Is an EMBA Right for You?

Is an EMBA Right for You? main image

The Executive MBA (EMBA) is often misconstrued as a ‘superior’ form of the MBA, but it is in fact a part-time course aimed at candidates with more work experience and expertise than the average MBA applicant.

The degree classifications hold the same merit at graduation but vary wildly in purpose and delivery format, meaning you get a totally different experience than the full-time MBA student. Bearing this in mind, you can get a good idea of whether an EMBA is the best fit for you.

Admissions and funding your studies

The EMBA is designed for managers with considerable work experience, usually around 10-15 years. Considering this, it’s unsurprising that EMBA students have an average age of 38, compared to 28 in the MBA.

However, there are cases where candidates in their late 20s or early 30s are operating at an executive level, such as in industries like technology where employees tend to be promoted quickly and reach an executive level before they are 35. If you are younger but feel you fit into the executive category, an EMBA may still be right for you.

Not all EMBA courses require a GMAT, but most of the top schools will require some sort of standardized test, which could also include the relatively new Executive Assessment test. This has been designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the creators of the GMAT exam, and was developed for time-sensitive executives, as it’s easy to schedule, shorter than the GMAT, and requires moderate preparation.

The EMBA, much like the MBA, requires letters of recommendation, and a school may also require proof from a candidate’s employer that they support you in undertaking the degree, which is especially important for an EMBA where your work-study balance will influence your success in the program.

The part-time nature of the EMBA has substantial financial implications on funding your studies. As it is part-time, EMBA candidates can work and earn a full-time salary while studying, and likely won’t have to think about some of the costs associated with a full-time study program, such as accommodation and relocation expenses.

It’s very common for an EMBA candidate to have the majority, if not the entirety, of their tuition covered by their employer, in a practice known as sponsorship. Students who are company-funded may be required to commit to that company for a few years after graduation.

Recently, there has been an increase in self-funded EMBA students, reflected by the fact that an increasing number of schools are offering EMBA scholarships. The cost of EMBA tuition varies significantly depending on the region the program is in, the teaching standards of the program, the reputation of the school, as well as several other factors. Depending on the program, fees worldwide range from under US$30,000 to over US$150,000.

Teaching format and scheduling your degree

EMBAs are designed to suit the working professional and are part-time. Usually, EMBA students remain in their current position on a full-time basis, with some of their EMBA tuition taking place online or by distance learning. An EMBA cohort all tend to start at the same time, and stay together throughout the program, providing ample opportunities to make connections with fellow executives.

There’s a significant amount of in-class learning, which are usually organized on evenings, weekends, or intensive weeks, depending on the school. It’s also common for some classes to take place in different locations around the world.


Classwork tends to be undertaken in shorter, more intense intervals than on the full-time MBA, to minimize disruption from regular work schedules. It’s important not to underestimate the amount of work involved in an EMBA. While teaching is part-time, it’s very intensive and requires an investment of more than 20 hours a week in addition to your full-time job. Really consider whether you can add the EMBA to your schedule if it’s already full of professional and personal commitments.

If you’re unable to work weekends or evenings, you could undertake an asynchronous online-EMBA program where you fit digital classes around your schedule, but it’s important to bear in mind that a self-guided online approach requires you to be highly disciplined to succeed. Plus, in-person classroom participation with other experts in their fields is often noted as a key element of the EMBA program, something you can lose out on as an online-only student.

The MBA and EMBA tend to have the same core curriculum content, however EMBA programs, as a feature of their part-time nature, tend to have fewer electives. Nevertheless, there are also targeted EMBAs for those who want to specialize, such as in healthcare or sustainability.

Opportunities for networking and career progression

One of the most important elements of an EMBA program is networking and being an EMBA candidate at a top university means you’re more likely to be able to network with major players in a vast array of industries.

The majority of EMBA candidates are driven to undertake the degree because of the promise of a career boost after graduation. The common goal for most middle-managers is to reach a C-Suite position, such as CEO, COO, or CIO. Typical career transitions for EMBA students are from functional manager to general manager or executive, from manager to entrepreneur, and from one company or industry to another.

Anyone who can fulfil the double duties of being both a student and an employee can demonstrate to upper management they have the ambition to step up to these higher-level positions within a company. An EMBA allows you to develop and enrich your core skills learned in your career as well as adding new knowledge and capabilities.

The job security offered by sponsorship may appeal to many candidates, as often sponsorship requires you to work at the company for several years after graduation, meaning you get an EMBA paid for as well as a guaranteed job afterwards. However, there may be certain trade-offs with this sort of arrangement, such as less opportunities for upward progression or salary negotiation.

If your company offers sponsorship, be sure of your obligations of the agreement in advance. The careers service offered to EMBA students are often very useful if you’re hoping to get promoted from within at your company as they will offer coaching on how to get promoted and negotiate salary raises.


You should define your career goals before undertaking an EMBA, as it’s important to know how you will use the knowledge, skills, and contacts you have gained on the program to your best advantage going forward.

Written by Julia Gilmore

Julia is a writer for TopMBA.com, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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