MBA Programs

Understanding Executive MBA (EMBA) Programs: Should You Apply?

October 10 2023 By The MBA Exchange
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Today’s business world is too big for everyone to take the same route to success. Isn’t that cool? It means that you can always reorient your path toward earning a graduate management credential and attaining the opened doors and heightened expectations that come with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or an executive MBA (EMBA) degree. There’s really no standard path to the top. Everyone who makes it in finds their own way up through the crowd. 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. 

Understanding the Executive MBA Program

An Executive MBA (EMBA) is a postgraduate program that delves into core management disciplines like finance, operations, marketing, strategy, and human resources. Unlike a traditional MBA, which often requires full-time study, an EMBA is designed for working professionals, allowing them to balance their education with their career.

EMBA 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

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

How Long Does an EMBA take?

An EMBA program typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Two years can be seen as standard. However, an EMBA can take 2-6 years to complete. EMBA students target specific studies with flexible scheduling on a part-time basis. EMBA students also benefit from networking and international opportunities but may prefer more collaborative environments and smaller work groups.

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 Programs

Different types of EMBA programs offer unique experiences and targeted instruction. 

Online EMBA Programs

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

Specialist EMBA Programs

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.

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.

Benefits of an Executive MBA

Achieving an EMBA can significantly enhance your career prospects and salary potential. Networking with accomplished peers and learning from experienced faculty can provide invaluable connections and insights.

  1. Networking Opportunities: you can expect 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. Those are powerful connections to add to your portfolio!
  2. Career Prospects and Salary Expectations: Most EMBA graduates experience salary increases and promotions to higher leadership roles within a few years. According to the 2020 Executive MBA Council’s survey, EMBA graduates saw an average salary increase of 14.1%, with total compensation averaging $193,200 post-graduation.

Cost and Return on Investment

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 judgment when deciding how to invest in your education and future career development.  Those considering this path usually seek some financial support from their employer. The payback can take years, and may lock you into a career path, so this is an investment that merits serious consideration.

EMBA vs. MBA: Which is Right for You?

The decision between an MBA and an EMBA depends on where you are in your career. Traditional MBA programs suit those early in their careers, offering a full-time academic environment. In contrast, EMBA programs cater to established professionals seeking to advance to senior leadership roles without stepping back from their careers.

Ideal Candidates for EMBA 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

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.

Attributes of a Strong EMBA Candidate

Successful EMBA candidates demonstrate:

  • Career Progression: Clear documentation of career advancement.
  • Cross-Cultural Sensitivity: Ability to work productively with diverse groups.
  • Communication Skills: Strong verbal and written communication abilities.
  • Professionalism: Maintaining a professional demeanor throughout the application process.
  • Investment in the Program: A thorough understanding of the program and its requirements.

Top EMBA Programs

Of the around 200 EMBA programs available to you worldwide, which is best for your current experience and future career goals? You can check out online EMBA program rankings from sources like Fortune magazine, and consulting with an admissions consultant from The MBA Exchange can help you learn more about EMBA opportunities you might not have been aware of otherwise. 

Here are some of the top-tier EMBA programs that the team at The MBA Exchange has assisted candidates to target successfully.

Columbia Graduate School of Business

Columbia GSB offers EMBA students access to 150 full-time faculty, as well as more than a hundred adjunct faculty members with unique perspectives and leaders in industries from across the world. You also benefit from the Executives in Residence program, regular chances to connect with visiting business leaders and guest lecturers, and members of a global alumni network 48,000+ strong.

You need to be an impressive EMBA candidate to make it at Columbia. What’s a good GMAT score for you if you’re aiming for this program? The average EMBA student starting at Columbia has a 724 GMAT score and a $130,500 median base salary prior to enrolling. EMBA candidates come to Columbia from all over the world, with 90 countries represented in class diversity metrics.

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management

EMBA students at Northwestern Kellogg SOM can study at one of two locations within the United States (Miami, FL, and Evanston, IL), and can also take advantage of the Kellogg EMBA Global Network of five premier partner institutions around the world.

At Northwestern, executive students live and study on campus in specially-designed environments to stimulate growth, connection, and immersion. Northwestern boasts one of the most globally-oriented executive MBA networks out there.

University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business

At UC Berkeley Haas, EMBA students pursue a concentrated program of study that pays off with a degree in 22 months. Here’s how the EMBA program structure works. 25% of your EMBA curriculum is experiential, comprising a series of five field immersions. During on-campus study blocks, you reside in Berkeley’s Graduate Hotel with your classmates, taking time to collaborate and connect.

In the EMBA program at Berkeley Haas, terms 1-3 cover your core courses, leaving terms 4-5 free for elective pursuits. After 22 months at Berkeley Haas, you emerge with cross-disciplinary and collaborative experience and knowledge in areas like entrepreneurship and social impact.

Are You Ready for 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.

Find out if you’re ready to become an MBA or EMBA candidate this year, or if essential executive MBA candidate attributes still need to be fleshed out in your profile for admission success. It might be time to add needed experiences, leadership roles or credentials in preparation for application next year.Either way, get started now by submitting your free, confidential online profile evaluation request to the admissions experts at The MBA Exchange today, and discover how close an MBA or EMBA candidacy could be for you.