What's the Difference Between MBA and EMBA?

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Executive MBAs suit professionals with extensive experience, while MBAs best apply to younger professionals focusing on specific career goals. Explore their details in this guide.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of conferred master's degrees increased by 19% in the 2010-2020 academic years. Business degrees were the most prominent subject in this period.

So, what makes business degrees so popular? MBA and executive MBA (EMBA) programs focus on skills required by leading executives. Students engage with coursework in finance, accounting, marketing, and communications. They may choose from several specializations, focusing their curricula on specific fields or roles.

This extensive knowledge can result in higher pay — Payscale data from July 2023 indicates an average base salary for professionals with MBA degrees of $96,000.

EMBAs apply to ambitious mid-career executives and managers. What started at the University of Chicago in 1943 paved the way for a new approach for business executives. The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) reports the average EMBA student in 2022 was 39 and possessed an average of over nine years of managerial experience. Graduates also received an average 17.7% increase in pay.

Compare executive MBAs vs. MBAs to find out which program is right for you. This guide explores information on both degrees, including coursework, costs, and typical enrollees.

Curriculum of MBA and EMBA Programs

Executive MBA programs tailor their schedules and courses for working professionals in managerial roles. EMBAs offer greater flexibility and allow students to continue working while taking weekend classes. MBAs target younger professionals who may not have managerial experience.

Both full-time MBA and EMBA programs require about two years to complete. However, many EMBAs are delivered through part-time enrollment, extending this timeline. Some schools offer the same curriculum for both programs. MBA programs may require students to select a concentration, while EMBA students often customize their courses based on their professional goals.

Though coursework varies among institutions, the following list covers typical classes in MBA and EMBA programs.

MBA Courses

  • Marketing Management

    This course explores effective marketing strategies. Real-world case studies allow learners to apply concepts and theories to their assignments. The class may culminate with developing a marketing plan and delivering a presentation.
  • Financial Accounting

    Students explore ways to create organizations' financial reports and draw relevant conclusions. The course emphasizes strategic analysis, risk assessment, and the link between accounting information and managerial decision-making.
  • Leadership

    This class prepares prospective managers to motivate and influence individuals and groups using social science tools. Coursework covers team building, corporate culture, strategic negotiation, and reward systems.
  • Managerial Economics

    This course covers the fundamental methods for economic analysis, including using microeconomic theory in decision-making. Concepts include market supply and demand, market equilibrium, and production.
  • Business Strategies

    Students learn to evaluate, develop, and implement effective business strategies. Assignments may explore sustaining competitive advantages, analyzing industry economics, and the tools used to promote growth and profitability.

EMBA Courses

  • Executive Perspectives on Leadership

    This course focuses on the necessary skills to manage a regional or global company. Key topics include motivating team members, increasing productivity, developing leadership skills, and creating action plans.
  • Growth Strategy Practicum

    Students work directly with startup businesses to discover challenges and opportunities in the early stages of enterprise. This hands-on approach allows enrollees to use their knowledge to help evolving companies.
  • Analytical Methods

    Learners explore the quantitative techniques and tools required in financial accounting and executive roles. These methods may include statistics, probability, calculus, and accounting. This basic instruction leads to exploring accounting principles in real-world corporate settings.
  • Competitive Strategy

    Students explore how companies anticipate and influence their competitors. Topics may include dynamic pricing, product design, vertical integration, and efficient production. Ultimately, enrollees understand how to develop strategies to enhance profitability.
  • Global Corporate Restructuring

    This course covers corporate restructuring transactions internationally and domestically. Enrollees analyze strategies relating to takeovers, acquisitions, mergers, and leveraged buyouts. The class also incorporates accounting and legal considerations.

The ROI of an MBA vs. EMBA

When comparing executive MBAs vs. MBAs, many candidates wonder if both programs offer worthwhile ventures. The following section explores how these degrees can deliver a return on your investment.

MBA Programs

MBA programs feature full-time, part-time, and online options. Full-time MBA programs typically take two years. Depending on the school, students can choose specializations to direct their education toward their chosen field. Common concentrations include marketing, accounting, business analytics, and management consulting.

The cost of an MBA varies significantly, based on the school and format. For instance, research suggests that the average cost of a full-time in-person MBA program is about $43,419 a year. A full-time online program comes to $28,545, on average. It's also ideal to look at pre-MBA and post-MBA salaries to help determine ROI.

According to a 2022 report by the Graduate Management Admission Council, 83% of full-time MBA students were employed at graduation. Additionally, full-time MBA graduates reported a 50% median increase in compensation, with a median salary increase from $80,000 pre-MBA to $120,000 post-MBA.

EMBA Programs

EMBA programs offer instruction in the evenings or on weekends, enabling students to continue working in their current jobs. Coursework suits professionals interested in advancement and top-level leadership roles. Executive MBA programs may be completed in two years of full-time enrollment, though most institutions use part-time delivery, resulting in a longer enrollment period.

EMBAs cost, on average, about $89,684, according to EMBAC. The 2022 survey also found that salaries and bonus packages rose by an average of about $41,000 after earning an EMBA.

A report by The Economist revealed that pre-EMBA salaries at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management averaged $174,218. EMBA graduates earned an average salary of $228,659. This wage increase amounts to about $54,440.

MBAs and EMBAs, however, are about more than the cost of tuition and the salary increase. These programs also offer skills that can set you up for long-term success and establish networking connections that can last for life. Ultimately, the value of these degrees depends on your personal and professional goals.

Featured Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Which Program is Right for You?

How to Choose Between an MBA and EMBA Programs
If… Then…
You've had 10 or more years of experience in a managerial position and are aiming for a C-suite role EMBA
You're transitioning to a different career path and interested in a specialized field MBA
You plan to continue working at your current position and advance to a leadership role within the organization EMBA
You're looking for an emphasis on career development, including job placement assistance and internships MBA
You'd like a full-time, in-person college experience, networking with a diverse student body MBA
You're interested in a cohort-based learning model, networking with peers, and sharing professional experiences during weekend or evening classes EMBA

Common Questions About MBA and EMBA Programs

How much does an Executive MBA increase salary?

According to the EMBAC 2022 survey, EMBA graduates gained a 17.7% increase in their compensation, including salaries and bonuses. Students starting EMBA programs entered with an average salary and bonus package of $231,143. After graduating, that figure rose to $272,160.

Is an Executive MBA as good as an MBA?

Yes. Executive MBAs and MBAs both offer exceptional instruction and hands-on experience in organizational leadership. These degrees also allow you to select specializations or customize coursework to meet your career goals. They primarily differ in their enrollees — EMBAs often require significantly more experience for admission.

Which is more valuable: MBA or EMBA?

MBAs and EMBAs are equally valuable. EMBA programs provide the educational structure for working managers, executives, and business leaders. Full-time MBA programs offer an immersive learning experience and optional internship opportunities. Business students looking to advance their careers and or change to other industries often benefit from MBAs.

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