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MBA vs Executive MBA: How to Choose the Right Program for You

In recent years, Executive MBAs have become just as common as the traditional MBA programs.

However, this has also led to an increase in confusion regarding the differences between the two programs.

Many applicants find it hard to make a choice.

Some don’t even realize that these are two entirely different programs, and Executive MBA isn’t just a fancy term for a traditional MBA.

MBA vs Executive MBA

If you’re confused about which program would be a better fit for you, read on as we look at the differences between MBA vs Executive MBA programs.

We’re going to look at the length of the programs, the class atmosphere, and even the curriculum, allowing you to choose the program that is right for you.

Your Professional Work Experience

Your professional work experience is a deciding factor when it comes to choosing between an Executive MBA and a traditional MBA.

Executive MBAs are designed for experienced professionals, and the candidates for this program have a substantial amount of work experience prior to their enrollment.

Most candidates have between 8-10 years of work experience under their belt.

A traditional MBA is, however, designed for students who have either just finished their undergraduate education, or have between 3-6 years of work experience.

It is designed for students in the early stages of their career.

If you’ve been working for 8-10 years, a traditional MBA might not be enough of a learning opportunity for you.

However, if you’re a recent graduate, you will not be able to qualify for an Executive MBA as you don’t have the necessary professional experience.

Program Length and Pace

An Executive MBA is shorter, and much more intense, as compared to a traditional MBA.

Since candidates are not studying full-time and have jobs to manage, the program is built to minimize disruption to work and family life.

Classes are usually held on weekends, or at regular intervals during the year (for instance, one whole week every 2 months) so that the candidates can get time off from work to attend them.

A traditional MBA runs between 1-2 years long, and the classes are at a more moderate pace. Since the regular MBA students study full-time, and have intensive schedules, they can’t work part-time.

The classes take place during the work-week, with assignments often requiring group meetings on weekends.

Since the traditional MBA has full-time course load, you will need to look into an Executive MBA if you cannot leave your job.


Curriculum Content and Learning Potential

Executive MBA programs cover much of the same material as the traditional MBAs, but there are fewer elective options.

For the most part, the entire class takes the same courses for the duration of the program.

EMBA programs focus on the macro-view and emphasize on real-world application of concepts and theories.

They address the needs of mid to senior level corporate managers and aim to equip them with advanced knowledge and tools that produce measurable results.

A traditional MBA offers specialization options, like finance, marketing or entrepreneurship, which allows students to build their MBA degree based on their interest.

It focuses on teaching students academic fundamentals, and aims to provide a thorough orientation to the core disciplines of business management.

A traditional MBA is the most suitable option for students with minimal work experience.

Since it focuses on teaching the fundamentals of business and allows you to learn the basic building blocks for your chosen specialty.

Class Discussions and Format

An Executive MBA program is based on strategic thinking, problem solving and leadership.

Students are required to analyze and discuss business cases at a much higher level, as they all have work experience to back up their arguments.

Classes are based around case studies and projects, where students are able to leverage their knowledge and experience.

A lot of the learning comes from the discussions the students have with each other, with the instructor playing the role of a facilitator.

Traditional MBA students don’t have as much experience in the real world, so the discussions are not as in-depth.

Class discussions are therefore led by the instructor, who has to impart knowledge to the students.

While there are plenty of in-depth discussions in traditional MBA classrooms as well, they are not at a level where a mid-level manager would feel engaged.

Based on your level of experience, you need to consider which program will offer the most learning opportunities to you.

If you’ve been working for a while, an Executive MBA offers considerably more intensive learning experiences than a traditional MBA.

Program Cost

An Executive MBA, since designed for managers, is sometimes paid for by employers as they hope to provide their “rock star” performers more learning opportunities and allowing them to perform better.

As a student, you will not only still be working (and getting a salary) but also be in a position where part, or all, of the cost of the program will be covered for you.

A traditional MBA is paid for by the students themselves, as they are not at a stage in their careers where their employers will be willing to invest into their future.

They might have the option of grants and loans, but essentially they have to figure out how to cover the degree costs themselves.

Wrapping It Up

Considering these five factors; work experience, program length and pace, curriculum, class discussions and cost, can help you pick the right program that fits your needs.

You might find that you aren’t suitable for an Executive MBA because you don’t have the necessary work experience.

Similarly, mid-level managers might not want to consider a traditional MBA because it doesn’t offer as many learning opportunities for them.

Still, you may find yourself a part of that small niche of students who can qualify for either degree, and then the decision might be a lot tougher to make.

Consider all your options, as well as what you hope to gain from your degree, and make a decision that is most likely to benefit you in future.

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