.

In a key difference between MBA and executive MBA candidates, EMBA candidates have a more established professional presence. The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) estimates the average EMBA student has around 14 years of work experience, with about nine years at the management level. Hence, the term “executive” MBA vs MBA.

MBA vs EMBA admissions requirements

Because MBA and EMBA applicants stand at different parts of career and personal paths, with differing experiences and backgrounds, admissions requirements for EMBA vs MBA programs differ – although a low GPA or test score is a challenge for getting admitted to top degree programs either way.

MBA admissions requirements typically include:

  • A strong GPA, ideally of 3.5 or above for top programs
  • A GMAT or GRE score – target 700+ or 320+ for your scores
  • Admissions essays or interviews
  • An MBA resume showing around 3-5 years of prior work experience
  • At least one letter of recommendation

EMBA candidates face requirements including:

  • Demonstration of quality prior work experience
  • Standardized test scores, though with more wiggle room than available to traditional MBA applications – you may be able to submit an Executive Assessment (EA) score rather than a GMAT or GRE, or take an in-house test for your particular target program
  • College transcripts and your GPA, although a low GPA might not be as much of an issue for EMBA candidates
  • At least one letter of recommendation
  • Proof that you have your employer’s support to undertake your program of study

What type of students are MBAs and EMBAs for?

MBA and EMBA degrees are for dedicated, innovative and ambitious students. In both types of programs, you’ll need strong quantitative and qualitative skills, as well as the focus and drive to complete your graduate credential.

MBA students are getting started in their careers, with only a few years of full-time experience. If this is you, you’re probably looking for an immersive on-campus experience to show you the possibilities for you to meet your real potential, with lots of curricular – and extracurricular – opportunities for growth.

EMBA candidates are established in a career at the management or director level and want to take it to the top by handling work and study at the same time. You value efficiency and can benefit from close networking opportunities with other ambitious professionals.

How to choose between an MBA and an EMBA?

Choosing an MBA or EMBA program ultimately comes down to you as you are at this moment. Consider where you are in your career and where you want to be in the future when deciding between an executive MBA vs MBA degree. Depending on where you are in your career path, one option or the other may be right for you.

To find out how the MBA admissions professionals at The MBA Exchange rate your MBA or EMBA candidacy, request your free evaluation through our website today.