Executive MBA or MBA
Both the MBA and EMBA programs confer a Master of Business Administration degree and, on most school transcripts, there is no delineation of the "Executive" nature of the program. Despite this, there is considerable misunderstanding concerning the differences between the two programs.
Origin of the MBA
The Master of Business Administration degree has been the standard for graduate education in business for over 50 years.
Approximately 25 years ago, a new academic program called an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) was introduced. Heralded as vehicle to allow companied to train selected middle managers for more senior responsibility, the typical candidate was fully company sponsored and supported in these weekend programs which lasted somewhere between 16 to 20 months. As expected, the reaction to these programs was based upon comparison to traditional MBA programs and it was frequently unfavorable. Based in part on the fact that these EMBA programs were more expensive than comparable MBA programs and that the usual EMBA candidate lacked the undergraduate business training that were required of traditional MBA candidates, such negative reaction was predictable.
Over time, the makeup of those enrolling in EMBA programs has changed substantially. Owing to a variety of factors including uncertain economic conditions and employee mobility, very few companies continue to fully sponsor executives in EMBA programs. While total enrolment in these programs declined, there are signs that these declines have leveled off and the programs continue to attract students. The new profile of an EMBA candidate is one of a middle level executive who recognizes the need to further their education and are willing to pay the substantial sticker fee to obtain this education, often with only limited or no financial assistance from their employers.
The executive MBA (EMBA) is a master in business administration degree program for students who are full-time employees who will expect to graduate within two years. Survey results (Stuart, 2005) show little understanding nor appreciation for this form of graduate business education. This lack of understanding may stem from several issues. The first is the size of the respective programs. In 2005, approximately 5,000 full-time working professionals graduated from the roughly 200 EMBA programs that exist world-wide (Executive EMBA Council Survey, 2005). According to the U.S. Department of labor, this represents only approximately 5% of MBAs conferred annually (Stuart, 2005). Given the substantive size difference, it seems likely that MBA degrees obtained through the EMBA format could be overshadowed by traditional MBA programs.
Misconception and perceptual differences between the different programs continues. Some view EMBA programs as on-line (go4bschool.com, 2006) while still others believe that MBA programs are essentially a general management degree while those receiving an EMBA are perceived as receiving more technical education to enable them to hone specialized skills (Schweitzer, 2006). Since both programs grant a Master of Business Administration degree and, on most school transcripts, there is no delineation of the "Executive" nature of the program, identifying the extent to which any of these perceptions are valid is important to those trying to decide between these two differing programs.
Key Differences Between EMBA and MBA
MBA Programs and Executive MBA Programs sometimes have a similar curriculum, but the class format and admission requirements vary. MBA programs are offered in both full and part-time options. The full-time programs are typically two years with a paid internship occurring in the summer between the two years in the field in which the students are interested in working. The part-time programs are there for students who wish to work while pursing their degree at a slower pace.
EMBA programs are "lock-step" in nature, averaging 19-20 months to complete. Students are working professionals with significant business experience. Class format also differs between the two programs. In an MBA Program, students usually choose the classes they will take each quarter. In an Executive MBA program, students often complete classes in a step-lock method, attending courses with the same classmates for the duration of the program. Classes are usually held on weekends and rely upon the collective experience of its participants, frequently employing the team approach in sharing diverse perspectives on various topics. The candidates are usually older and have been out of school for a longer period.
Admission standards vary substantially. Most MBA programs utilize a combination of GMAT scores and undergraduate grade averages to evaluate candidates for admission. Students with undergraduate degrees in non-business fields are often required to successfully complete business "core" requirements before being allowed to enroll in graduate level courses. This requirement makes direct comparison of the price of the two programs impossible as many MBA programs quote only the price of completing the graduate portion of their requirements. EMBA programs in contrast, often do not require that candidates take the GMAT, focusing instead on the experiential background of their potential students. Typically, the applicants to an Executive MBA Program must have a minimum of five years professional work experience. Executive MBA Programs are designed to meet the needs of upper level managers.
As noted, the nature of the two programs in terms of admissions, student profile and organizational structure is substantially different. The question facing those who would enroll in one versus the other is whether or not these procedural differences result in a perceptible difference in the quality of the educational experience received by the graduates of each.
The results of this study strongly suggest that, based upon course content among universities that offer both MBA and EMBA programs, there is no real difference between the two programs. The percentages offered in each of the six different business disciplines as well as the confidence intervals between each do not reflect any substantive differences between programs. More importantly, by selecting only schools that offer both programs, it is reasonable to conclude that, as the basic course content is comparable, so should be the quality. While this conclusion could not be as easily extended to the entire population, the selection of so many programs highly rated in the US News and World Report ranking does support the contention that, among the higher ranked schools, the programs are of similar quality and content. Clearly this conclusion relates only to the course content of the respective programs. Since the structural nature of the two programs is substantially different, these results in no way reflect on other aspects of the differences between the two programs.