If you’re interested in earning an MBA, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, you might be perplexed at the difference between the MBA and the EMBA. MBA is the abbreviation for a Master of Business Administration. An executive MBA, or EMBA, program is a type of MBA program. Generally, students of an EMBA program will graduate with the same Master of Business Administration degree as students in a traditional MBA program. The curriculum is the same, but the structure of the program – and the type of students it attracts – is different.
Working Professionals vs. Full-Time Students
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Traditionally, MBA programs were designed for full-time students who weren’t balancing a day job along with their pursuit of a degree. The problem with this is that you would be expected to leave the workforce to go back to school as an MBA student.
Being out of the workforce has its financial costs, but it also puts your career on hold in many ways. You’re leaving a job that probably won’t be available to you when you graduate. You’re missing out on gaining more experience and networking with other established professionals in your field. In certain industries that change rapidly, you will need to make an extra effort to stay abreast of new developments in technology and best practices while you study an MBA curriculum. Otherwise, you could fall behind in your specific industry even as you advance your knowledge of business administration as a whole.
The benefit of an executive MBA program is that you don’t have to leave the workforce. EMBA programs are meant to accommodate working professionals. Instead of requiring students to attend courses during normal business hours on weekdays, executive MBA programs typically schedule courses around the traditional business day, in the evenings or on weekends. EMBA programs may take a little longer to complete, but often only by a matter of a few months. For the students who choose the EMBA format, being able to keep their job is worth the trade-off of waiting a little longer to graduate.
Whether you choose a traditional MBA program or an EMBA program, you can benefit from the additional networking opportunities that come with graduate school, such as making connections with your fellow students and with business school faculty.
Differences in Students’ Levels of Experience and Career Advancement
Generally, the higher up you are in your career, the harder it is to take a lengthy break from the workforce as you would need to do to be a full-time MBA student. There’s a reason the word “executive” is used to describe these programs for working graduate students. These students are more likely than full-time MBA students to hold senior-level roles. Don’t be surprised if your fellow students in an EMBA program hold titles like executive director.
The student population of an EMBA program tends to have considerably more work experience than their counterparts in traditional MBA programs. In a business school that offers both MBA and EMBA programs, it’s not unusual for MBA students to have, on average, just three to four years of work experience, while the average for EMBA students may be 10 to 12 years or more. The overall average amount of work experience for EMBA students is 14 years, according to U.S. News & World Report, and that experience typically includes around nine years of working in management.
Naturally, this means that MBA students tend to be younger than students in EMBA programs. The average age for EMBA students is 38 years old, according to U.S. News & World Report. For full-time MBA programs, the average age of new entrants in 2020 was closer to 26 and a half years old, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Keep in mind that these are averages, not restrictions. Some MBA programs are designed for students with less experience and are more willing to accept younger applicants. Older students can still go for an MBA, although business schools will want to hear that these students plan to keep putting their professional skills into practice for years to come.
These differences in age, amount of work experience and current position may also mean that EMBA students are pursuing somewhat different dreams than traditional MBA students. Rather than seeking to move up into chief executive roles, EMBA students may be eyeing entrepreneurship or a fulfilling role leading a non-profit initiative.
The MBA is a graduate degree that encompasses study in a broad array of topics in business administration but also offers students an opportunity to build expertise in a concentration area. At some schools, a formal concentration is required for MBA students but not EMBA students.