Executive Education

Executive MBA vs MBA – Which is Better for Your Career?

executive mba

With an established career already well underway, it may be hard to see the value in pursuing an MBA—especially as a leader in your industry with a proven track record of achievements.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Executive MBAs but believe they are not as prestigious as their full-time MBA counterparts. However, it’s time to rethink that bias: an advanced degree and the network you’ll build from an elite business school remains equally attractive, whether the degree you complete is an MBA or an Executive MBA.

  • The Rankings File

When weighing the relative prestige of any given university’s MBA and Executive MBA programs against each other, keep in mind that the #1 ranked business school for MBAs may not be the same as the #1 ranked business school for Executive MBAs.

For example, University of Chicago’s Booth School routinely takes the top spot for Executive MBAs, while Stanford reigns supreme for MBAs. While surely you cannot go wrong with either school, it’s important to weigh the merits of the specific program you are pursuing if prestige and a top-tier ranking are important to your sense of accomplishment or your hope for a sizable return on investment.

Gayle Rigione, Director of Strategic Development for Ivy Exec advises that prospective Executive MBA students shoot for the very best program they can gain admission to: “If you have the ability to get into a Kellogg, an MIT, a London Business School or a Wharton EMBA program versus your local state school offering—you should opt for the elite brand name.  Top (read: selective) employers value brand names and will often pay premiums for their graduates. Plus, your professional reputation and  your network will be strengthened when you graduate from a world class program known for its selectivity.”

But top tier school or not, Rigione underscores that the Executive MBA is but a stepping-stone to the next phase of your career. “When you transition out of your job post-EMBA, odds are good that you will command a higher salary and be given more responsibility.”

Once you leave your Executive MBA program, your school of choice becomes your calling card in the business world. As Rigione puts it: “Your school is a brand asset. The brand of the school transfers to your own personal brand and elevates it.  (Or not.)

  • Networking

Given that an Executive MBA program is a collaborative process, the people you surround yourself with will become your network. At an MBA program, you might find yourself with early-career business students. They may have bright futures ahead but they lack the time-honed expertise you bring to the table as a seasoned career veteran. In an Executive MBA program, your cohort will be made up of people who have upwards of a decade of real-world experience across multiple industries. They know the pain points involved in running businesses day-to-day and they’ve grappled with the nitty-gritty of crisis management firsthand. When you add value to your Executive MBA cohort because of the ideas, work ethic and expertise you bring to the table, you’re also setting yourself up for longer term success through access to their networks and connections.

  • Alumni Base

When considering your Executive MBA program, perhaps the greatest way to weigh prestige is by researching and evaluating the school’s alumni network. Select a program that has a strong core of alumni in your field and, perhaps, even in your geographic areas of interest. Your ability to connect with leaders in your field from your EMBA alma mater is going to be a key means of leveraging the prestige of the university.

When you reach out to alumni from your business school—whether MBA or EMBA recipients—they are likely to be receptive. Why? Since Executive MBA programs are generally smaller and open only to experienced professionals, you are more than just an MBA commodity. In fact, your position as an Executive MBA student may help you stand out when you try to connect with alumni in a position to help you grow in your career. And you will have much more in common to discuss with  alumni connections than some of your greener MBA counterparts because you’ve been around the block a time or two or three or four.

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.