What Is an Executive MBA Program?

by Blake Huggins
• 6 min read
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Executive MBA programs help seasoned business professionals strengthen their management skills in an accommodating, work-friendly learning environment.

Earning an executive MBA (EMBA) helps experienced degree-seekers gain the industry knowledge and strategic insight they need to move up the corporate ladder. EMBA graduates also have increased earning potential — graduates report salary increases of up to 28% within the first five years.

Executive MBA programs recognize that even the most successful business leaders can benefit from specialized courses. As a result, EMBA demand has held firm amid the pandemic. Executive MBA programs cater to seasoned professionals and offer more opportunities for individual exploration, often taking less time to complete than other master's degrees. Keep reading to learn more and find out why some

Why Enroll in an Executive MBA Program

Unlike standard MBA programs, which attract younger students and aspiring business leaders, EMBA programs target current professionals. Most degree-seekers turn to executive MBA programs later in their careers to broaden their perspectives, refine their leadership abilities, and transition into more strategic roles.

An EMBA may offer an ideal path for those interested in specializing their degrees or gaining more knowledge about new and emerging industries. Executive MBA programs call for at least 5-7 years of relevant work experience in a management-related position, with some programs requiring 10 or more years.

What to Expect in an Executive MBA Program

Most executive MBA programs expect new enrollees to keep their current job while they study. Online and hybrid options are available, and some programs offer weekend classes to accommodate busy work schedules. Degree-seekers can also opt for part-time enrollment, depending on their current role and desired timeframe of completion.

Self-motivated professionals who possess the ambition and drive to deliver in a demanding environment make ideal executive MBA candidates. If you meet the admission criteria, you probably possess the necessary business experience, but executive MBA programs will require a commitment to maintaining a healthy work-study balance. Students usually enter executive MBAs with a cohort of peers who double as an extended professional network after graduation.

Most executive MBA programs require around 35 credits that should be completed in two years or less, including core courses and electives that build skills in business, management, and strategic leadership. Programs often tailor their curricula to meet the everyday needs of rising corporate executives. They administer classes with practical applications and often feature capstone projects designed to solve real-world business problems.

Soft Skills Taught in EMBA Programs

  • Organizational analysis
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Creative problem-solving

Hard Skills Taught in EMBA Programs

  • Corporate leadership
  • Negotiation strategy
  • Financial reporting
  • Design thinking
  • Operations management
  • Market analysis

Executive MBA Concentrations

Qualified professionals often earn executive MBAs to specialize in key areas of business and entrepreneurship. Concentrating your studies in supply chain management or information technology can help you develop a unique skill set while pursuing your interests. Available concentrations for executive MBA students include:

  • Business analytics
  • Leadership and change management
  • Global business
  • Corporate finance
  • Operations management
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Brand management
  • Financial markets

Executive MBA Program Courses

Executive MBA programs give you structured and focused opportunities to build advanced competencies in leadership and management. In addition to core classes in business, enrollees receive high-level instruction in managerial accounting, product development, and macroeconomics. Read more about common EMBA course offerings below.

  • Business Fundamentals: Learners receive instruction in business and corporate management from an executive-level perspective. Course material covers key concepts in organizational science and human capital, sociology, economics, and strategic leadership.
  • Marketing Strategy: This class delves into the principles executives use to identify new target audiences and maintain existing clients. Degree-seekers learn to research how to measure consumer needs and optimize services to scale.
  • Strategy Formulation: Enrollees work to develop a managerial style to accommodate corporate goals and organizational demands. The coursework examines the relationships between behavior analysis, functional knowledge, and analytical management tools.
  • Ethical Aspects of Management: This course brings corporate decision-making into an ethical focus. Degree-seekers study contemporary ethical theory and analyze case studies that shed light on dilemmas specific to the global business environment.
  • Statistics for Executives: This course develops skills in quantitative methods of analysis optimized for forecasting and executive-level business operations. Students learn to enhance strategic planning using tools and systems theory.
  • Corporate Finance: Learners analyze corporate financial policy and explore popular approaches to cash flow. Additional topics may include capital budgeting and valuation, asset pricing, and investment decision-making.

Accreditation for Executive MBA Programs

Prospective students should always look for schools with regional accreditation. Executive MBA programs within those schools may also possess specialized MBA accreditation specific to management and business administration.

Specialized accreditation delivers added value and industry-wide recognition to your executive MBA. Organizations like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the International Accreditation Council for Business Education, and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs accredit executive MBA programs.

Paying for an Executive MBA Program

Executive MBA programs can be costly. Candidates can pursue affordable MBA options, but according to CNBC, most EMBA opportunities cost more than standard MBA programs. However, executive MBA students can pursue scholarships and other financial aid opportunities.

Students can often leverage their current jobs and accumulated work experience to help pay for EMBAs. The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) recently found that nearly 30% of EMBA students received financial support from their employer.

What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With an Executive MBA Degree?

Executive MBA programs can lead to significant salary increases and career advancement opportunities. According to a 2020 EMBAC survey of recent graduates, 14% of EMBA program participants received a pay increase, and nearly 40% reported a promotion while working on their executive MBAs.

Executive MBA graduates can use their degrees for a career boost in several fields, with some areas benefitting more than others. Experts from USC's Marshall School of Business list management consulting, finance and investment banking, technology, and data analytics as top industries for executive MBA graduates.

Executive MBA Career Outlook
Career Median Annual Salary (2019) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)
Chief Executives $185,950 4%
Financial Managers $134,180 15%
Operations Specialities Managers $125,040 6%
Human Resources Managers $121,220 6%
Top Executives $107,680 4%
General and Operations Managers $103,650 4%
Administrative Service and Facilities Managers $98,890 6%
Management Analysts $87,660 11%
Business Operations Specialists $71,450 11%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

AMA provides management development and educational services to executive MBA graduates and their organizations. Their resources include certification programming, virtual diversity training, and other corporate consulting opportunities.

Since 1970, NBMBAA has supported Black professionals in the corporate sector through strategic partnerships and professional networks. This organization also offers mentorship programs and hosts regional development events.

Each year, ABWA hosts over 5,000 events to promote equity and representation for women in business. Its career center establishes key connections between industry leaders and local professionals.

Executive MBA students can use MBA CSEA resources to find new job opportunities or research employment trends. Membership benefits include education discounts and access to additional data sets.

Frequently Asked Questions

true What Is the Difference Between an MBA and an Executive MBA?

Executive MBAs come in a more flexible format designed for seasoned working professionals, while MBA programs offer training to students in the early stages of their careers.

true How Much Does an Executive MBA Make?

Business leaders with executive MBAs earn over $200,000 on average according to CNBC, though annual earnings can vary widely depending on your role and employer.

true Is an Executive MBA Worth it?

Earning an executive MBA can give qualified students an extra edge. In a 2020 EMBAC survey, over 72% of respondents reported a positive career impact after graduation.

true Who Qualifies for an Executive MBA?

Established business professionals make ideal executive MBA candidates. These degrees prepare you for executive-level roles, so most programs require significant management experience for admission.

Blake Huggins is a Boston-based writer and researcher with roots in north Texas and southern Oklahoma. He holds degrees in religion and philosophy and writes widely on higher education, healthcare, and the humanities broadly conceived. He earned a PhD from Boston University and has taught college courses in philosophy, writing, and composition.

Header Image Credit: Adene Sanchez | Getty Images

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