What Is an Executive MBA (EMBA)?

The Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) is a degree program that specifically targets corporate executives and managers who are already in the workforce. The EMBA program is similar to a regular full-time MBA in terms of content; except that it enables executives to work toward earning the EMBA degree while continuing to hold their existing full-time jobs. Typically, EMBA students are fairly senior in their fields and possess considerable work experience before entering the program.

Understanding the Executive MBA Program

The EMBA program is comprised of a mix of classroom teaching on evenings and weekends, online classes and tutorials, and occasional full-day workshops. Equivalent to a full-time MBA program in scope and requirements, an EMBA program can last as long as 24 months. Intensive modular classes to reinforce expertise and fill knowledge gaps are primary motivators for executives to embark on this program. They engage in core coursework in finance and accounting, operations management, strategic management, marketing, human resources, and other disciplines, and take specialized electives.

Students in EMBA programs come away with an enhanced skills base to advance their career prospects at their organizations, not to mention the credential of a master's degree and a new alumni network, which should never be underestimated in the working world. Because most of these executives are also working while earning their EMBAs, they are better positioned to apply the management techniques and best practices learned in the classroom to real-life situations than are traditional MBAs who are in school full-time.

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MBA Vs. Executive MBA: Which Is Better?

Types of EMBA Programs

There are numerous EMBA programs in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, in its 2018 ranking of EMBA programs, The Economist cites 65 universities that offer EMBAs and states that "these pricey programmes are more popular than ever." The Economist ranks the school's EMBA programs on broad measures like personal development, educational experience, and career development. As with the regular full-time MBA programs, these universities have a competitive admissions process.

This year, the Yale School of Management ranked number one, with top scores for pre-MBA salary, quality of faculty, culture, and classmates, and the helpfulness of its alumni network. UCLA/NUS Business School placed second, with high marks in similar categories, including its outstanding record of diversity, a high percentage of women students, and a wide geographical spread of students.

Northwestern (Kellogg)/WHU (Beisheim), which ranked number three, also had a wide geographical student base, as well as a large percentage of students who had been promoted or grown their own company since graduation. In fourth place, the University of California at Berkeley–Haas School of Business was cited as having a large percentage of full-time faculty with a Ph.D., and an excellent record of career progression.

Surely, there is no absence of fine EMBA programs from which to choose. It's important to research EMBA programs thoroughly to find the best school, program, and location for your particular needs. What is possibly more germane, however, is to understand whether pursuing an EMBA degree is the right path for you.

Is an EMBA Worth It?

The question of whether an EMBA degree program would be worthwhile for you depends on your personal set of requirements, career goals, basic needs, lifestyle, and so on. Generally, a good place to begin this investigation is by looking at the factors of time and money.

EMBA programs are not cheap and can cost as much as $200,000. So, whether you are paying out of your own pocket or being sponsored by your company, you should perform a basic return on investment (ROI) analysis to gauge if it is worthwhile financially. If you are working full-time and your company is footing the bill for your EMBA, then there would be no monetary opportunity cost; but the time consideration remains.

If you, as an executive, cannot travel to close a deal, meet with a client to develop new business, or stay late in the office to satisfy a pressing deadline because you need to attend a class or do homework instead, then there might, in fact, be a huge opportunity cost to you and your career. You must carefully review these and other criteria and include them as part of your cost-benefit analysis to help decide if an EMBA is the best choice for you.