Is An Executive MBA Right For You?

Experience, a job you can't give up, and a dedication to accelerating your career? Here's three key things you need before your EMBA

Written by Andrea Coulis


An Executive MBA (EMBA) is certainly not the right path for everyone. Especially those who are looking for their MBA degree to provide a break from the daily grind, or an opportunity to dip their toes into alternative career pools.

However, for certain individuals with specific goals, an EMBA may be the perfect opportunity to move forward efficiently while maintaining a full-time job.

But how do you know if you fall into that category? Does coveting climbing the career ladder place you in the EMBA bracket? What about simply wanting to study and work at the same time?

We’ve got the answers below, as we help answer the all-important question: Is an Executive MBA right for you?


1. You have significant experience and a desire to focus

The EMBA is, unsurprisingly, tailored to those who have already reached executive level.

Truthfully, those with over 10 years of experience may not have a choice in which type of program to pursue, as traditional MBA programs do not typically attract exceedingly seasoned candidates.

Conversely, those on the cusp of seniority who have significant experience, but not too much to rule out a traditional MBA entirely, will have to consider the learning and social environment they desire.

Since the average full-time MBA student is in his late 20s while the average EMBA student is usually in his mid-to-late 30s, it follows that the atmosphere in an EMBA program will be less focused on exploration, socializing, and networking for future career prospects.

It will be centered more on gaining the leadership capabilities necessary to progress within an already-established career. If this sounds like the type of atmosphere you’d succeed in, then the EMBA may be a much better fit than a traditional MBA program.


2. You want to continue working full-time

One of the top reasons people delay or avoid pursuing an MBA degree altogether is the need to take years away from a full-time position. The perks, the pay, and the promotions must take a hiatus to allow the MBA program’s benefits to unfold.

An EMBA program dodges this downside to traditional MBA degrees by allowing students to continue working full time while they participate in the program. This means students avoid missing out on promotions or falling behind in their fields.

They also continue to collect their salaries, bonuses, and pay rises while simultaneously receiving an education that is often to the benefit of their employers—not a bad deal at all!

Keep in mind the obvious downside to this kind of arrangement though: the lack of free time.


3. A social life is not your priority

Traditional MBA programs have a reputation for being networking havens with endless social events, weekend trips, and student-led societies in which to participate.

Because students typically leave their jobs and often their home cities, they make an entirely new circle of friends during their MBA and completely immerse themselves in their cohort.

In contrast, EMBA programs are designed to work around numerous outside obligations and hold classes on evenings and weekends to accommodate. The intense camaraderie usually seen in traditional MBA programs may be lost.

Beyond the diminished focus on MBA-centric social activity, a student’s existing social and family life may also have to take a backseat during an EMBA program. The extensive time and energy needed to pursue both a full-time job and an executive-level education can take its toll.

Working a full-time job in the business world is often exhausting enough in itself. Piling an MBA course load on top of this can be overwhelming for some and leaves very little room for social interaction of any magnitude.

Before applying to an EMBA program, make sure that your focus is on an accelerated program, not on the networking and social benefits seen in traditional full-time MBA programs.

If you’re an experienced individual who doesn’t mind temporarily sacrificing a socially-rich lifestyle to accelerate your career, the EMBA may be the most sensible way to reach your goals.


Andrea Coulis is a senior tutor with MyGuru, a provider of in-person and online GMAT tutoring. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and an MBA from the University of Oxford, Saïd School of Business.

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