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North America’s Top 2 EMBA Programs Compared

The Kellogg School at Northwestern University (pictured, right) and Wharton top this year’s QS Global 100 EMBA Rankings by Region in North America

Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management took first place in this year's regional executive MBA (EMBA) rankings for North America, just nudging ahead of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


Behemoths of the global elite category of business schools, these institutions have a firm hold of their positions at the top, but what, other than geography, really sets the schools and their executive MBA program offerings apart? The next sections compare the Kellogg School and Wharton's EMBA programs, their executive MBA class profiles, as well as career prospects post-graduation. 

Comparing Wharton and the Kellogg School: The top 2 in North America’s EMBA rankings

Kellogg School of Management, based around 30 minutes (by car) from the north of Chicago, greets its executive MBAs from a lakeside campus in Evanston, Illinois. Students of the program take classes every other week, with seminars, case studies and lectures taking place all day Friday and Saturday.

If Chicago's not for you, executive MBAs also have the option to study at Kellogg's Coral Gables campus, located just outside the city of Miami. There, EMBA students can take classes in blocks on a monthly basis, from Thursday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon. This campus prides itself in its close ties to Latin America and its international community. The executive MBA is 24-months long at both campuses.

The Wharton School’s EMBA program is also two years in length, and is offered on a biweekly basis in which students study on Fridays and Saturdays, with some three-day weekends thrown in for good measure. Executive MBA students can study at the school’s historic Philadelphia campus, or they can go west to Wharton's campus in San Francisco, just a stone's throw from Silicon Valley and the thriving Bay Area business hub.  

Both business schools boast high reputations for academic excellence (thought leadership), with Wharton taking a slight edge in this regard in QS’s EMBA rankings. For students interested in particular specializations, it is worth being aware of Wharton's longstanding expertise and strength in finance, and the Kellogg School's distinguished reputation in marketing. In addition, Wharton emphasizes that its executive MBA and full-time MBA are fully equivalent, in terms of content and quality. This extends to those who opt to study in San Francisco as Wharton flies its Pennsylvania faculty to its West Coast campus to ensure all MBAs, independent of format, are receiving an equal standard of course delivery.

Prestige comes at a price, however. The total cost of the EMBA program for students who enroll at the Kellogg School in September 2017 or January 2018 will be US$$201,120. The Wharton School's fees for those who started in May 2017 are US$198,600. Fees at both schools are inclusive of tuition, room and board, and course materials.  

International components for each EMBA program

Wharton and Kellogg both cover core management courses in the first year, and these are modified to take the advanced experience of senior professionals on board. In the second year, EMBA candidates get the opportunity to home in on their interests, and choose electives that fit their chosen career paths and ambitions. Included in the second year at both Wharton and Kellogg are required, weeklong international courses.

Kellogg students can opt to spend their international segment at one of seven partner campuses, each of which offers a different topic of focus, be it luxury brand management at Germany's WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, or venture capital at Recanati in Tel Aviv.

Wharton’s ‘Global Business Week’ mixes EMBA students from Philadelphia and San Francisco at their choice of up to five study destinations – most recently these options encompassed South Africa, Spain, Cuba, China and Southeast Asia. Similar to Kellogg, the topics devised are country-relevant.

Beyond the compulsory, both institutions also offer diverse opportunities for global travel, mainly in the form of electives.

When looking at international study options attached to these two high-profile EMBAs, it’s important to note that the Kellogg School enjoys strong international partnerships, as is evidenced by its prominence in the QS Global Joint EMBA Rankings 2017, in which Kellogg programs offered in conjunction with other institutions feature.

Averages ages and industry backgrounds: What to expect from your executive MBA classmates

How do the two EMBA program cohorts compare at Kellogg and Wharton? When comparing 2016’s graduating class at Kellogg with the class of 2018 at Wharton, Kellogg’s cohort is slightly older (37.5 vs. 35 years old) and has a little more existing experience (14 years vs. 11 years) than Wharton’s, on average. 

Manufacturing was a common professional background among the EMBA class of 2016 at Kellogg, accounting for 20% of participants. Yet, this industry barely registers among Wharton’s class of 2018 – just 3% of those enrolled in San Francisco and none at all in Philadelphia come from manufacturing backgrounds (of course, industry definitions and brackets do vary from school to school which might explain some of the gap seen here).

A further 20% of Kellogg’s class of 2016 joined the program from backgrounds in the financial services – a high proportion but one that is even higher among Wharton’s class of 2018 – investment banking alone accounts for 15% of those enrolled in San Francisco and 8% of those in Philadelphia, with a further 8% in Philadelphia coming from backgrounds in investment management and 5% of those in San Francisco coming from private equity or venture capital backgrounds.

Kellogg and the Wharton School: Lifelong backers 

Both Wharton and Kellogg offer their students lifelong career counseling and support. Their global networks of alumni stretch to 95,000 graduates for Wharton, and 60,000 for Kellogg, presenting extensive opportunities for partnership, socializing and discussion as well as finding new job opportunities, or talented hires.


Insofar as projected earnings post-graduation are concerned, students at the Wharton School are expected to earn 46% more than they did on entering the executive MBA program, according to QS’s EMBA rankings. For graduates of the Kellogg School, the equivalent figure stands at 38%.

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

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