Executive Education

Preparing Business Leaders for Excellence at Wharton

Learning in an EMBA

Known internationally as one of the top business school programs, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers its Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in two different formats, both full-time and its Executive Masters of Business Administration (EMBA) program. The advantages of earning a business degree are numerous: It can lead to a new job or promotion, increase your salary, develop both your analytical and strategic thinking, as well as soft and transferable skills, help expand your network and give you a greater awareness of the global market.

An EMBA and MBA have a similar purpose and general outcome, but there are plenty of differences. So which is the better program for you? That depends on what you’re looking for.

Program structure.

Full-time MBA programs are generally akin to an undergraduate experience with a full load of classes held during the day, during the week, on campus. EMBA programs are designed for students who work full time while they study, so classes are scheduled on weekends, with occasional one-week intensive sessions. Both programs are generally a two year commitment; MBA students often participate in an internship between their first and second years.

Type of student.

While the programs are very similar, the types of students attending each program tend to differ. An MBA program is typically geared toward a younger student, with an average graduation age of 27. At Wharton, this student has an average work experience of five years and aspires to grow in their career with a well-rounded business education.

An EMBA classAn EMBA program is typically geared toward an older student, with an average graduation age of 37, though at Wharton the average is 38. This student is an established professional with an average of 12 or more years work experience who seeks additional education to elevate their performance or pivot their career. They are looking for tangible concepts they can apply right away to their work. They continue working, thus have busy schedules.


Because the student makeup of each of these programs are so different, so are the networking opportunities. Wharton MBA classes are made up of approximately 900 students who have a more campus-based experience, living on or near the campus and participating in extracurricular activities or groups. This allows for organic networking opportunities with a wide range of people.

Wharton’s EMBA classes are closer to 235 students, allowing for a smaller, closer-knit cohort and deeper connections. EMBA students are also expected to spend three full weeks learning and boarding together during several extended sessions; because of this, students often report “feeling like a family” by the end of their studies. Due to the breadth and depth of their experience, they also tend to have closer, peer-like relationships with their professors. Both programs get to take advantage of Wharton’s extensive alumni network.


The Wharton EMBA and MBA curricula are similar in nature, but the approach is different. Wharton’s core curriculum, which is the backbone of both programs, includes a focus on basic tangible business skills such as accounting and statistics and students must choose a major.

Meanwhile, core EMBA classes include teamwork and leadership, communication, global management, microeconomics, regression analysis, analytics, and business foundations. These classes often move at a quicker pace than an MBA since the students are more experienced. EMBA students are not required to pursue a formal major and are instead encouraged to follow their professional interests. Interestingly, EMBA students vote to determine the electives that will be offered for their second year, year, resulting in over 25 from which each student chooses his/her nine required electives..

In order to provide a fully international experience, both MBA and EMBA students can take global modular courses. MBA students also have the options of study abroad programs and a global immersion global immersion program, while EMBA students are required to take a one week international trip.

Financial ROI.

Undertaking an advanced degree is an investment, however, most find the investment worth it. In fact, according to the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), 2020 EMBA graduates received a 14.1 percent increase in compensation – combined, both salary and bonuses – after program completion. The Princeton Review also reported signing bonuses to be higher for those with an advanced degree. A major advantage of the EMBA program is the willingness of employers to fund its tuition, as an investment in their own organization’s growth.

EMBA or Part-Time MBA?

As one of the major advantages of an EMBA program is its flexibility and its accommodation of a busy professional’s schedule, it’s natural to weigh it as an option against a part-time MBA. The advantage of an EMBA comes from the other students in your cohort. Part-time MBAs are usually pursued by younger, less experienced professionals who seek an MBA degree while continuing to work full time. Meanwhile, EMBA cohorts are made up of business leaders and executives committed to attaining a higher level of critical skills.

Choosing an MBA or EMBA really comes down to where you are currently at in your career, what your life circumstances are, and where you are looking to end up. Experienced professionals will likely do well pursuing an EMBA, while those just starting out in their careers will benefit more from an MBA. Regardless of which program fits your circumstances, Wharton’s reputation is widely respected and the education you receive will prepare you to excel in innovation, deep insights and transformational leadership.


About the Author

Wharton MBA for Executives at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania combines theory and practice with an industry perspective to deliver in-depth knowledge for immediate impact.