What is the difference between an MBA and an EMBA?

If you are considering studying an MBA or an EMBA, make sure you know the differences in order to pick the right one for you

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Michael Desiderio

November 15 2019
What is the difference between an MBA and and EMBA?

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Executive MBA (EMBA) enrolment is growing. The Executive MBA Council’s 2019 Membership Programme Survey found that there has been a 31.6 per cent increase in people applying for EMBA programmes since 2015, the highest yet.

Additionally, the number of female students enrolled has reached its highest percentage (31.2 per cent), showing progress in female representation.

Hundreds of schools and universities around the globe offer accredited full-time MBA programmes and EMBA programmes to students eager to move up the corporate ladder and develop their skills. With these programmes, individuals are equipped with leadership skills and business knowledge to accelerate their professional journey.

An EMBA is often mistaken as a higher form of the full-time MBA when, in reality, both programmes are effectively the same degree, delivered in different formats to meet the needs of the students they respectively serve.


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While an MBA and EMBA are equal in terms of distinction and value, the outline, delivery and prior work experience of their students are what separates them.

Although EMBA programmes differ between institutions, there are elements that remain the same across the board. For one, they are aimed at working professionals who have progressed well in their careers and are looking for a qualification that can help them reach the next level. The average EMBA student is 38 years old with about 14 years’ work experience and nine years of management experience.

Comparatively, full-time MBA students are often earlier on in their careers and undertaking the qualification to gain a comprehensive understanding of business and management. While both programmes typically last two years, EMBA programmes are structured to align with the schedules of working professionals.

EMBA and full-time MBA programmes both expect students to devote a significant amount of time to their chosen course, which includes attending classes and conducting independent study.

EMBA programmes also require students to interact closely with each other, enabling them to improve their teamwork skills and build a valuable network that they can tap into for years after they graduate. EMBA students will come from a variety of backgrounds, industries and organisations.

Undertaking an EMBA programme can offer many benefits, but the main reasons include the desire to increase professional growth and specialised skills, the drive to enhance career development and the ability to stay employed while earning a degree. 

EMBA programmes also allow students to improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are crucial as businesses face new challenges like skills gaps, globalisation, economic uncertainty and rising costs of labour and materials.  

Ultimately, the choice between an EMBA programme or full-time MBA programme is based on where the individual is in their career. If they are in their mid-20s with a couple of years of work experience, they may be a candidate for a full-time MBA programme; if they have substantial work experience, generally including some management experience, an EMBA programme is the right path for them.

Read more: Best universities for business degrees



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