Executive MBA vs MBA: what’s the big difference? Which one is better? While there is virtually no difference in the value of these degrees, the largest differences come down to eligibility and what kind of you want to have post-graduation. Each degree is targeted at a specific type of applicant, and the one which will have the biggest pay off for you depends on your profile and experience. In this blog, we’ll look at the differences and similarities between the executive MBA and MBA programs, and how to decide which one is the better fit for your career goals.
Listen to the blog!
Interested in pursuing an MBA? You may have come across the Executive MBA (EMBA) program while researching potential MBA programs, and you’re now wondering which program is the better fit for you.
In the broadest terms, there is not much difference between these two degrees in terms of value. They are both graduate level business degrees designed to prepare you for the next stage of your career and give you a comprehensive education in business. But, they are uniquely designed for different types of applicants, and the potential value they can give you will depend on and where you are at in your current career path.
All MBA programs are open to professional applicants across industries and business specialties, but the key differences lie in the programs’ purpose, eligibility, cost and schedule. It’s also worth noting that many business schools offer both the MBA and EMBA degrees, but will have different and eligibility for each.
Here are a few notable differences between the Executive MBA and traditional MBA:
How to Decide Whether Executive MBA or MBA is Right for You
But whether one of these programs is right for you, and which one is the better choice, may come down to more than your level of experience or position.
For example, you may have 10 years of experience in your field but you’ve decided to switch careers. An Executive MBA will not add any value for you; however it is common for MBA applicants to use the traditional program to change careers and gain some experience in a new industry.
Perhaps you have many years of leadership experience in an upper management position, but you want to move into an executive position. An Executive MBA would bring far more value to your goals than a standard MBA.
Before you decide on which program is right for you, consider some of the following points and ask yourself some important questions. If you decide that the traditional MBA is the better choice, it’s a good idea to find out for you.
- Why do I want to pursue an MBA?
- Which curriculum better suits my career goals and experience?
- Am I interested in a specialized MBA degree?
- Will my company or employer sponsor my MBA? If not, how will I pay for my degree?
- Am I hoping to switch careers or move up in my current position?
- Do I plan to leave my current job or stay on?
- for me?
Once you’ve given these questions some thought, scroll down to explore some of the key differences between the EMBA and MBA programs, which will help you make the final decision.
List of Top Executive MBA Programs in the US
- MIT Sloan School of Management
- University of Chicago Booth School of Business
- UCLA Anderson School of Business
- Columbia Business School
- Yale School of Management
- SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University
- McDonough School of Business
- Duke University School of Business
- Tuck School of Business
- Ross School of Business
List of Top Executive MBA Programs in Canada
- University of Toronto: Rotman School of Management
- McGill University: Desautels Faculty of Management
- Queen’s University: Smith School of Business
- University of Western Ontario: Richard Ivey Business School
- York University: Schulich School of Business
- University of Alberta: Alberta School of Business
- Concordia University: John Molson School of Business
- McMaster University: DeGroote Business School
- University of Calgary: Haskayne School of Business
- Saint Mary’s University: Sobey School of Business
- University of Ottawa: Telfer School of Management
EMBA vs. MBA Structure
If you’re curious , both the EMBA and MBA are typically 2 years long. This timeline can vary a bit depending on the school, and whether the MBA is online or in-person. For example, some EMBA programs are 20-months long, while others are “accelerated” programs and extremely short.
The traditional MBA is most often a full-time program, meaning most students take a full course load and don’t work while they are pursuing their studies. There are and online MBA programs with a self-paced program, but in general expect that you won’t be able to work while you attend courses. In the summer months of a typical MBA program, you’ll also be working through an .
Executive MBA students usually continue to work full-time while they earn their degree. Classes are offered on a nights and weekend schedule, like a part-time MBA program. There is no internship requirement and classes are structured around your work schedule.
EMBA vs. MBA Curriculum and Electives
The curriculum for both the executive MBA and MBA are quite similar, with a strong focus on business strategy, analysis, leadership, communication and management. However, the EMBA will have a stronger emphasis on business leadership, strategy and analysis at the executive level to match the expected level of experience and knowledge of admitted students.
