An EMBA is often mistaken for being a superior version of it’s better known counterpart – the MBA. In fact, the two are very similar in terms of content, prestige, and value to employers. But the two programs are delivered in very different formats, require different levels of commitment, and serve different career aspirations.

Length and schedule

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a general management degree. There are one and two-year programs but both tend to be full-time and require you to be on campus. EMBA stands for Executive MBA and is also a general management qualification but are typically part-time programs that take between two and four years to complete. Full-time and part-time are often thought to be the defining difference between and MBA and EMBA – in fact, there are many other significant differences.

Student lifestyle

Because of the full-time nature of MBA programs, they require a huge commitment in terms of a change in lifestyle. You will need to give up working for the duration for the duration of the program and, if you’re attending a global business school like Hult, you may need to relocate to a different country. A full-time MBA is an immersive graduate experience that requires total commitment.

EMBAs are not only part-time, but are designed to enable people to continue to work as they study. How classes are scheduled varies from school to school and which suits you best will depend on your work patterns. Hult’s Executive MBA is delivered over one four-day weekend per month. There are also opportunities to complete some modules online, or pause your studies should you need to.

A full-time MBA is an intensive, immersive program, whereas the flexibility of an EMBA is designed to help students balance work and family with their studies.

With an MBA, many students choose to relocate to where ever there school of choice is. But EMBA students are usually in full-time employment so they are more restricted as to the location of the school. Our EMBA students tend to attend a campus closest to home that they can easily travel to once a month.

If students are travelling abroad for work, they may choose to complete some modules at one of our other campuses, and they have the option of taking electives at other campuses around the world too if they want some on-the-ground international experience. Most schools won’t have this sort of geographical freedom, but their programs will still be designed to support those in full-time employment.

The flexibility of the EMBA program means there is considerably less impact on your regular lifestyle; although balancing work, personal life, and studies comes with it’s own challenges.

Age and experience

The simplest difference between an MBA and an Executive MBA is the profile of the students. EMBA students tend to be older with more years work experience in more senior roles.



This difference in seniority plays a big part in how students engage with the course content and the level of classroom discussion so it’s important you are choosing a degree where you are on a par with your peers.

Admissions requirements

EMBAs are geared towards working professionals with more extensive work experience. EMBA admissions teams look for a varied professional background and managerial experience. It is assumed that applicants will already have a certain level of business knowledge picked up over their career and there is not so much emphasis placed on entry exams.

For most full-time MBA programs, only three years work experience is required but a GMAT – or equivalent – score will be part of the MBA admissions criteria.


The MBA and Executive MBA programs cover the same core content and aim to develop or advance similar skills. The difference is in the level of experience with which the students engage with the content, much like the difference between an MBA and it’s junior counterpart the Master of International Business.

At Hult, both MBA and EMBA students cover a lot of the same content in their core courses. They also both have the option to specialize by taking electives in particular field (marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, project management etc). However, EMBA students usually take fewer electives, as the timetable doesn’t allow for the same number open to MBA. This is the case in the majority of Executive MBA programs.

On an MBA program, you have the opportunity to apply the theory you’ve learnt in class through practical projects. With an EMBA, you can apply what you’ve learnt at the weekend straight away in the workplace, so it’s a very immediate way of learning.

Career goals

Most MBA students are looking to make some kind of change in the career – be it location, industry, or function – and their focus is firmly on gaining employment upon graduation. Although increasingly, we are seeing MBA students pursuing a career in entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses – 10% of Hult’s MBA Class of 2015 started their own business on graduation.

The motivations for Executive MBA students are more varied. Some are actively looking to change career or secure a new job, but the majority are looking either to progress in the company they are in, or purely want professional and personal development. It’s important that school you choose offers the right career development support to complement your goals.

In terms of percentage salary increase, MBAs tend to have a more dramatic increase immeadiately on graduation, but this is due in part to the difference in seniority. For example, at Hult, MBA students see their salary increase by an average of 130%, where as for EMBA the average is 49%.

Average percentage increase on salary post-MBA. Source: The Economist 2015 MBA rankings (selected schools only).
Cross sample of Executive MBA salary increases after one year (%)


The fees for both programs are usually fairly similar. The difference lies in the options students have for funding the degree.

MBAs are usually self-funded, although there a wide variety of scholarships and financial aid available to students through private companies and the schools themselves. Full-time MBA students also have to factor in living expenses, accommodation, as well as not earning a salary for the length of the program. Although the ROI is usually reached quickly, particularly for one-year programs.

Executive MBAs on the other hand are often funded – either partially or entirely – by the student’s employer. The company stands to benefit from the skills and knowledge you’re gaining and, with the right business case, many are happy to contribute to the professional development of their staff. Having said that, there is an increasing trend towards EMBA candidates self-funding their degree, with scholarships and financial aid also being available for these programs.

Whether employer or self-funded EMBA students will also be earning a full-time salary while studying, so an Executive EMBA is somewhat less daunting financially. Employer sponsored students are generally required to commit a few years to the company upon graduation so be sure you’re aware of the conditions before you join the program.

Download guide to creating a business case for company sponsorship of an Executive MBA.