Many people regard a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree as a stepping stone for career advancement. Many schools offer both a regular MBA and an Executive MBA (EMBA). What is the difference between an MBA and an Executive MBA? In the broadest terms, the two degrees are the same. Differences arise in program details, type of student, academics, and cost.

MBA vs. Executive MBA

A traditional MBA program is rigorous, full-time, and routinely requires two years to complete. The heavy work load doesn’t allow for a full-time job. A GMAT, or possibly GRE, test score is required for acceptance, although some schools are moving toward a no-test requirement.

An Executive MBA program is part-time and commonly completed over two years. Students continue to work their regular job while attending classes on Fridays, evenings or weekends. No GMAT or GRE score is required, but students are expected to show a range of experience along with acquired skills and knowledge. School choice is constrained because students must choose an institution near their work. The  demands of a full-time job and class work leave little time for other activities.

Students going for an MBA tend to be in their late 20s and have limited work experience (about five years). Some students enter an MBA program directly from undergraduate school. The degree is aimed at those who want to move into management.

Those in an Executive MBA program are older, averaging late 30s, and have a fair amount of work experience (more than ten years). These executives, managers or entrepreneurs may want to brush up on what they already know or learn new skills to advance their career. They may hope to step up to the executive level, aka, the C-suite.

The MBA is a general management degree. As such, it offers more choices to customize the course of study. Students can specialize in finance, accounting, marketing, operations, etc. Networking and social opportunities abound.

Compared with a standard MBA course of study, the EMBA curriculum has less flexibility on course choice and content. There are virtually no electives. Classes move at a faster pace but cover the same material. Teamwork is emphasized, so schools usually group the same people together throughout their tenure. The upside: It is good for focused networking. The downside: It can be a hindrance if you do not get along with your cohort.

Tuition and fees can easily add up to more than $100,000. So, funding is vital to deal with. Those in a normal MBA program can take advantage of an array of scholarships, grants, loans, and other financial aid. Employers may pay some or all tuition and fees for an employee getting an Executive MBA while the employee continues to work.

Is an Executive MBA Worth It?

When debating EMBA vs. MBA, career plans dictate which makes more sense. If the goal is to improve overall job prospects and open the most doors, an MBA is likely the best fit. In addition, an MBA carries more weight when switching careers.

Executive MBA programs are designed for seasoned businesspeople looking to reach the next level in their career. It makes sense for those currently employed and hoping to move up in their current industry.

Neither degree guarantees a fancy new job or even job security. Both provide important skill sets, valuable networking prospects, and the prestige that comes with a higher degree.

Do you have an MBA or EMBA? Or are you thinking of obtaining one of the two degrees? Let us know about your experiences or opinions in the comments.