Executive MBA Programs (EMBA): Your Alternate Path to Management Education

executive mba program

The world’s too big for everyone to take the same route to success. Isn’t that cool? It means that you can always turn your path toward earning a graduate management credential and the opened doors and heightened expectations that come after obtaining an MBA degree.

Many professionals take the first steps toward success in the workplace, putting in the time to gain skills, recognition and promotion. Once you’ve reached the director level, you don’t want to go back to school full-time. You’d be out-of-step with traditional b-school students who lack your years, workplace experience and practical confidence.

When you’re looking to take your career to new heights, rather than trying to get started with a foot in the door, an executive MBA program (EMBA) gives you the respect you deserve and the flexibility you need. A graduate degree from the best EMBA programs or top online EMBA programs is no less prestigious than a traditional MBA.

What is an EMBA? Top EMBA programs are designed for working corporate executives and senior managers. You can keep working full-time while earning your EMBA, and your work experience and business knowledge help you succeed in your EMBA coursework. Your classes will most likely be a mix of evening, online and weekend sessions, completed over the course of up to two years.

Let the MBA admissions professionals at The MBA Exchange be your guides to the process of getting into top EMBA programs or top online EMBA programs and setting your sights on a higher path.

What is an executive MBA (EMBA)?

The first question to answer: what is an EMBA? An executive MBA (EMBA) is a postgraduate curriculum that covers the basic components of management – finance, operations, marketing, strategy, human resources and more.

In addition, EMBAs offer courses focused on current theories and issues faced by senior managers. Many top EMBA programs also include leadership and interpersonal skills development opportunities.

EMBA programs are typically designed for completion within 1-2 years through a combination of bi-monthly 2-3 day weekend sessions, ongoing Internet-based learning, a few weeks (usually in summer) of study on-campus and sometimes a field-study or industry tour outside the country.

Currently, there are more than 200 EMBA programs worldwide offered by accredited universities. The EMBA should not be confused with an “eMBA,” which is primarily a distance-learning program usually offered by non-accredited institutions.

Who should consider an EMBA?

Most EMBA students work full-time and range in age from their early 30s into their 50s. These individuals are typically on a fast-track to senior or executive management but lack the formal education to qualify for broader responsibilities. They need more training and a wider perspective to advance beyond their current role.

The cost for an EMBA education ranges significantly, but the best EMBA programs charge about the equivalent to a traditional full-time MBA at the same universities. Those considering this path usually seek some financial support from their employer. The payback can take years, so this is an investment that merits serious consideration.

Understanding the executive MBA program

So how exactly does an EMBA program differ from a traditional MBA? And how does that differ when you’re looking at top online EMBA programs? Get the details to understand the big picture of what top EMBA programs offer, and ask, of you.

Executive MBA courses & curriculum

What is an EMBA experience typically like? EMBA curriculums typically combine core study with electives and optional majors, putting you in rigorous collaborative and even potentially global learning environments.

As one example, the top-tier EMBA program at UPenn’s Wharton School includes core courses in leadership essentials, analytic foundations and business foundations. 

  • In the Wharton EMBA program’s second year you gain global experience and continue to learn through a selection of more than 200 elective graduate courses. 
  • If it boosts your goals, you can declare a major like finance, health care management or marketing.

What does an executive MBA learn?

During an EMBA program you learn updated skills to support your career growth. Depending on the choices you make, you could focus your study on management skills, finance knowledge, a deeper understanding of global commerce or even the rigors and challenges of entrepreneurship.

How long does an executive MBA take?

An EMBA program typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Two years can be seen as standard. 

  • EMBA courses, tutorials and collaborative study time are scheduled in the off-hours of the business day, using evenings and weekends for graduate management education and leaving your workweek clear for business. 
  • Ongoing online learning opportunities keep you flexible and engaged throughout your course of study.

