What's the deal with an EMBA?

Grad School Admissions

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Many prospective business school applicants seek out EMBAs instead of the traditional MBA. But what exactly is an EMBA? What's the student body look like in these programs? How do these programs work? Let's demistify things a bit.

What is an EMBA?

An EMBA is an Executive Master of Business Administration, also sometimes referred to as an executive MBA. It is a business program that embodies many of the same characteristics as a traditional MBA, but has a few significant differences in student body and class structure.

What kinds of students are in an EMBA program?

Before discussing the differences and similarities between a traditional MBA and an EMBA program, it’s important to determine what kinds of students make up an EMBA program’s student body.

Typically, an EMBA program will have students who have considerable work experience (at least five, and often ten or more, years in the work force). These students are also working full-time, and many of them hold upper management and executive positions (or are being groomed for them). As a result, a student in an EMBA program is usually older, more professionally experienced, and has multiple commitments outside of his or her studies (such as work, family, and other obligations).

In addition, many of the students in EMBA programs aren’t local to the school; that is, they travel in from afar on those designated weeks/weekends to complete the program. This often gives EMBA programs a more global, cosmopolitan feel.

How is an EMBA program different from a traditional MBA program?

  • Structure. The primary difference between a traditional MBA and an EMBA program is the structure. Students in traditional MBA programs usually follow a class schedule similar to that of a college student—classes most (if not all) weekdays, typically during the day. They follow semester or quarter schedules, and they usually have the summers off (unless they are taking summer school, or working internships or externships, which many do). Students in an EMBA program, however, attend classes year-round—but not on a traditional weekday schedule. Students in EMBA programs most often attend classes on a monthly or twice-monthly schedule, typically from Thursday or Friday to Sunday, and they attend classes all day. In addition, EMBA programs often have multiple start dates: Fall, winter and, sometimes, spring.
  • Student body. As mentioned previously, an EMBA program’s student body is different from that of a standard MBA program—the primary difference is the students’ full-time work schedule.
  • The GMAT. Good news for those who are averse to standardized tests: Many EMBA programs (including many top programs!) do not require the test for admission, focusing instead on academic performance and professional experience.
  • Work experience requirement. While many MBA programs require (or strongly recommend) that applicants have work experience, some EMBA programs may require managerial experience.
  • Tuition. Although MBA and EMBA programs are comparable in cost, many EMBA students are able to get their program tuition covered in part or in full by their employers.

How is an EMBA program similar to a traditional MBA program?

  • Length. EMBA programs take two years or less, just like traditional MBA programs.
  • Graduating class. Most students in EMBA programs graduate with the same people they started with (known as a “cohort”).
  • Curriculum. EMBA students take the same core courses as MBA students, and their classes have the same content structure.
  • Work and undergraduate requirements. Most MBA programs require students to have graduated from an accredited undergraduate institution, and require that students have work experience.

For more information about EMBA programs, check out the Executive MBA Council’s website and its accompanying prospective EMBA student website.

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