Executive EMBA vs Regular MBA

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - April 11, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many business professionals want to earn their MBA for the higher salary potential. Depending upon the school and the specialty, it is possible to enjoy a substantial salary boost after you get your MBA. For example, some surveys indicate that some MBA graduates can almost double their salary within a few years of getting their degree, with finance, strategy and consulting MBAs tending to see the highest increases.

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The chances for making more money throughout the career is a major driver for professionals to get their advanced business degree. What many people do not consider is there are different types of MBA.

The two major choices available are the regular, professional MBA, and the executive MBA, often referred to as an EMBA. The EMBA is usually offered to students with many years of work experience – seven to 10 or more is a common minimum number. On the other hand, the MBA is often offered to younger workers with less work experience – three to five years’ experience is common.

What are the major other differences between an MBA and an EMBA, and which is the best choice for you?

Below are the major differences and similarities to consider.

The EMBA Is a Highly Focused MBA

Most regular MBAs have a generalized structure that prepare younger business workers to hone the skills needed to rise to upper level management positions. Typical courses are in accounting, supply chain management, finance, marketing and management ethics. Most of these programs allow the student to select a MBA concentration, such as entrepreneurship, accounting, finance or healthcare management.

For example, core coursework in the Columbia University MBA program include these:

  • Managerial Statistics
  • Business Analytics
  • Marketing
  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Economics
  • Corporate Finance

EMBAs are different. Most EMBA students already have upper level management or executive positions, so they do not undergo the typical MBA introductory coursework. Instead, the EMBA program consists of core courses for a highly focused and defined curriculum that helps experienced managers to obtain higher level skills so they can become leaders in their field.

For example, this is part of the EMBA curriculum at the University of North Carolina:

  • Strategic Innovations in Cost Management and E-Business
  • Strategic Management
  • Shareholder Value Creation and Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Financial Management
  • HR and Leadership Management
  • Strategic Decision Making in Business – Game Theory

Programs Have Different Workloads

Most full time MBA students have all day, intense school schedules. Most full time students do not work while in college. But most EMBA students keep their regular jobs and most often go to school at night and on weekends.

Of course, there are online MBA programs available if you want to continue to work full time as you get your regular business graduate degree, too. Some of the top choices for online MBAs these days are:

  • Indiana University
  • University of North Carolina
  • Temple University
  • University of Florida
  • Temple University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Utah

Cost Differences

For many MBA students with limited work experience, the cost of the program may be on them. Some employers may reimburse tuition for MBA programs, but this is could be limited except for the best performing workers.

On the other hand, most EMBA students have their tuition paid for by the company. Many students getting their executive MBA are high performing professionals that the company does not want to lose, so it is customary for their tuition to be paid in full.

Most EMBA Students Are Older

There is a significant age gap between typical MBA and EMBA students: Most EMBA students are 32 to 38 years old, while many MBA students are 24 to 27 years old. The reason is there are stricter requirements for business experience for EMBA programs. Students who want to get into a good EMBA program will need to have an extensive business resume with a minimum of seven to 10 years of experience, in many cases.

Most EMBA students have held a leadership role of some type in their company that nearly always comes only with significant business experience. EMBA programs generally hold students to higher standards in terms of business knowledge and experience so they can keep up with the more advanced, less introductory coursework.

Most EMBAs Can Be Finished in Same Time As MBA

Most EMBA programs offer classes only on evenings and weekends, but most programs may be completed in two or three years. This is the same as MBA programs. Remember that EMBA programs do not have electives. By getting rid of most supplementary courses, EMBA students can focus hard on the core courses and complete their degree in roughly the same time as conventional MBA students.

Some EMBAs and MBAs Can Be Completed Online

Most students who are considering an MBA probably know you can earn a high quality, AACSB accredited MBA online. But did you know there are online EMBA programs as well? While not as numerous as their regular MBA counterparts, there are some solid online executive MBA programs out there, such as:

  • Howard University Online Executive MBA: AACSB accredited, convenient 18 month program that is entirely online, no GMAT requirement
  • University of Arkansas Online Executive MBA: AACSB accredited, 24 months, mostly online with one classroom course per month on weekends
  • Texas Southern University: Consists of 12 classes for a total of 36 credit hours, can be completed in two years full time
  • University of North Carolina Wilmington: Two year, full time program with three residencies – two on campus and one in Europe or Asia

Job Change Vs. Job Progression

Both the MBA and EMBA can be chosen by people who want to improve their prospects for a major promotion. But the traditional MBA is also the typical choice for a professional who wants to change into another industry. For example, if you have a career as an accountant but want to become a business manager in marketing, earning an MBA in marketing might suit you.

But most EMBA students are well established in their careers and are getting their MBA to bring more skills to their current job and industry. Most students earning the executive degree will stay in their current company and will ascend the career ladder in that company once the degree is finished.

Also, some business education experts note that many EMBA students come from IT backgrounds. Advanced business management skills are very important to advancing in business, and IT professionals often need a better background in leadership, accounting and finance to ascend.

Acceptance Rates and Requirements May Differ

It may be more difficult to be accepted to a good EMBA program because of tougher work experience requirements and fewer available slots. Also, EMBA programs are not as numerous as MBA programs, so you can expect keen competition in the programs that do exist. Most business schools in the US offer an MBA program, but a lot fewer offer EMBA programs.

The MBA and EMBA programs are both highly valuable and worth earning for many business professionals. If you have fewer than five years of business managerial experience, you should usually consider an MBA, while professionals with seven or more years of business managerial experience will find the EMBA to be a better fit.


  • EMBA vs. MBA: The Six Things You Need to Know Before Deciding. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-scalco/emba-vs-mba-the-6-things-_b_7842906.html
  • What Is the Average Salary for An MBA Graduate? (2017). Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/031215/what-average-salary-mba-graduate.asp
  • What Makes an Executive MBA Different. (2010). Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2010/04/15/what-makes-an-executive-mba-different
  • Four Differences Between EMBA and Regular MBA. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinemba.wsu.edu/resources/all/articles/four-differences-between-an-executive-mba-and-a-regular-mba/

Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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