Types of executive MBA

Different types of EMBA programs offer unique experiences and targeted instruction. In addition to in-person EMBA programs, you have other options you should know about when choosing the right MBA program for you. What are the best EMBA programs for you?

Online executive MBA

Many top-tier institutions offer online EMBA programs that you can complete from any location in the world.https://fortune.com/education/business/mba/rankings/best-online-mba-programs/ The best online EMBA programs work well for prospective students who wish to study internationally and those looking for maximum flexibility.

Specialist executive MBA

A specialist MBA may be a good match for you if your experience dovetails with your future career goals. Specialist MBAs cover specific areas, tailoring learning and instruction to the unique at-the-moment needs of industries like the oil and gas sector. Courses are often taught by subject experts with high standing in the subfield.

EMBA benefits

Achieving a credential from top EMBA programs improves your career prospects and earnings expectations. What is an EMBA worth for you in terms of your career development?

Executive MBA Jobs Prospects

Most EMBA graduates stay in the same industry, seeing salary gains and promotion to higher leadership roles within 2-3 years of finishing an EMBA program.

EMBAs are ideal for people in middle management or director-level roles looking to rise to senior leadership levels and C-suite positions.

Executive MBA Salary: What can you earn?

What is an EMBA worth in terms of increased salary? According to the 2020 Executive MBA Council’s student exit survey, EMBA graduates can expect an average 14.1% increase in salary and bonuses. After graduation, the study notes that the average total compensation package of participants clocked in at $193,200.

Executive MBA Cost: Is an EMBA worth it?

The best EMBA programs and top online EMBA programs don’t come cheap. In a 2021 survey, Ivy Execs put the average cost of an EMBA program in the US at $75,000, with the average cost of a degree from a top-tier EMBA program at $133,000, almost double that rate.

However, if you have what it takes to compete at top EMBA programs, your ROI could be impressive. You have to use your judgement when deciding how to invest in your education and future career development.

Executive MBA pros and cons

In comparison to a traditional MBA, top EMBA programs or top online EMBA programs offer some clear pros – and a few cons. Review the situation in full before making your admissions decision – or get advice from the experts at The MBA Exchange!

In-person EMBA programs and the best online EMBA programs offer up-sides including:

  • Easier admissions to top-ranked programs, with less emphasis on prior education, GPA and standardized test scores like the GMAT™ and more focus on professional achievement and potential. (Learn more about preparing for the GMAT here).
  • The opportunity to continue working – and earning money — while attending classes.
  • Interaction with accomplished, motivated peers who are already managers, senior managers and business owners.
  • Class size tends to be smaller and more intimate, which can enhance learning and foster more dialogue with the instructors.
  • Faculty tend to be all-star veterans rather than rookies. The schools know that the pedigree of the profs is a major draw when corporations are picking up some or all of the tuition tab.

EMBA programs do come with some down-sides.

  • Coursework can sometimes be streamlined or diluted in order to emphasize higher level issues rather than basic learning.
  • You receive little or no support in terms of recruiting and career services; the assumption is that the student is already in his or her preferred organization or career path.
  • Lower recognition in the marketplace as a “credential”; this has prompted some institutions to rename their program as “MBA for Executives” or “Weekend MBA.”
  • Less bonding and interaction with classmates. The relative maturity of the EMBA students and the time span between class sessions don’t encourage the kind of camaraderie associated with full-time MBA programs.
  • Having the employer provide sponsorship and absorb some of the cost can constrain the student from seeking a better opportunity during or shortly after completing the program.

The EMBA path: an increasingly popular way to rise

Since 2015, EMBA program applications have increased by nearly 32%, according to the annual member survey of the Executive MBA Council. By opting for an EMBA you join others on this alternative but far from unambitious upward career development path.

To learn more about your EMBA admissions potential, and the best online EMBA programs and in-person EMBA programs for you, complete the free and confidential evaluation request form and start talking to top consultants at The MBA Exchange today.