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Are You Choosing Between an MBA and an EMBA? Read This First.

Congratulations, you’re thinking of attending business school! While this is in itself a big decision, it’s only part of the equation. Another significant choice you’ll need to make along the way? Whether to pursue an MBA or an EMBA. Let’s take a closer look at these two degrees, along with how to select the one that’s right for you.

May 30, 2016
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Are You Choosing Between an MBA and an EMBA? Read This First.

Congratulations, you’re thinking of attending business school! While this is in itself a big decision, it’s only part of the equation. Another significant choice you’ll need to make along the way? Whether to pursue an MBA or an EMBA. Let’s take a closer look at these two degrees, along with how to select the one that’s right for you.

The 411 on MBAs
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree centers around developing key business management competencies. Offering a comprehensive, full-time program aimed at imbuing foundational business knowledge across accounting, finance, management and marketing, this degree is typically conferred following a two-year course of study, and is seen as a valuable stepping stone to increased employability.

MBA - Master of Business Administration, acronym business concep

The MBA degree first debuted in the United State in 1900, and is now the country’s most popular master’s degree. It has also caught on internationally and is now offered at higher education institutions around the world.

Many MBA applicants are in the early stages of their careers. In fact, most MBA programs do not require prior work experience, although GMAT scores are usually part of the admissions process.

The 411 on EMBAs
An EMBA, AKA an executive MBA, is also a graduate-level business degree and shares many things in common with regular MBA programs. However, while these two types of program are academically alike, they differ in both structure and delivery.

Business man and Growth Concept

Unlike MBAs, EMBAs are designed for current professionals with higher levels of work experience. Because of this, EMBA students are usually older (averaging between 32 and 38 years in age) and have already amassed significant managerial experience in the workforce. The EMBA curriculum may bypass basic management coursework and instead focus on executive leadership, strategic decision-making, and other essential info for mid-level managers aspiring toward CEO roles. However, there may also be less opportunity for specialization over the course of an EMBA program.

While the first EMBA was established more than 60 years ago in the U.S., the number of programs offered skyrocketed in the early 1980s resulting in the formation of the Executive MBA Council and a higher profile in both academia and the business world.

Key Differences Between the MBA and EMBA
The single-most differentiating factor between MBA and EMBA degrees pertains to format. While MBAs follow traditional academic hours and therefore leave little room for full-time employment, EMBAs are designed to be undertaken alongside full-time work and therefore offer flexible schedules with classes offered on the weekend and in the evenings. (This is not to say EMBAs aren’t intensive: programs may require between six and 12 weekly hours of class time along with 20-25 hours of additional weekly study time.)

Business Concept with Directions

MBAs and EMBAs also differ in terms of cost with the former typically costing more than the latter. But while the price tag may be higher for an MBA degree, most employers cover some or all of the cost -- in addition to continuing your usual paycheck -- as students are able to immediately begin generating ROI by applying newfound knowledge in the workforce. One caveat worth mentioning, however? Employers aren’t usually ready to pony up tuition without a demonstrated commitment to the company. In other words, remaining in your current position while you get your EMBA does involve geographical limitations you won’t find with a conventional MBA.

Addressing the Stigma
While it’s true that EMBA programs have sometimes been considered to be “MBA Lite” degrees, academics and students alike agree that this is far from the case in the contemporary business landscape. According to the Executive MBA Council, 43 percent of EMBA recipients received promotions following completion of their degrees while average pay increases for all EMBA degree recipients hovers around 23 percent. All in all, 97 percent of EMBAs report being “satisfied or more than satisfied” with the impact of their EMBAs on the post-EMBA careers -- the highest satisfaction rate among all MBA programs, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Global Management Education Graduate Survey.

A group of business people in the office.

As it turns out, MBAs and EMBAs are quite similar -- both in terms of coursework and outcomes. So what separates them? Ultimately, it’s less about the degree itself and more about the degree-seeker. The takeaway for those considering MBA programs? The best choice is the one which most appropriately suits your unique profile as a candidate.

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Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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