MBA vs EMBA: Which one is right for you?

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Female EMBA professor teaching class

Are you ready to take your business skills to the next level? Is the academic in you anxious to get to work? If so, it’s time to go back to school and pursue your Master of Business Administration.

The next questions to consider: Should you enroll in an on-campus or online MBA degree program? Which is the most beneficial path for you, an MBA vs executive MBA? The decision typically comes down to preference, scheduling and the point in your career that you decide to pursue the degree.

Here’s a comparison of the two degrees to help you decide which one is the right educational track for you:

The basic differences

Most MBA degrees are earned through full-time programs, usually over the course of two years. In general, business professionals who want to keep working while they earn their degree choose the executive route. That’s because most EMBA programs are part-time, completed over a period of two to four years. Classes are often held on evenings and weekend days to comply with professional obligations.

While this remains true of most traditional programs, keep in mind that the online nature of select MBA programs may also make it easy to maintain your professional and personal commitments while working toward your degree. The online Master of Business Administration program from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland gives you the opportunity to earn your degree in as little as two years while still upholding your professional role.

Types of applicants

The age and experience of applicants tends to vary between the two degrees. EMBA programs are catered toward business professionals with more extensive work experience, typically consisting of at least five years in a senior managerial role. According to Investopedia, the average age of EMBA students ranges from 32 to 38.

Therefore, admission requirements tend to reflect these differences in applicants. Some MBA admissions teams look for two or three years of work experience, but many programs don’t require applicants to have any major roles listed on resumes. However, applicants usually need a sufficient GMAT score to be strongly considered. EMBA admissions teams instead focus their attention heavily on applicants’ professional experiences.

Topics of discussion

Both MBA and EMBA programs intend to provide students with the skills, knowledge and valuable network to succeed in their careers. Graduates from either program can walk away with an advanced set of skills, ready to apply them to their next professional endeavor. While these learning outcomes are similar, the presentation of information and student engagement with the content often differs between the programs.

Considering EMBA students typically have more experience, they are expected to already have a solid amount of business knowledge. This higher level of seniority changes how students interact with each other and engage in the classroom. This is reflected in the nature of the coursework and a lesser focus on entry exams. It’s important to consider your level of business knowledge and expertise when choosing between an MBA and EMBA, as you’ll get the most out of your education if you can effectively discuss concepts and collaborate with your peers.

A strong appeal for MBA programs is the ability to specialize learning focus. In addition to foundational business courses, MBA students can choose electives and specializations, such as finance and marketing. At the Smith School of Business, MBA students can specialize in these areas, as well as information systems and business analytics, accounting and supply chain management. This allows students to dive into the relevant concepts that most interest them while still broadening overall business perspectives in the foundational courses. While some EMBA programs do offer electives and focused courses, the selections are usually more limited than those offered by MBA programs.

Tuition payments

Most MBA candidates rely on self-funding, scholarships and financial aid to pay for their degree. Since EMBA students are older, often with established positions at work, their employers tend to cover the majority of the tuition costs. This is common because employers benefit from the skills and knowledge their employees gain by going back to school. However, the catch is that most companies will require at least three to five years of commitment after finishing the degree.

That being said, if you’re interested in switching careers or taking up a new specialization, an MBA degree is probably more suitable for your personal and professional goals. Plus, there are options for company support for MBA programs, too. The Smith School of Business offers corporate partnerships, which provides scholarship funding and waived application fees or enrollment deposits for full-time employees of partner organizations.

Next steps

Both an MBA and an EMBA degree can give you the resume boost you need to become an experienced thought leader in your field. Earning a master’s degree can be vital for professional and personal development through advanced skill enhancement and influential networking with peers and faculty. However, there are subtle differences in motivations for students pursuing an MBA versus an EMBA.

Many MBA students enroll in the program to make a career change, whether they want to relocate to another region, secure a different position, move to a different industry or pursue a more specialized role in their current field. After graduating, they’re typically focused on new employment. On the other hand, most EMBA candidates intend to progress within their current role and company or simply want to enhance their skills and knowledge for better performance.

The Smith difference

If you decide that an MBA is the right track for you, consider the online MBA program at the Smith School of Business. It offers flexibility — you can take the classes at your own pace, wherever and whenever you wish to complete to them. You’ll learn from the same top-rated professors that teach on campus, engaging in the same content and discussions that can set you up to become a successful business leader.

Reach out to an advisor to learn more about enrolling in the online MBA program from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.


Recommended Readings:

5 tips to finish your MBA as a working professional

Is it time to get your MBA? 3 reasons to do it online



Investopedia, MBA vs. Executive MBA: Which is Better?

University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, Online Master of Business Administration