Should You Pursue an Executive MBA If You Already Have an MBA? |

Should You Pursue an Executive MBA If You Already Have an MBA?

By Nunzio Q

Updated March 12, 2021 Updated March 12, 2021

There was a time when people who had earned an MBA never gave a second thought to the executive MBA (EMBA), but business schools – seeking to differentiate themselves and extend their reach to a larger demographic – are distinguishing the two degrees more frequently.

Traditionally, the MBA is for slightly younger students, who are in their late 20s or early 30s and have less work experience, than those entering the EMBA, who are in their mid to late 30s and have more work experience. In fact, you might find EMBA students in their 50s and 60s, according to an FAQ on the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School website.

Depending on the type of program you enter, you can earn an MBA in one to three years. EMBA programs tend to be two to three years. Traditional MBA programs have students consistently meeting for class and assignments, whereas EMBA students gather on weekends or during intense weeklong courses.

There’s no denying the curriculum is similar. The major difference is the EMBA offers far fewer electives and a more focused core because it is for those already in more senior positions, who are continuing to work.

You’ll also find more EMBA programs that include a specialization. For instance, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management allows EMBA students to have concentrations, such as healthcare. For this reason, older executives – even if they have earned an MBA – might want to brush up on skills and get training to keep up with the latest trends. In those cases, the EMBA is a way to remain relevant and competitive.

Why both degrees can be valuable

As a result, people might find earning both an MBA and EMBA useful. At the very least, they should recognize the EMBA as a quality degree that can help boost a career. Recently, we released the QS EMBA Rankings 2018. In researching these rankings, we gained insight about how the EMBA is differentiating itself from the more popular MBA programs.


For starters, it’s becoming more accessible, as part of a move to make it more appealing to working professionals, who may also be juggling family life. Usually, there is flexibility in the time it takes students to complete the degree, and two out of three programs gave students a choice about specialized coursework.

Peer-to-peer learning

All MBA programs are distinctive because students learn as much from each other as they do professors and guest lecturers. After all, everyone comes in with some experience to start.

However, EMBA students have been working as much as 10 years or more. They have all demonstrated leadership and hold senior positions. Bringing what they have learned and accomplished to the table is priceless. Few programs can boast such teachers in their students.

A focused approach

While specialization is becoming more of a possibility at EMBA programs, it remains more focused in core studies than the MBA. Most EMBA programs gloss over the basics, so seasoned professionals can dig into theories and skills they can most immediately apply to their work. The assumption is they are more experienced than their MBA counterparts, so they can quickly move onto more advanced subject matters.

Education in innovation

At MIT Sloan, innovation is a priority. Just take a quick scan of the Sloan Class of 2020 EMBA brochure. One of the aims for older students is to stay on the cutting edge of their industry.

Businesspeople today need to understand data analytics and how it relates to strategic planning and how new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are disrupting industries at a rapid rate. Going back to school helps executives better grasp what’s happening in their office right now. This is especially necessary for older executives who didn’t get any of this education back when they originally earned the MBA.

Career help

Back in the day, EMBA students usually hoped for a promotion and raise at the company for which they were already working. That still happens today, but now that more EMBA students are paying their own way or earning scholarships from the school, they aren’t necessarily using all they learn for current employers. As a result, they want more help with networking and career planning from the business school.

For instance, LBS offers its EMBA in London or Dubai and immediately boasts of how this degree can boost your career by broadening your network. It’s in the first few sentences of the program’s homepage. Wharton offers executive career coaching for EMBA students, including customized advising, workshops and speakers related to careers, and coaching on growing your network and cultivating relationships. Clearly, this is not your father’s EMBA.

Frankly, the EMBA isn’t what it used to be. These programs are evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of executives. Because business schools are trying to expand their reach, they are aiming to differentiate MBA and EMBA programs, so that some people might find usefulness in both.

Even if most still earn one degree over the other, the EMBA is becoming more flexible and focused. While earning both degrees isn’t necessary for everyone, it’s now a possibility in a way that it wasn’t before.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published in July 2018 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Nunzio is the founder and CEO of QS. Following completion of his own MBA from the Wharton School, he has gone on to become a leader in education management with over 25 years of experience in the industry. He is truly passionate about education and firmly believes in the QS mission to help young people to fulfill their potential through educational achievement, international mobility and career development. 


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