In traditional MBA programs, there are many options for electives, specialized MBAs and dual degree programs, such as an dual degree. Executive MBAs do not have specialized degrees or many options for electives since the EMBA is already a more specific program.
There are, however, Executive Global MBA programs out there for applicants who want to enter the world of international business at the executive level!
EMBA vs. MBA Cost
The EMBA is slightly more expensive than the traditional MBA. While this might be considered a negative, it’s also more common for employers to sponsor you to get an EMBA over the traditional MBA. This is because there is an expectation that you’ll bring the skills and knowledge you gain from an EMBA program to your current company, and that you’ll continue to work there while you attend classes.
EMBA vs. MBA Eligibility
This means you’re work experience needs to demonstrate an increasing level of knowledge, skill and responsibility over the years. In other words, your resume should show that you were promoted, completed additional training or professional development, were awarded more responsibility at work, took on new projects and so on. You’ll also need to prove strong leadership and management experience for at least 2 years. If you haven’t managed a team or project, this could be a significant weakness on your MBA application.
On the other side, most MBA programs require only 3-4 years of work experience to apply. Some don’t require any work experience and accept students straight out of their undergraduate degree.
If you’re a new grad or have just started your career, the traditional MBA may be the better fit for you. This program can still benefit you even if your goal is to reach an executive position. Or, you can choose to wait until you’ve gained some more experience and ask your employer if they will sponsor you for an EMBA program.
EMBA vs. MBA Application
EMBAs and MBAs have virtually the same application processes, although again, these can vary depending on the business school.
As an example, an EMBA program might ask you to write on different than the traditional MBA at the same school. If you interview for an EMBA program, you might be asked a greater number of than normal, because the admissions committee wants to hear about your experiences and how you would handle certain situations. Some EMBA and , but you might be required to take the test if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
For any MBA program, you can expect any of these to be required application components:
- Official transcripts
- 2 Letters of recommendation
- MBA resume or required years of work experience
- MBA interview
It’s possible that the decision of whether you should pursue an executive MBA or MBA might come down to your own level of experience and career goals. Or, it may be a question of cost and funding your degree. It may even depend on your location and whether you want to apply to an online program or attend the MBA program closest to you.
If you’re not sure of which one to choose, can help you narrow down which programs are best for you. Remember that both programs can add value to your career, but it may come down to your personal preferences and goals over which one is “better”.
1. Is Executive MBA or MBA better?
Both the Executive MBA and MBA are virtually the same, with neither one being more valuable or impressive than the other. Which program you choose will depend on your level of experience, the admission requirements, your career goals and which program is the best fit for you.
2. Is an Executive MBA as good as an MBA?
Yes, they are virtually the same degree, with some differences in curriculum, purpose, cost and the admission requirements.
3. Does GPA matter for Executive MBA?
In general, your GPA isn’t the most important part of your application for an Executive MBA program. Most programs are more interested in your work experience, your interview performance and your admission essays. However, a very low GPA may require an explanation or bring up questions during your interview.
4. Do you need GMAT for Executive MBA?
Some Executive MBA programs do not require the GMAT to be admitted. However, if you are applying to an EMBA without a bachelor’s degree, you may be asked to submit GMAT scores to demonstrate academic readiness. Or, you might choose to submit GMAT scores to offset a low undergraduate GPA or boost your application.
5. What is the average age for an Executive MBA?
The average age of EMBA applicants is around 35-38 years. For traditional MBA applicants, the average applicant age is 25-29 years.
6. How long is an Executive MBA?
Most Executive MBA programs are 2 years long, though there are some that are a little shorter or “accelerated”.
7. How much does an Executive MBA cost?
Executive MBA programs tend to cost a little more than traditional MBAs, at around $150,000+ including tuition, fees and student costs. On average, full-time MBA programs cost $70,000, and over $100,000 at top business schools.
8. Am I eligible for Executive MBA?
Executive MBA programs tend to have stricter admission requirements. Most notably, applicants usually need to have at least 10 years of progressive work experience in order to be considered eligible.