Executive Education

EMBA vs. MBA: What are the Differences, and Which is Better for Your Career?

emba vs mba

A business education experience is most effective when it is tailored to a student’s needs.

Some prospective students may be early in their lives and careers, ready to take on a full-time educational challenge. Others may already have risen up through the ranks of their corporation or industry and would be foolish to push pause on their careers to return to school. And, of course, there are those who believe that a career in business does not require an advanced degree and can be accomplished on networking and instinct alone.

But for those who understand that an advanced business degree can be the key to leapfrogging ahead at any point in their career, there is a key decision to be made: EMBA or MBA?

5 Similarities and Differences in EMBA vs. MBA Programs

  • Full-Time vs. Part-Time

Many people wrongly assume that a key difference between an MBA and an EMBA is that the former is full-time and the latter is completed on weekends while holding demanding, senior level positions.  That is no longer the case.  Many schools offer a mix of both part-time and full time MBA programs, while EMBA programs are typically part-time, completed on weekends, during evenings, or over a series of  intensive week long immersions.

For both MBA and EMBA programs, some schools also offer some of the  coursework over the internet. At the University of Florida Warrington College of Business, EMBA students meet from Friday to Sunday once a month at the Gainesville campus and 95-percent of the coursework is offered in the classroom and not online. If an EMBA program is not delivering its coursework entirely online, it can be helpful to select a program within a reasonable commuting distance. Residency far from campus is less of an issue for full time MBA programs, though it is an important consideration, as well, for part-time MBA programs.

  • Experienced Cohort

It is tricky to make generalizations about MBA and EMBA program participants. Not every MBA student will be fresh out of college and not every EMBA student will be decades into his or her career. However, for the most part, an EMBA student is likely to be surrounded by a more seasoned cohort.

At Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, the average MBA student is 27 years old and has four years of work experience. The average EMBA student, however, is 39 years old with 15 years of work experience. This experienced cohort offers an EMBA student a valuable set of colleagues to work with during his time at Temple. But perhaps more importantly, the EMBA graduate is instantly plugged into a more senior network in a wide variety of fields. However, there are plenty of benefits to being a part of an MBA cohort. Participants of these programs often feel a strong bond thanks to their early, full-time higher education experience and go on to become excellent industry connections over the long haul.

  • Access to Professors

At most universities, business school professors divide their time between the MBA and the EMBA programs. This means that a prospective EMBA student will still have access to a popular professor, even if most of his or her classes are with the MBA program participants—and vice versa.

At the University of Colorado Graduate Schools of Business, EMBA and MBA students alike have access to faculty members like Sharon Matusik, the school’s interim Dean and Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Matusik is an internationally respected expert on management strategy and innovation. Every year, she takes EMBA students on an international trip to study an emerging economy. Most recently, she took CU business students to Cuba to learn more about the role entrepreneurialism and innovation can play in the island nation’s economy.

  • Employer Sponsorship

The application process for an EMBA program most often differs from that of an MBA in that prospective students are often expected to include a letter of support from their employer. While the days of financial sponsorship for EMBA students are waning, schools still expect that applicants have their employer’s blessing for their academic goals. In many cases, this goodwill from a student’s employer will be necessary as many programs offer international residencies or require attendance for at least one weekday class per month. Furthermore, EMBA students generally need an employer who understands that they are balancing higher education with their current, already demanding job.

  • Application Focus

Another key difference in the application process for an EMBA and an MBA is the weight that admissions teams place on various metrics. For an MBA student without a decade or more in the workforce, admissions officers will look closely at college transcripts and GMAT scores. For EMBA applicants, admissions officers will put less weight on a college transcript that may be a decade old and instead will pay close attention to work experience and recommendations. As for GMAT scores, it depends on the school. And some schools will accept the GRE in place of the GMAT. At the MBA level, it’s rare to find a program that will not require a GMAT exam. But at the EMBA level, some programs will.

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.