MBA vs. EMBA: What’s the Difference?

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Doug Wintemute is a writer who focuses on higher learning and entertainment. Since 2014, he has contributed to content and editorial work for award-winning publications. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum l...
Updated on March 16, 2023
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  • Learn more about the differences between MBA and EMBA programs.
  • Discover how these programs differ in terms of cost and admission requirements.
  • Examine the various formats and coursework of MBA and EMBA programs.
  • Uncover major variables to consider when choosing between these degree options.

An advanced business degree can lead to more job opportunities, leadership positions, and higher wages. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projects annual salaries for individuals with a master's in business to exceed those of bachelor's in business degree-holders by an average of $16,590 in 2021.

Many of the best online MBA programs offer two major tracks: a traditional MBA degree and an executive MBA (EMBA). This article explores these two degrees in detail and answers some commonly asked questions.

What Is an MBA Program?

Online MBA programs may appeal to current and aspiring business professionals looking to develop specialized leadership skills and advance their careers. Admitted students usually possess 2-5 years of experience and commit to full-time study for the duration of their program, which means they may have to leave their jobs.

As a result, many MBA programs provide extensive career services, including career coaching, mentorship programs, networking and recruiting events, and collaborative residencies. MBA programs may provide various scheduling, delivery, and program options, allowing you to individualize your curriculum and pursue a target career.

What Is an Executive MBA Program (EMBA)?

Executive MBA programs often appeal to more experienced business professionals who need to maintain full-time employment while they study. As a result, these programs often feature evening, weekend, or online schedules, along with more significant experience requirements for admission. According to the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), the average EMBA student in 2020 was about 38 years old and had roughly 14 years of professional experience.

While some EMBA programs offer similar career services to traditional MBA programs, they tend to focus more on leadership and career development. Since most online EMBA students already possess executive-level positions, their training helps them master and improve on a role they have.

Popular Online MBA Programs

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When comparing the tuition for an EMBA vs. MBA program, the typical prices vary somewhat. According to data collected by BestColleges, online MBA degrees cost about $69,140 on average. In contrast, the average EMBA program costs about $83,000, according to EMBAC. Since many MBA programs run full time, however, you should also consider the impact of lost wages.

Employer assistance can also factor into the out-of-pocket cost of a program. Many organizations cover the full or partial cost of an MBA or EMBA, especially if an employee is a top performer.

If you are currently employed, check with your HR department prior to choosing a program to find out if you qualify for tuition reimbursement. It's important to understand the policies and follow any required stipulations regarding program eligibility. You may also be required to remain employed at your company for a certain period of time after earning your degree to qualify for reimbursement.

Admission Requirements

The primary difference in admission requirements for an EMBA vs. MBA is typically related to the experience requirements. Most MBA programs require 2-5 years of relevant professional experience, whereas EMBA programs usually require 5-10 years.

Statistically speaking, executive MBA programs often feature higher admission rates than traditional MBA programs because the former tend to have lower GPA and test score requirements. In fact, some EMBAs may not require GMAT test scores at all. Both programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree and submit reference letters.

Program Format

Like many online business degrees, MBA and executive MBA programs can vary in format and structure. Typically, however, MBA programs operate on a full-time basis for 1-2 years, whereas EMBA programs tend to run part time for two years. Choosing between a part-time and full-time MBA usually comes down to your work schedule and any other commitments you might have. Part-time EMBA programs offer evening and weekend class options.

Some EMBA programs run intensive and faster-paced sessions to allow for the completion of courses in fewer appearances. Executive MBA options may also offer more intensive networking opportunities.


The curriculum requirements in EMBA vs. MBA programs differ most in terms of their customizability. While they usually have similar core classes, online EMBA programs typically feature fewer elective options. Online EMBA programs may not feature as many major or specialization options, either.

Engagement in these program types can also vary considerably. MBA degree-seekers usually have a more immersive experience, while online EMBA students may complete shorter bursts of intense training and networking sessions. Internship opportunities might also vary between program types.

MBA vs. EMBA: Which Is Right for You?

When comparing EMBA and MBA programs, you should consider your own unique circumstances and career stage. Current managers and executives who wish to develop more advanced leadership knowledge and skills may be better suited to an EMBA program, whereas those looking to obtain their first management position will likely find more value from an MBA.

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Portrait of Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships.

Krystal founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills, and connect with other high-achieving women. Krystal received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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