MBA vs. Executive MBA: An Overview

For many people, the deciding factor between picking a standard MBA vs. an executive MBA comes down to how best to juggle classes with the responsibility of a day job. Many will choose the executive MBA because they don't want to or can't stop working.

The trade-off between the two types of programs is often cited as the lack of a immersive experience of graduate school in the executive MBA. However, that doesn't mean you'll learn a lot and make connections. If both the MBA and EMBA are accredited, which is more impressive and which is the better choice? Read on to find out the main differences between the two and, more importantly, which is likely to matter more to you in your career.

Neither an MBA or an EMBA guarantees job security. However, both should equip a student with important skill sets, a valuable business network, and some prestige that comes with a higher degree; the preference ultimately comes down to the student's flexibility in timing and money.

MBA

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is generally a two-year program, stretched out to three or four years if students choose to go part-time. Essentially a general management degree, an MBA doesn't require applicants to have professional work experience, but they usually must take the GMAT as part of the admission process to a school.

Full-time MBA students have full-day, intensive schedules, making it tough to maintain a job outside the program. In addition to core business-basics classes, MBAs can specialize in such areas as finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship, and they can usually choose when to take a class.

Executive MBA

An EMBA, or an Executive Master of Business Administration, is also a two-year program, but it's aimed at business executives with five years’ managerial experience. The average age of students ranges from 32 to 38 years old. However business rock stars—prodigies, fast-climbers, valuable executives that the company wants to hang onto, and maybe a real-life rock star or two—may not have to put in that much time. EMBA students keep their full-time jobs and typically attend classes on Fridays and the weekends. 

EMBA students face faster-paced classes, but they cover the same material. Programs offer fewer electives, and they’re designed so that students take most classes, if not all, with the same classmates. This is great for networking but not so great if you can’t stand working with the others you're grouped with. 

Key Differences

With an MBA, tuition’s on you, though it usually costs a bit less than the EMBA. In the top ten business schools, expect the total cost to be more than $150,000.

For an EMBA, an employer usually pays most if not all tuition costs. (After all, they’re benefiting from the new skills their managers are learning.) And along with someone else covering your tuition, you’re also receiving full salary.

A company tends to require a few years’ commitment after you finish the degree, so you must be willing to make that time commitment and stick to the career for a bit.

In terms of location, with an MBA you can attend classes at whichever school you get into and choose. For an EMBA, if you're working at your job, you're limited to area schools.

Key Takeaways

  • The trade-off between an MBA and Executive MBA is often cited as the lack of a immersive experience of graduate school in the executive MBA.
  • Full-time MBA students have full-day, intensive schedules, making it tough to maintain a job outside the program.
  • Executive MBA students keep their full-time jobs and typically attend classes on Fridays and the weekends.