Executive MBA vs. MBA: what’s the difference?

Executive MBA vs. MBA: what’s the difference?

Are you thinking about going to graduate from business school? You may find yourself asking whether you should pursue an MBA or an EMBA (Executive MBA) and what really is the difference. People may choose to further their business education at different points in their careers, and most universities and business schools offer both programs to accommodate the students’ varying needs. To figure out which one suits you best, it’s essential to know the key differences between an Executive MBA vs. MBA.

Note: the MBA and executive MBA programs result in exactly the same degree. While the program names differ, the content is consistent across the programs. Some business schools may decide to distinguish between the two, but most top universities do not.

Below are some differences between MBA and EMBA you should know:

1. The curriculum

Most business schools offer a core curriculum that covers foundational business knowledge that a student will need to become a successful management professional. While some schools offer well-rounded but less flexible curricula that school management feels are fundamental to optimal business education, others offer flexible curricula that allow room for students to customize their education according to their interests and needs. Some MBA programs require students to complete an internship at an organization or company, which can lead to job opportunities upon graduation. 

The curriculum for an EMBA is similar to that of an MBA in the most basic ways. However, comparing Executive MBA vs. MBA., the former offers more mandatory modules taken at a faster pace. Moreover, most EMBA programs expect students to complete a real-time strategic project at the end of the program.

2. Student profile

Executive MBAs are tailored for professionals who are 10-15 years into their careers. Most students have held managerial roles for several years, and some are entrepreneurs or business owners. The age of most EMBA students is 32-38 years.

MBA students are generally younger, their average age being 24-28 years. Most are young in their careers, having worked for an average of two to five years. It may not always be the case, but most business schools require at least two years of work experience for admission into the program.

3. Time required

Comparing Executive MBA vs. MBA., conventional MBA programs come in many variations. Many business schools offer a variety of options to accommodate the scheduling demands of all students. The most serious time commitment is the full-time MBA. Full-time MBA students attend school full-time, live on or near campus and take a 100% in-person course load. The students do not usually hold full-time jobs while pursuing their degrees.

Some conventional MBA programs are offered part-time, evening, or fully online to enable working professionals to fit their studies into their schedules.

Executive MBA programs usually schedule classes for Friday nights or weekends. EMBA students usually hold a significant number of professional responsibilities as well as personal responsibilities. They are usually scheduled with as little class time as possible. Students may live near campus or commute, but usually, not on campus.

Both MBA and EMBA usually have a program length of two years, but EMBA classes tend to be more intensive than MBA classes. This is mainly because the condensed nature of the program means that more information is packed into one class. Since the students usually enter the program with more work experience, it usually generates higher level, more intense discussions making the classes even more intensive.  

4. Admission requirements

MBA and EMBA programs usually have high admission requirements but vary from school to school. The schools look at applicants’ professional achievements, academic profiles, and personal characteristics. For both programs, the schools expect the same basic requirements during your application. They include a bachelor’s degree in any field, academic transcripts, a resume, an essay, letters of recommendation, and an application fee.  

A regular MBA typically requires an applicant to have a GRE or GMAT score in addition to letters of recommendation from supervisors or academic advisors. Work experience is not mandatory for most programs, but at least two years of work experience is preferred.

Unlike MBA students, EMBA students start the program with an average of 15 years of work experience, often almost nine or ten of those years in managerial positions. To apply, some of the programs require five to seven years of work experience. Since most applicants have many years of proven work experience, some of the programs deem standardized tests (GMAT and GRE) optional. Some applicants choose to take the Executive assessment, as it is less demanding and better suited for potential students with career experience.

Because of the intensive structure of the EMBA, in addition to the letters of recommendation, some schools will require an applicant to have a letter of endorsement from the employer. The letter assures that the employer supports the applicant’s academic pursuits and will offer some degree of flexibility when it is most needed.

5. The cost

Looking at Executive MBA vs. MBA. in terms of study cost, the cost of an MBA or EMBA can vary greatly from school to school. Some schools will charge tens of thousands of dollars, and some will charge more than 200 000 USD. Within the same school, there will be some price differences between EMBA and MBA in tuition and fees.

From a more general point, EMBAs are often pricier than MBAs. Most EMBA students are usually financially stable, and some are funded by their employers. The programs usually involve regular air travel, costly hotel accommodations, and high-end restaurant networking meetings, among other expenses. Put all these costs together, which could come to over $200 000. Some business schools may charge this in an all-inclusive package.

At some of the most expensive business schools in the world, the cost of a regular MBA can come close to this. However, there are numerous opportunities to access outstanding business education at a small fraction of this cost. Some of these even include opportunities for scholarships. Public Universities may offer lower fees for in-state students.

6. Value of the program

Most universities confer the same degree for both MBA and EMBA programs. So, the two are exactly the same on your resume and on paper.

However, one significant difference is the kind of network students acquire throughout the programs. If you are looking to have a more interactive student experience, then you should certainly go for a full-time MBA. Since you will be living on or near campus, you will have many opportunities for other activities such as clubs, sports, conferences, etc. You will also have opportunities to interact and network with students in other programs while at the same time establishing a tightly-knit social unit with your classmates as you will be working together daily.

On the contrary, because EMBA programs are much more condensed, the students are usually sectioned into cohorts. In an EMBA program, you may be taking classes with the same group of people for the entire program duration. There will be much less, if any, interaction with the larger student body, and the interaction within your cohort is limited to weekends.

The relationships between students in EMBA programs may not become very close, but networking, formally and informally, is still key to the EMBA experience and will definitely be beneficial to your future career.

Furthermore, the career services the schools offer to EMBA students will likely be different from those offered to MBA students. MBA students may participate in career fairs on campus or recruiting events intended for people earlier in their careers. EMBA candidates are usually looking to advance further in their established line of work, the students are more likely to receive services such as executive coaching targeted towards later-stage advancement in careers. Over 80 percent of EMBA programs offer this service. 

Other alternatives

If you are ready to start pursuing your business degree, you do not have the required professional experience for an EMBA, and you want to maintain a full-time job during your degree program, consider looking into online and part-time programs. Part-time and online programs offer flexible schedules, and you will still achieve the same career goals. Since the classes will be more in line with full-time MBA programs, it might take longer to complete your degree, depending on how many classes you can attend per week or semester. It could take three to five years to complete your program, depending on how much time you can commit.

Are you thinking about pursuing an MBA? The first thing you should do is research the various types of programs and determine which one suits you best at this time. Look up the various business schools and universities to see which aligns best with your needs and abilities. An MBA or an EMBA is an investment; like all investments, consider the value it will add to you personally and in your career. Simply put, what will be the ROI?

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