MBA vs. Executive MBA: An Overview

For many people, the deciding factor between picking a standard, full-time MBA vs. a part-time executive MBA (EMBA) comes down to how best to juggle classes with the responsibility of a day job. In addition, many mid-career professionals will choose the executive MBA because they don't want to or can't stop working, and the program is better geared towards their life stage.

Beyond the difference in full and part-time programming, the main trade-off between the two types of programs is the less-immersive experience of pursuing an executive MBA. While that doesn't mean that EMBA candidates still won't learn a lot and make connections, there is something to be said about the full-time immersion of a traditional MBA program. So, 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.

It's important to note that neither an MBA nor 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.

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MBA Vs Executive MBA: Which Is Better?

Key Takeaways

  • The main cited difference between an MBA and an Executive MBA is the level of immersion in the graduate school experience and the customization of classes towards a more experienced group of individuals.
  • 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, though this can lead to less interaction on campus.

MBA

A traditional MBA program 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 prospective students are usually required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as part of the admissions process.

Full-time MBA students have full-time, 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 or more of managerial experience. The average age of students is 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 on 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: EMBA vs. MBA

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! However, along with someone else covering your tuition, EMBA candidates also receive a full salary.

Companies that cover MBA tuition costs tend 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 company 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 local schools in the area.