MBA vs. Executive MBA: Which One Is Right for You?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 17, 2021 | Published September 25, 2020

Updated November 17, 2021

Published September 25, 2020

Pursuing a higher education like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or executive MBA degree can be an excellent investment to set you apart from other candidates. It also expands your professional network. In this article, we explain what MBA and executive MBA degrees are, their differences and how to choose which one is best for you.

What is an MBA?

A Master of Business Administration is a general graduate business degree that focuses on technical, managerial and leadership skills. It also teaches other core business topics like finance, marketing and business operations.

Depending on your level of commitment and if you’re employed full or part time, an MBA can take approximately two years to complete.

Related: What Can You Do With an MBA? (Plus Tips and Steps)

What is an executive MBA?

An executive MBA, also known as an “EMBA,” is geared toward a professional who is already working and established in their field. Unlike an MBA, which prioritizes foundational business concepts, an EMBA focuses on more advanced concepts such as how to be more effective in your current role and career advancement.

Typically, it takes about two to three years to complete which is often longer than the time it takes to complete a traditional MBA because the student is often also working part or full time.

Read more: Executive MBA: Definition and Benefits

What are the differences between an MBA vs. EMBA?

While an MBA and EMBA are the same graduate degree level, there are differences between the two formats. An MBA usually prepares you to enter a management career while the EMBA teaches a current leader how to be a more effective manager. Here are other differences between an MBA and EMBA:

Curriculum

Students in full-time MBA and EMBA programs typically complete the same number of credit hours. However, EMBA students don't pick a major but instead choose electives—including some in other countries—for their second year. MBA students can personalize their training to satisfy their desired career pursuits and goals. They can specialize in areas like finance, entrepreneurship or marketing.

Students who choose an EMBA program often do not have to complete internships because their work experience counts towards that requirement, but it will depend on the curriculum and accrediting school.

Related: 14 of the Highest-Paid MBA Majors (With Descriptions)

Requirements

MBA and EMBA programs share the same guidelines for admission. Both programs require candidates to take a Graduate Management Test (GMAT) or a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The EMBA program will also accept the Executive Assessment (EA) for candidates with at least 10 to 15 years of full-time work experience. Typically students admitted into the full-time program will have around four years of relevant work experience.

Format

The full-time MBA program will typically run weekly throughout a semester with the summer off between the first and the second year. The second year is typically dedicated to internships.

The EMBA program is planned for working professionals and will typically hold classes in the evenings or weekends. There may be several extended sessions to help complete the coursework.

Cost

Tuition for MBA and EMBA programs can be comparable. However, choosing to be a full-time MBA student may cost more in living expenses if you are living away from home. EMBA students typically attend programs in the cities where they work and live.

Choosing between an MBA and EMBA

When choosing between an MBA and EMBA, you need to review your personal and professional goals. Also, look at the time and resources you have available to commit to pursuing a degree. The choice will ultimately come down to your schedule and budget.

Related: Is an MBA Worth It?

Here are some things to think about when choosing between an MBA and EMBA:

Employment

The most common reason for choosing an EMBA is that you already have an established career. If you're working full time, an EMBA program usually has the flexibility to better fit your work schedule. There are convenient times for classes like during evenings and on the weekends. There may also be an option for online distance learning.

If you aren’t employed, an MBA might be an option, so you can focus your time and energy on finishing your graduate degree. For example, Steve would like to obtain a master's degree in business now that he’s earned a bachelor’s degree. Since he doesn't have a job, he decides that pursuing an MBA full-time would be best for his career path.

Related: What Can You Do with No Experience and an MBA?.

Financing your education

Your financial situation could be a deciding factor in your graduate degree program selection. If you are unemployed, you might consider pursuing a loan or financial aid while you seek an MBA. If you are employed, your employer may help pay for your EMBA degree. Many businesses offer incentives or reimbursements for employees to earn an advanced degree. This is a great way for businesses to invest in their employees.

For example, Susan works in a marketing firm’s accounting department. She has been a full-time employee for 15 years and now is considering pursuing her master's degree. During an annual review, her supervisor tells her that their organization offers incentives—paying 60% of tuition—for employees to advance their education.

In return for their financial assistance, companies often require a few years' commitment after you earn your degree so you must be willing to stay with the organization in return.

Related: How To Find a Company That Will Pay for Your MBA

Duration and pace

In most cases, pursuing an advanced degree is possible no matter what your schedule looks like personally or professionally. A traditional MBA program is designed for students who can dedicate their attention to education full time as it is an intensive curriculum. However, it takes less time to earn a master’s degree since the pace of an MBA program is faster than an EMBA.

For students who work full time or have personal responsibilities, the pace of an EMBA is more accommodating. You can take classes online, during the evenings or weekends but it will take longer than a traditional MBA program to complete.

For example, John has a full-time job and wants to pursue a master's degree. He also has a wife and two children and wants to make sure he has time for them. He has decided to enroll in an EMBA program with online learning so he can balance his work and home life.

Related: FAQ: How Will an MBA Help My Career?

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