MBA or EMBA: Which is Right for You?


A guest post by By Rebecca Lindegren

About the author: Rebecca Lindegren is the community relations manager for MBA@UNC, an online Executive MBA program specializing in leadership. In addition to higher ed, she is passionate about content and brand marketing, cycling and skiing. Follow her on twitter.

So you’ve decided you want to go to business school – now what? Assuming you want an MBA, you have two options: the traditional MBA (full-time, part-time, or online) and the Executive MBA. In the past, the main difference between the two was that MBAs required students to relocate to the school’s home city and take off two years from their careers, whereas EMBAs required twice-monthly weekend classes that left room for full-time work. Now that quality part-time, one-year, and online MBA programs have arrived on the scene, the remaining distinctions have more to do with your career goals and experience level.

The MBA

Traditional MBA programs are geared toward professionals in the first several years of their careers who are looking to learn about management. MBA applicants aren’t required to have extensive post-undergrad work experience, and most don’t; their average age is about 27 years old. Most MBA programs require students to choose a major or concentration like finance, Human Resources or sustainable management.  They also usually require a core curriculum of general classes aimed at equalizing diverse classes of students with widely variable educational and career backgrounds.

Who It Works For

MBA programs are best-suited to young professionals who want to change careers or feel they need an MBA to advance in the career they’ve chosen. MBA core curricula are well-suited to those with little or no background/experience in business and management, while concentrations prepare students for management positions in a particular area – often one they were unable to study in their undergrad program. Student-to-student networking, a large piece of any MBA program, centers on making connections with hotshot leaders-to-be, rather than senior executives.

The EMBA

Executive MBA programs are built for the experienced working professional. Unlike the traditional MBA, EMBA programs function under the assumption that all of their students will continue to work full time while enrolled. EMBA applicants tend to be closer to age 40 than 25, and most have already held management positions for several years. EMBA curricula are more advanced and tend to move through material more quickly than their MBA counterparts, because schools assume that EMBA students enter with more knowledge and experience than greener MBA students. EMBA students largely cover the same material as full-time MBA students with about half as much class time in the same two-year span. EMBA programs also tend not to offer majors or concentrations, with most programs focusing instead on a breadth of core business classes.

Who It Works For

EMBA programs work best for experienced managers who want to gain knowledge for their current job rather than move to a completely different career. In fact, many students are sponsored by their companies. Networking among students is less important than in MBA programs, as most people are looking to stay in their current careers and companies. EMBA programs are designed to allow students to gain a broad understanding of business concepts, challenge and strengthen their leadership skills, and apply their coursework to their full-time jobs in real time.

Takeaways

As you contemplate whether an MBA or EMBA is right for you, be sure to think hard about your experience level, your educational background, and your ultimate career goals. If you’re still fairly early in your career and want to learn how to manage people in a particular field (especially one in which you’re not yet working), the MBA might be the best choice for you. If you’re more experienced, already manage people at work, and want to advance within your current company or field, consider pursuing an EMBA.  Studies have shown that both an both degrees are great investments that lead to significant gains in salary and position.

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