What Is an Executive MBA

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An executive MBA, or EMBA for short, is an intensive master's degree program designed to help business leaders develop their management skills. Learn more about this accelerated business degree.

[Featured Image] Two Executive MBA students sit at a table near a window looking over reports.

An executive MBA, or EMBA as it’s sometimes called, was created expressly for students who already have a good deal of work experience in the business world. The first program of its kind was created in 1943 by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The move came as part of a strategy to make American businesses stronger after World War II and in an effort to educate business school students who already had management-level work experience.

The two-year degree program is a popular and convenient option for those with several years of business and leadership experience. Much of the coursework mirrors that of a traditional MBA program, but a key distinctions separate an executive MBA versus an MBA. Classroom discussions in an EMBA program tend to be more advanced, as students in these programs generally have more real-world business experience. According to a recent survey from the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC), the average age of someone entering an EMPBA program is 38 [1]. 

Find out more about this degree option, including what it takes to apply for an EMBA and the time commitment you'll be making to earn your degree. We'll also share common courses you can expect to take, salary outlook for EMBA holders, and reasons to pursue this degree.

EMBA application requirements 

Since the EMBA is designed for those with existing business experience, the requirements for admission tend to be slightly different than for traditional MBA programs. While admission policies vary from program to program, here are a few common requirements:

1. Executive Assessment (or other entrance exam)

Schools offering the EMBA may accept the Executive Assessment in place of the GMAT or GRE. The Executive Assessment is a shorter standardized test designed to assess the knowledge experienced professionals have accumulated during their careers. It takes 90 minutes to complete compared to the three hours for the GMAT.

2. Work experience

Executive MBA applicants are typically required to have business experience, including a few years at the management level. The exact numbers vary from school to school, with most graduate-level business schools requiring a minimum of five years. Executive MBA applicants have an average of more than fourteen years of professional work experience, including an average of 8.9 years of experience at the management level, according to EMBAC [2].

3. Other application materials

You’ll also need to provide your transcripts and letters of recommendation, including at least one from a direct supervisor. You may be asked to write an essay providing more information about why you want to attend an EMBA program and how it will benefit you professionally. You may also need to submit an employer endorsement, which tells admissions councils that your employer supports your educational goals.

Read more: How to Write a Statement of Purpose for an MBA

Duration and program scheduling

EMBA programs were created for busy working professionals. They're known for covering similar coursework as traditional MBA programs but in a more condensed format and with hours that allow you to work around your career. 

An executive MBA usually takes two years to complete, including summers. You will typically have classes on Fridays, Saturdays, and weekends. This schedule is designed for working professionals, which means you’ll be working and immersed in intensive study at the same time. 

Common course curriculum

If you're in an EMBA program, you typically won't be required to choose a major. You will, however, have a choice of electives to help you customize your degree experience to fit your career goals.

Your core courses will likely focus on accounting princples, leadership, analytics, and business. While your curriculum will depend on the program you choose, examples of some courses you may take include:

  • Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership

  • Microeconomics for Managers

  • Corporate Finance

  • Marketing Strategy

  • Global Strategy

  • Accounting for Management Planning and Control

  • Negotiation Strategies

  • Managerial Psychology

  • Pricing Strategies

EMBA tuition costs

The cost of an EMBA ranges anywhere from $85,000 to $200,000 [3]. A great deal of EMBA programs do offer a sort of “bundle” within that cost. This can include an array of learning materials such as books and the possibility of international travel coverage. When you're enrolling in an EMBA program, your employer may pitch in for a portion of the tuition cost. 

Read more: How to Pay for Graduate School

Is an Executive MBA worth it? 

By earning an EMBA, you can hone the business and management skills you already have. This credential could set you up for increased salary and advancement opportunities in your field. And in many cases, you can continue working as you pursue this degree.

EMBA salary

Data from EMBAC's 2021 Student Exit Survey suggests that EMBA graduates may enjoy an increased earning potential. The survey's respondents saw an average combined increase in salary and bonuses of 14.7 percent [2]. Additionally, 36 percent of the students surveyed were promoted while they were enrolled in the EMBA program. 

The survey also showed that when students started the EMBA program, they earned an average bonus and salary package of $166,549.  Upon completion, that average bonus and salary package rose to an average of $190,989. 

Next steps

Experience for yourself what it's like to earn a business degree online by taking an open degree course, such as:

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Article sources

1. Executive MBA Council. "2019 Executive MBA Council Survey Results ShowMore People are Applying for Executive MBA Programs, https://embac.org/pdf/pressroom/embac-annual-member-survey-2019.pdf." Accessed June 2, 2022.

2. Executive MBA Council. "Industry insights, https://www.embac.org/research-in-context.html." Accessed June 2, 2022.

3. Fortune. "What does an executive MBA cost?, https://fortune.com/education/business/articles/2021/08/31/what-does-an-executive-mba-cost/." Accessed June 2, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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