Executive Education

EMBAs, GEMBAs, and Cohorts: Decoding The Executive Education Jargon


Mid-career industry leaders pursuing their EMBAs are generally pretty busy people.

So it’s no wonder they speak in shorthand when it comes to talking about their degrees. Never fear, Ivy Exec is here to decode the alphabet soup of jargon you’ll face as you embark upon your EMBA journey.

  • EMBA 

Seems obvious enough: Executive Master of Business Administration degree. But let’s zero in on the E in EMBA. Exactly who is an executive who should be pursuing an EMBA instead of an MBA?

Perhaps the biggest difference between the applicant pool for an EMBA and an MBA is the number and quality of years of experience in the work force. MBA applicants can be largely untested in the business world at large with only a few years of experience post-college. As a result, they may be younger and have fewer other obligations to balance such as a high-powered career and a family at home. Full time programs make sense for this type of student and can be the right launch pad for him or her to embark on a career in business.

Executives pursuing their EMBAs will find that their track record of career accomplishments is perhaps their greatest strength—both as applicants and as fruitful members of a program’s cohort. Not only do EMBA programs heavily weight your workplace contributions and career milestones in your application, but also, many programs will not even consider an applicant who has not already served seven to 10 years on the job. Consequently, the E in EMBA carries a lot of heft.

“An EMBA isn’t something you do when you’re out of work and trying to use your time wisely,” Gayle Rigione, Director of Strategic Development for Ivy Exec cautions, pointing out that most EMBA students must be gainfully employed to be considered. “EMBA students are accomplished professionals who have proven records of leadership.”


We know what the E stands for in EMBA—so now, what’s the G stand for in GEMBA? Global.

In short, there are two types of GEMBA programs: those that partner with a second school abroad and those that are run by a single school here in the states but incorporate a series of enlightening overseas trips to view how businesses operate abroad.

Several of the most prestigious EMBA programs here in the U.S. are, in fact, GEMBAs. With some of the highest-ranked EMBA programs using this global format, you may find a GEMBA to be worthy of your consideration.

Take your industry—both present and future—into account. With an increasingly global marketplace, having access to international business connections and networks might be a powerful weapon in your personal arsenal. An important point of consideration is, of course, where your industry may be heading geographically. If your supply chains are based in Asia, a program that has strong ties in that region will be a strong bet—for example, the Kellogg-HKUST (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) program, with a base in Hong Kong as well as Chicago, or the Columbia-London Business School-HKU (University of Hong Kong) program. If connections in Europe are vital to your business, the IE partnership with Brown will give you a launch pad in Madrid, Spain, while the Kellogg-WHU alliance will give you a foothold in Germany.

If you’re looking to take on the world and no one region alone holds the key to your industry, GEMBA programs do, in general, attract a diverse, international cohort. Georgetown University’s GEMBA program with ESADE Business School from Spain sees students from dozens of countries around the world attending each year—with representatives from such diverse places as Andorra, Trinidad and Tobago, Kazakhstan and Cyprus.

If a single school with a global perspective is of interest, the Darden School of Business at UVA takes its EMBA students on a global tour of companies outside of the U.S.


Another word you’re likely to hear on your search for the right EMBA program is TRIUM—this one is actually not an acronym at all. TRIUM is a unique global EMBA run by NYU’s Stern School of Business, the London School of Economics (LSE) and HEC in Paris. TRIUM is derived from a Latin word meaning three.

  • Cohort

The cohort is the group of students who you will share a classroom with throughout the two-year journey of your EMBA. These people will become your allies, your network and your colleagues. For more about the cohort, check out our article on it here.


The AACSB is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This international group has been responsible for accrediting business schools since the early 20th century. Always check to make sure the EMBA program you’re applying to is accredited by the AACSB before proceeding.


This is the EMBA Council—an EMBA industry group that surveys, researches and collects data on applicants, programs and even salary changes before or after pursuing the degree.

  • GMAT

The GMAT is the Graduate Management Admissions Test. You might have to take to apply for an EMBA program. To learn about whether or not you should be preparing to take it before applying, check out our article on it here.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.