Often, the executive MBA (EMBA) is misconstrued to be a superior form of MBA study, but the truth is the two degrees hold equal cachet on graduation. What does set them apart is their purpose and delivery format, factors which lead to entirely different experiences. Here are some points to consider in your decision-making process and when meeting with schools at fairs, like the QS World MBA tour, to discuss options.

Programpace, length & curriculum

Metaphorically speaking, while an EMBA can be seen as a series of sprints, the MBA can be likened to a marathon. Though program length will vary by school, the principal difference is that the EMBA is always part-time to accommodate working professionals. Typically, some of the learning takes place by distance and/or online, while in-person EMBA classes are held on weekends, evenings or even at different locations around the world. For example, UCLA Anderson offers two EMBA options: one fully in-person and the other split between half in-person, half online. Both options require all students to complete a one-week international component.

While both EMBA and MBA curricula cover the same core material, EMBA programs tend to offer fewer electives. As such, MBA students will often enjoy more freedom when selecting classes, with the possibility of taking a concentration/specialization or track. However, there are also targeted EMBAs, such as Yale’s program focusing on health care, or the University of Miami’s EMBA aimed at NFL stars.



Another difference between the two degrees is that they are catered to professionals at different stages in their career. EMBAs are designed for managers with extensive prior work experience, generally in the range of 10 to 15 years, substantially more than the three to five years usually held by MBAcandidates.

Full-time MBA admissions also place more emphasis on GMAT scores as a way to help differentiate candidates during the selection process. EMBA admissions, on the other hand, often do not require standardized entrance exam scores, although some EMBA programs, such as Columbia Business School, allow you to take a new EMBA-oriented version of the GMAT. Additionally, for the EMBA, it’s especially important for proof that you have support from your current employer as work-study balance will impact on program success.

Return on investment

Both MBA and EMBA candidates can expect a salary increase upon graduation. EMBA graduates saw an average salary boost of 12 percent, according to a 2016 survey of U.S. programs by EMBAC. MBAs, by comparison — with much more to gain as they tend to be earlier on in their careers — saw an increase of 75 percent in compensation postgraduation, according to a 2015 QS ROI (return on investment) report looking at the U.S. and Canada.

Of course, degree format also has significant financial implications here. EMBA students earn a full-time salary while studying and don’t incur the same costs associated with relocation for a full-time MBA program.

In partnership with the QS World MBA tour and the QS World Grad School tour

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