There are many ways to earn and MBA–in-person, online or hybrid. There are also numerous program options executive MBA, full-time MBA, part-time MBA or online MBA. A couple of the most popular options are the executive MBA (EMBA) and the full-time MBA (MBA). How do these MBA programs differ, and which one is right for you?

Who attends these programs?

An executive MBA or EMBA is a master’s in business administration degree designed for seasoned professionals who wish to continue working while earning their degree. Because these professionals have extensive experience, they often have an interest in how the theory compares to business practice or they wish to improve/refine their leadership skills.

A master’s in business administration (MBA) often called the Full-Time MBA is usually a two-year residential program with an internship between the first and second year. The MBA is tailored for individuals with a few years of work experience since completing their bachelor’s degree. These students leave the workforce to earn their degree and are typically looking to redirect their career by switching industry or function. They use coursework, consulting projects, and a summer internship to craft a résumé that will help them make this professional transition.

What is the time commitment?

Executive MBA programs are part-time programs that typically last 12 to 24 months and are structured so students continue to work and maintaining an income while learning.  EMBA students can take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to the office the next day.  While full-time MBA programs are typically 24-month immersive experiences that require exiting the workforce for the duration of the program. Full-time MBA students use the summer internship as a means of practicing what they have been learning in the classroom.

What do these programs cost?

Executive MBA programs are generally more expensive ($70,000 to $200,000) and cater to senior professionals that are seeking a turnkey experience. These programs often take place on weekends and can include staying overnight on campus or at a nearby resort. Numerous networking events and guest speakers are embedded in the program and may also involve immersive learning opportunities domestically or abroad. Full-Time MBA programs tuition averages in the five figures. However, you should consider the impact of not having an income for two years when evaluating your cost of attendance. Because of this loss of income, many institutions offer significant scholarships to students with strong academic records as demonstrated in their GPA and GMAT/GRE scores.

Is there a difference in curriculum?

Generally, the curriculum for the Executive MBA and Full-Time MBA are the same for what are considered the core or foundational courses. However, Full-Time MBA programs offer more options such as electives, concentrations, or the ability to complete a dual program by adding a second master’s degree. Class discussions differ in that EMBA programs often take a more integrated approach to course material realizing that business challenges are complex and touch on many factors. However, Full-Time MBA class discussions more often stick to a more traditional approach to the course material.

What are the outcomes of these programs?

The outcome of an MBA will depend heavily on the student’s drive, but time and again we see the value of an MBA play out in increased income or promotions. In 2021 the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) reported that graduating EMBA students earned almost a 15 percent increase in compensation and 36 percent reported receiving a promotion. Meanwhile, according Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey 2022 Summary Report nationwide the average starting salary for Full-Time MBA graduates of the Class of 2022 was in the six figures. Keep in mind that there can be significant regional variances.

How to choose?

Choosing which MBA is best for you depends on your reason for earning an MBA and your starting point. If you are farther along in your career and can’t leave the workforce for two years, the EMBA is the best solution. However, if you are making a significant career change, such as switching industry or function, and can dedicate two years to retool the Full-Time MBA would be best.


The Eller graduate experience comes in many forms, including five MBA programs, 12 specialized master’s degrees and many more options for concentrations, specializations, dual degrees and certificates. 

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