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 MBA and EMBA, and how to make the decision when you’re ready to go back to school and pursue a new degree:

Master of Business Administration program

An MBA program, such as the University of Alabama Collat School of Business online MBA, has a robust curriculum that includes a balance of emerging modern management strategies and foundational business principles.

Admissions requirements

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. To become eligible for the online MBA at the UAB Collat School of Business, you must meet the following prerequisites:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited school
  • A completed application
  • Three reference letters
  • A completed resume, detailing your professional work experience in the industry
  • A completed pre-calculus course or equivalent credit class with a grade of “C”or better within the past five years
  • GMAT/GRE score, but there are waivers available for students who display relevant academic or professional experience

Concentration options

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

Depending on the chosen concentration, students will take courses in accounting and finance, marketing and management strategies, economics, quantitative analysis, cost analysis, information technology, corporate finance, supply chain management and more. With an online program, courses can be completed remotely, and students can graduate in as few as two years.

Potential career paths

With as many as 2.5 million management positions projected to become available through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an 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 $175,416 a year 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 $100,214 per year.

Two logistics professionals collaborating over a laptop.

Executive Master of Business Administration program>

Students and working professionals may also want to consider the Executive Master of Business Administration, which differs in its requirements and overall pace. This is an ideal next step to take if students want to change their professional tracks within their current industry, or change career paths altogether.

EMBA expectations

Within an EMBA program, studies are generally aimed at working professionals with a considerable amount of experience in the industry. In fact, as U.S. News & World Report notes, many EMBA programs require students to have at least five years of work experience following their graduation from a baccalaureate program.

Because an EMBA program is geared toward working professionals, it is typically designed to enable students to graduate in two years while still holding full-time jobs. As Investopedia notes, this means professionals usually opt for a more flexible online program, or an on-campus program where classes are held on Fridays or weekends. In addition, while the curriculum of an EMBA is very similar to that explored in an MBA, EMBA programs are faster-paced and usually include fewer elective options.

However, as EMBA degree holder Deang Parikh told U.S. News & World Report, a faster-paced program doesn’t mean the EMBA is any less prestigious than the MBA. “I didn’t want to choose a program that shortened my time in class or cut corners. I wanted the full experience, and I’ve gotten that,” Parikh said of his EMBA program.

EMBA requirements

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.

Potential career paths

Often, EMBA students have been identified by their employers as potential leaders within their organizations, and thus seek the degree to improve their current job role, according to U.S. News & World Report. In these cases, some employers may help offset tuition costs, or potentially reimburse professionals for their EMBA degree. As some EMBA programs can cost over $100,000, according to Forbes, 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:

  • Chief Executive Officer, which has an average annual salary of $156,468, according to PayScale.
  • Senior Data Analyst, with a base pay of $90,631 per year.
  • Human Resources Director, which can lead to an average salary of $168,166 per year, according to Salary.com.

In most cases, the biggest difference between earning an MBA vs an EMBA is the career growth opportunity. Students with an EMBA have a chance to pursue highly respected positions and earn a higher salary, but those with an MBA can still find noteworthy careers and make great money.

Making a choice for the future: Online MBA

Are you interested in pursuing an EMBA but you still don’t have your MBA? Are you in a completely different industry and you’re ready to switch gears?
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 ready to learn more about the benefits of an online MBA program, including the potential career paths and courses included in the curriculum, check out our website and connect with one of our enrollment advisors today.


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Investopedia, MBA vs. Executive MBA: What’s the Difference?

Forbes, Are Executive MBAs Worth It?

U.S. News & World Report, What an Executive MBA Is and Reasons to Get One

PayScale: Chief Marketing Officer

PayScale: Logistics Director Salary

PayScale: Chief Executive Officer

PayScale: Senior Data Analyst

Salary.com: Human Resources Director