Growing in popularity, executive MBAs are geared towards a different demographic and serve a different purpose than an MBA.
“It’s a very different mindset between a full-time MBA and an executive MBA,” says Dr. Beatrix Dart of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
The executive MBA is geared towards those with management experience, while MBAs are for people early in their work careers or fresh off their undergraduate degrees.
“They have a lot of things to draw on,” says Dr. Linda Peritz of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, noting that executive MBA students have a large body of knowledge and experience to draw upon while in the classroom.
People who take the executive MBA do it to broaden their knowledge base and allow them to be more strategic in their thinking and take on larger leadership positions, says Dart.
“The full-time MBA does the opposite,” she says.
MBA students are able to specialize in specific topics, such as finance, marketing and consulting.
“So one narrows you and makes you a specialist,” says Dart. “The other broadens you and makes you more of a strategic thinker.”
Before enrolling in an executive MBA program, it’s crucial that students have candid discussions with both their families and employer to make sure all parties are on-board with the idea, says Gloria Saccon, the executive director of the executive MBA program at Queen’s University.
“All of a sudden, life becomes more complicated and extremely busy,” she says, noting that students have to juggle school, a career and family life. Students and their families need to be aware of the time commitment involved in pursuing an executive MBA.
Students may catch a break on some of the schoolwork though, says Dart. Some of the projects can de done within company time because they are projects that bring immediate benefits to the company.
With the amount of time students will spend working on assignments with each other, they become a support network for each other, says Saccon.
“That’s a really strong support mechanism in place because they’re all experiencing the same or similar stresses while they’re going through this program,” says Saccon.