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What Is an Executive MBA?

Everybody’s career follows a different path, which is why MBA programs can take on different forms to suit students’ various needs. Executive MBAs, or EMBAs, are specifically offered for working professionals with more career experience than a traditional MBA candidate. With tailored curriculum and flexible timelines, Executive MBAs allow experienced professionals to develop their leadership and management skills while still working full-time.

Who pursues Executive MBAs?

Compared to traditional full-time MBA programs, EMBAs are tailored specifically to students who’ve already reached management roles or similar leadership levels within their careers. Generally programs look for candidates who have at least 10 years of work experience if not more. While candidates can still expect to receive similar management training, business education, and networking opportunities that they would from any MBA program, an EMBA takes into account the existing experience of its students and focuses mainly on building on further leadership development. Often candidates will pursue an EMBA because they want to reach the next level within their current organization.

Ultimately, experienced professionals looking for a flexible opportunity to develop their leadership potential should consider pursuing an EMBA.

How is an Executive MBA different from other MBA Programs?

There are a few key differences that separate EMBAs from other MBA programs.

  • Program Logistics: Compared to a full-time in-person degree, EMBAs typically use a hybrid model that allows students to continue working while still pursuing their degrees. Every program will be different, but generally programs utilize a combination of online instruction, asynchronous work, and consolidated in-person sessions. EMBA students may travel to campus once a month or once every few weeks and will otherwise complete their work independently at home. Students can usually complete their degree in under 2 years, which is faster than most in-person full-time MBA programs and standard online MBA programs. For example, students completing their EMBAS at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business must travel to either the Ann Arbor or Los Angeles campus once a month to complete in person coursework, and can complete their degrees in 21 months.

  • Student Population: As mentioned, Executive MBAs are for more experienced career professionals, whereas traditional MBA programs will often have students who have some work experience but are still transitioning into leadership roles. The overall student population in Executive MBA programs will be older and more experienced but still motivated to learn and grow as professionals and leaders. For example, INSEAD says applicants for their global executive MBA program should have the following four qualities: proven leadership, academic capacity, international outlook, and ability to contribute.

  • Curriculum: Curriculum for EMBAs will often cover the main core MBA topics (accounting, economics, strategy, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, operations, and more) at a level of detail relevant for experienced professionals. Students will gain a full understanding of these topics in ways that will be useful for their current careers. Students also participate in leadership development programs and other campus initiatives to develop their management skills. Depending on the program, these could be experiential learning activities, elective courses, or one-time workshops that help with developing leadership presence in the classroom and beyond. One other difference for EMBAs is that individual students may have less choice in which electives to study and will instead follow a standardized curriculum with their entire class. For example, EMBA students at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania vote as a class to determine which electives will be available to pursue as part of their degree.

Is an Executive MBA right for me?

Whether you’ve always thought about an MBA but haven’t had the right time in your career to go back to school or you’ve recently been wondering how you can get to the next step in your career, an Executive MBA could be the right choice for you. Especially if you have a non-business background and would like to fill out your technical knowledge, an Executive MBA is one great way to gain accountability and formal learning across core business concepts. Ultimately, Executive MBAs focus particularly on leadership development and networking opportunities to help you prepare for taking the next step in your career.

Not sure what degree makes the most sense for you? Crimson can help! Reach out to one of our strategists to discuss graduate school degree options, different programs, and everything to consider when preparing your MBA application.

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