MBA vs. EMBA: Why now is a good time to go to business school |

MBA vs. EMBA: Why now is a good time to go to business school

By Stephanie L

Updated May 4, 2021 Updated May 4, 2021

Sponsored by ESSEC Business School

In the last 12 months the coronavirus pandemic has caused global financial upheaval and an unpredictable job market, leading many people to reevaluate their career choices. Some have even taken the opportunity to return to higher education – including business school – to strengthen their professional development and CV.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), two-thirds of MBA programmes reported an increase in demand in 2020. Historically, this type of MBA application spike is typical when both the economy and the opportunity cost of taking a career break go down.

But is a recession and global health crisis a more advantageous time to go to business school?

As business schools around the world anticipate the surge in demand to continue, there are some considerations to keep in mind if a return to school is something you’re thinking about. For example, which degree is right for you: the MBA or executive MBA? How much time can you dedicate to your studies? Can you afford the tuition? The list goes on…  

We take a closer look at ESSEC Business School’s traditional Global MBA and executive MBA programmes, and more specifically why now is a good time to pursue a business school degree.

MBA need-to-knows

Who is it for?

The MBA is generally for early-stage career professionals with limited managerial experience who want to take their career to the next level or change career paths altogether. This means you will be studying alongside other like-minded individuals who you can network and share insights with.

What is the curriculum like?

The MBA is renowned for its versatile curriculum which covers the key areas of business, including accounting, economics, management, operations, sales, marketing and human resources.

Some MBAs, for example the Global MBA at ESSEC Business School, have incorporated the latest business trends and insights to their curriculum including sustainability, entrepreneurship, digital transformation and artificial intelligence.

ESSEC’s Global MBA programme places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning opportunities such as case studies, capstone projects, business trips and networking opportunities with leading industry specialists and alumni.

Specialised electives are also a common feature in the MBA. ESSEC Business School which has campuses in France and Singapore offers two majors as part of its Global MBA curriculum: the Strategy & Digital Leadership major in France and Singapore and the Luxury Brand Management major in France.

What is the duration and study format?

The length of the MBA can vary. The Global MBA at ESSEC Business School is one year long – but some MBAs can be two years. One thing to remember is that studying a traditional MBA generally requires having to put your career on hold in order to do so due to their intensive, full-time formats.

What are the entry requirements?

Entry requirements can vary widely between business schools. Generally, prospective MBA candidates need a GMAT or GRE score of at least 600, an advanced level of English, a bachelor’s degree and a minimum required level of professional work experience.

The Global MBA at ESSEC also requires at least three years of professional work experience (not including internships) including experience of working in an international environment.

How much does it cost?

Much like entry requirements, tuition fees for an MBA vary depending on the school you are looking to apply to. Most MBAs are self-funded although there are a wide range of scholarships available so it’s important that you do your research.

For example, ESSEC Business School offers several types of scholarship including Early Bird, Future Women Leaders, Entrepreneurship and Diversity & International Experience.

Executive MBA need-to-knows

Who is it for?

The executive MBA is designed for seasoned senior-level managers and business owners who have significant professional working experience – around 10 years’ worth including managerial experience.

What is the curriculum like?

The executive MBA has a distinctive emphasis on leadership management. It builds upon the skills and knowledge participants have already acquired from their professional experience through experiential learning opportunities and more advanced modules designed around complex business and strategic subjects.

The Executive MBA programs at ESSEC place a great emphasis on learning via a collaborative approach with group projects in order to develop critical thinking and team work skills. Participants also gain a cross-cultural business perspective through study trips to Europe, the United States and Asia.

What is the duration and study format?

On average, the executive MBA is 18 months long. It is also studied part-time and is designed to allow you to continue working full-time while attending classes at weekends and/or in the evenings. 

The ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA has been specially designed with a flexible and executive-friendly format in order to minimize your out-of-office time.

What are the entry requirements?

Unlike the MBA, the executive MBA doesn’t require a GMAT or GRE score. The only exception to this is if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. You will also need to have proven English proficiency and a certain number of years’ professional working experience, including proven managerial experience.

How much does it cost?

While the cost of the executive MBA varies massively, it does tend to cost more than a full-time MBA. However, the average payback period is only 17 months, meaning the executive MBA is often considered an investment that pays off.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most executive MBA candidates are either sponsored by their employer or are partially or fully funded with a scholarship. 

The bottom line…

Both the MBA and executive MBA have historically proven to be career springboards, leading to numerous benefits such as career advancement, salary growth and networking opportunities.

As countries and economies begin to open up again, there are going to be many questions about what happens next. Businesses will need managers who are confident in their ability to lead and navigate the business through any disruption because of their ability to implement successful operating models and recovery strategies – for both the short-term and long-term. 

There’s a real emphasis on the importance of upskilling right now. Skills like innovative problem solving, strategic thinking and decision-making are essential for companies entering the uncertain and ambiguous business landscape, all while having to adapt to numerous other digital and technological changes at the same time.

If you’re looking for a way to develop the skills that global employers are going to need in order to thrive in the next few years, returning to business school is a great way to do so.

This article was originally published in March 2021 . It was last updated in May 2021

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for and (until September 2021), Stephanie created and published a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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