The MBA or EMBA?

Columbia University

Applying to business school this year? If you answered with a resounding “YES” there is suddenly a follow-up question: “should I get an MBA or an EMBA?” It’s hard to understand which program may be right. Allow me to provide some insight:

The Executive MBA (or, as it’s more commonly know, EMBA) is for those finance or business professionals applying to business school who already have more than a few years experience under their belt. That means MORE than just 2–3 years. For example, let’s say you’ve graduated from a good college, you done some internships, secured a good job in your industry niche, and you’ve been working in your career now, on average, 8–10+ years.

You’ve also probably reached a level in your specific industry where you know you want more out of your career, or noticed that those with higher degrees are the ones who get the promotions while you stay stuck where you are. Or, perhaps you simply want to go in a completely new direction career-wise, and you know you need to first build up your skill-set, knowledge base, contacts, experience and networking in order to properly pivot and get you to that next credentialed level.

This is exactly what the EMBA was designed for: people like yourself who have already achieved a level of professional success: whether that’s on the corporate side, entrepreneurship, Wall Street, management, bio-engineering or whatever your exact cup of tea. You simply know you want to take your career someplace even more interesting and that a “better” degree is the way to do it.

There are a few thing you need to know first though before applying to this type of executive MBA / EMBA business school program in order to make sure you first have all your ducks in a row:

  1. EMBA programs usually work on rolling admissions. That means research your schools early, and know their deadlines. Then, map out a game plan that gets your applications in earlier rather than later, as spots in EMBA programs (versus the regular MBA) start to fill up fast (and thereby get more competitive) as the deadline nears.

2. You may not need a GMAT or GRE score. This is great news to some, and at times the #1 reason for applying for the EMBA over the regular, full-time MBA. Each school is different though, and some programs (like Wharton) still require it, so as with the above point, do your research on your schools and check early.

3. EMBA programs are usually almost always part-time. This is usually a plus for busy, successful professionals who fully intend to keep working full-time while they attend school — and for most people who are at the EMBA level, that’s a work week that’s already pretty darn full, so this is good news.

4. The EMBA program is slightly easier to get into than the full-time MBA. Not really true.

You have to be qualified, and of course, it will depend on the school. Wharton’s EMBA program, for example, is just as difficult to get into as their regular, full-time MBA program and is one of the most competitive EMBA programs around. Not to discourage anyone, but if you are going to apply, just make sure you don’t skimp on anything: your resume, the essays, your interview. You simply always want to put forth your absolutely best.

5. They’re not going to care about your undergraduate grades. Probably true! Of course everything always matters and counts when admissions is evaluating your overall profile, and you want to make sure you’re as competitive as possible, in every given area, to give yourself the best chance, but that “C” you got 10 years ago now in Chemistry or Advanced Calculus while you were an undergrad…not going to make much of a difference (whew!).

6. The EMBA is all about the NOW. This present moment — what are you doing in your career TODAY? What does your resume look like right this instant? How many people do you manage? What’s your level of responsibility? Do you have any direct reports? What level of clout do you have within your department, or perhaps this is even your own company? How do your application essays, your interview, your profile, and your resume add up? And what about your rec letters? Do other professionals speak highly of you, and do you present with strong confidence, able to handle challenges, and as a natural innovator and leader? These are the things that will get you in.

The Executive EMBA is all about helping today’s business leaders and visionaries move higher by giving them the tools and relationships they need, and some of the best schools out there for today’s top EMBA programs include: Wharton, Columbia, MIT Sloan, NYU Stern, Chicago Booth, and Kellogg as well as many more.

So, here’s the take-away: if you have only been out of school and working for 2–3 years, apply for a regular, full-time, in person MBA program (and at one of the “Top Ten” or Ivy League schools to get the best ROI). Have more than say 5–10 years experience? Then the EMBA programs are for you.

All that said, are you now thinking about applying for your MBA or EMBA and want more information? I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer + Harvard grad, and currently run the MBA & EMBA admissions consulting firm: MBA Contact me today for a free consultation and get into the school of your dreams!