Executive MBA vs. MBA: Which One Is Right for You?

Many professionals view higher education as a way to further career options or expand business skills. In many cases, there’s an urge to pursue a Master of Business Administration in an effort to earn more money and walk a new career path.

Earning an MBA, whether through a full-time on-campus program or an online MBA, can come with considerable benefits for both students and working professionals. However, there are a wide variety of choices and learning paths under the MBA umbrella. One main option to consider is an Executive Master of Business Administration or EMBA.

Both MBA and EMBA programs can provide students with the knowledge needed to advance their career goals, but it’s important to understand the differences between these programs to decide which is best for you.

Let’s take a closer look at the major differences between an EMBA and MBA, and how to make the decision when you’re ready to go back to school and pursue a new degree:

What Is an EMBA?

An executive master of business administration, or EMBA, is a degree program for people who are already in the workforce. EMBA programs are very similar to traditional MBAs in scope and requirements, but they are designed so that students can complete them while simultaneously working full-time.

Within an EMBA program, studies are generally aimed at working professionals with a considerable amount of experience in their industry. In most cases, EMBA programs can be completed in the same amount of time as traditional MBAs (about 1-2 years), although this can vary, as EMBA candidates have to carefully balance their professional obligations with their coursework.

What Can You Do With an EMBA Degree?

Many EMBA students are professionals who have been identified by their employers as potential leaders within their organizations and thus seek the degree to improve their current job role. In these cases, some employers may help offset tuition costs or potentially reimburse professionals for their EMBA degrees.

As some EMBA programs can cost over $200,000, according to Fortune, this path represents a significant investment. Even if there isn’t an opportunity to move up within a current organization, students who complete their EMBA may look elsewhere to fill positions like:

This list is far from all-inclusive, and completing an EMBA program can prepare you for a wide variety of high-paying careers in addition to those described here. To determine whether an EMBA program will be worthwhile for you, it’s important to consider your current position, professional goals, lifestyle, and personal obligations.

Who Is Eligible for an Online Executive MBA Program?

Students who have already graduated from a baccalaureate program and have several years of work experience may be best suited for the EMBA. On the other hand, professionals who may not have yet accrued this experience, or are looking to further explore their chosen MBA concentration with more elective opportunities, should consider an MBA degree.

Someone interested in pursuing an EMBA should have years of professional work experience, specifically within a management role. Certain universities may also require students to provide GMAT scores, but this isn’t always a requirement.

However, students who want to pursue the EMBA may take the GMAT regardless of the need to share their final score. This computer adaptive test displays analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills and can be a simple signifier for the drive and ability to successfully complete the program.

What Is an MBA?

A master of business administration (MBA) is a postgraduate degree program that focuses on the key principles and techniques used in business management. Students in MBA programs will receive training in areas such as leadership, business strategy, organizational behavior, and corporate responsibility.

Prospective MBA students can take a general track or choose from a wide variety of concentrations, including those that explore finance, marketing, business analytics, management information systems, and health services.

Depending on their chosen concentration, students may take courses in accounting and finance, marketing and management strategies, economics, quantitative analysis, cost analysis, information technology, corporate finance, supply chain management, and more.

MBA programs typically take about two years to complete. Students can choose between full-time on-campus, part-time, or online MBA programs, depending on their schedules. With an online MBA program, courses can be completed remotely, and students can graduate in as little as one year.

What Can You Do With an MBA Degree?

With as many as 1.1 million management positions projected to become available each year through 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an online MBA can be highly beneficial. There are multiple career paths that graduates can work toward with their MBA, including roles like chief marketing officer, chief information officer, chief financial officer, logistics director, and more.

Chief marketing officers can make an average base salary of $179,371, according to PayScale. These individuals are responsible for handling all of an organization’s marketing expectations and executing a strategy throughout the company.

A logistics director is an individual in charge of overseeing logistics activities within an organization and making the final call. In this role, professionals also work to improve current processes that are impacting costs and workloads. According to PayScale, logistics directors can make a six-figure salary, averaging $104,449 per year.

Who Is Eligible for an Online MBA Program?

The MBA is an ideal choice for recent graduates continuing their education or for members of the workforce seeking to advance their credentials. Most programs require students to take the GMAT as part of the admissions process, according to Investopedia.

The prerequisites for MBA programs can vary from institution to institution. However, there are several criteria that are typical of most programs:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited school
  • Work experience in a relevant field
  • An undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0; though GPA requirements may be higher at more competitive programs
  • A completed resume, detailing your professional work experience in the industry
  • Positive references from previous employers or internships
  • GMAT/GRE score; although some programs offer waivers to students who display relevant academic or professional experience

If you already began an MBA program at another institution, you may be able to transfer your credits over to UAB, although you should speak with an advisor to learn more about your options.

EMBA vs. MBA: How Are They Different?

Because EMBA programs are geared toward working professionals, they are typically set up to accommodate people with busier schedules. As Investopedia notes, this means students can choose an on-campus program where classes are held on Fridays or weekends, or opt for a more flexible online EMBA program that allows them to take classes whenever they have time.

In addition, while the curriculum of an EMBA is very similar to that explored in a traditional MBA, EMBA programs are faster-paced and usually include fewer elective options. However, this does not make them any less valuable in the job market than traditional MBAs.

In most cases, the biggest difference between earning an MBA and an EMBA is the career growth opportunity. Students with an EMBA have a chance to reach higher positions within their organizations as soon as they graduate, but those with an MBA can still find fulfilling and lucrative careers in their desired field.

Making a Choice for the Future: Online MBA

If you are interested in pursuing an EMBA but you still don’t have your MBA, online MBA programs offer students the ability to select their concentration and build their decision-making skills, as well as their competency in critical areas like business strategy, operations, supply chain management, marketing, information technology, and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of earning an MBA, talking with an enrollment advisor can help you map out your options and identify the best degree program and potential career paths for you.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Management Occupations”

Payscale, “Average Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Salary”

Payscale, “Average Logistics Director Salary”

Investopedia, “What Is an Executive MBA (EMBA)? Comparison to MBA and Costs”

Fortune, “What does an executive MBA cost?”

Payscale, “Average Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Salary”

Payscale, “Average Senior Data Analyst Salary”

Salary.com, “Human Resources Director Salary in the United States”