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B-School Options: EMBA vs. Part-time MBA vs. Full-time MBA

In the world of business school degrees, a traditional full-time MBA is not the only option. Executive MBA programs, as well as part-time MBA programs, are great alternatives for those of you who cannot leave their full-time job–and frankly, these options are better suited for some. 

But what is the difference between an executive MBA (or “EMBA”) and a part-time MBA? And how do the benefits differ from full-time MBA programs? In this article, we’ll cover the basics of these non-traditional programs and help you determine if these options are appropriate for you.

Rebecca Heath Anderson on Part-Time MBA and EMBA Programs

Want to speak with Rebecca about your MBA application? Apply here.

Who should apply for a part-time or EMBA?

Some of you know off the bat that you are uninterested in the traditional “daytime” MBA programs. You won’t apply to a full-time program because you are unwilling (or unable) to leave your current job for a two-year hiatus. However, some of you business school applicants aren’t even considering part-time or EMBA programs–and should be.

Oftentimes, after noting the experience levels of prospective clients, we suggest they will be a better candidate for a part-time or executive program. There are a couple of reasons for this suggestion:

Whether you know you want to enroll in an EMBA or a part-time program, or are just beginning to consider these options, read on to learn about the benefits and details of top programs. 

Benefits of Enrolling in an EMBA or Part-time MBA

The great thing about EMBA and part-time MBA programs is that they’ll allow you to continue working a full-time job while obtaining your graduate business degree. You have the opportunity to keep advancing in your career while simultaneously developing professionally, without leaving your current position. Your workplace is also a great learning ground: you will be able to directly apply what you learn from the MBA program into your job.  

Another benefit that goes hand-in-hand with continuing your full-time job is that you will not have to forgo your salary. Plus, as an added bonus, many employers will pay for some or part of your education. We have helped many part-time and EMBA applicants in planning and negotiating employer sponsorship; most companies generally have a positive attitude towards investing in the MBA degree for their employees. 

Additionally, because the EMBA and part-time programs carefully craft each class, you will likely be surrounded by classmates with similar experience levels. This means that you will be able to draw on their developed professional backgrounds–often, candidates in these programs already have managerial experience. Furthermore, your business school colleagues in an EMBA or part-time program make for an immediate network for which you can look to right away for support. 

Lastly, part-time and executive MBA programs allow for flexibility while completing your degree. Schools structure the coursework in a way that allows you to realistically balance working full-time with completing academics and other program requirements. Some programs allow you to choose in how many years you wish to complete your degree by offering accelerated options, or the choice to complete the MBA in as long as four years. Additionally, because some programs hold classes on weekends only, they allow students to commute cross-country!

How do executive and part-time MBAs compare to full-time MBAs?

The contents of part-time, executive, and full-time programs themselves aren’t different in any substantial way, and you’ll receive the expected benefits of getting an MBA degree from a top business school. You will still:

Take it from personal experience. Our senior consultant Rebecca Health Anderson (in the video above) completed the part-time MBA program at Kellogg while working as the Director of Marketing at an NGO. 

Below, Rebecca describes her business school experience with the Kellogg part-time MBA program.

MBA Curriculum

“I first became interested in Kellogg because of the rigorous curriculum and the quality of the professors–I knew I wanted to learn from Professor Tim Calkins and Harry Kraemer, and was pleased I was able to do so in the Evening Program. In fact, we followed the exact same curriculum as the full-time program. While most of my courses took place in Wieboldt Hall downtown, I was able to take some courses in Evanston right alongside the full-time students. Being able to work in groups and build connections across programs helped me build my network as well.” 

Experiential Learning 

“Two of my most memorable Kellogg courses were… 

Taking experiential courses like this in a part-time program meant I could apply what I was learning in real time both outside of the classroom and at work.”

Career Advancement 

“I came from a communications and marketing background, but during the program I was able to apply what I was learning operationally at work, and increased the number of teams and functions I was leading, including finance and human resources. While I chose to advance with my current employer, some of my classmates took advantage of on-campus recruiting alongside full-time students and pivoted to consulting or tech careers. When researching part-time options, I definitely recommend asking about career services and opportunities to participate in recruiting, as other part-time and EMBA programs might differ in these offerings.” 

Flexibility 

“Flexibility was critical for me and my classmates. When I had annual board meetings, I would dial down from my normal two classes to one class, and during an extremely heavy travel period, I was able to take a quarter off from classwork entirely. Some classmates flew in for the weekend program from Texas and Seattle. Other friends started families while advancing at work and going to school, and wouldn’t have been able to achieve so much without the flexibility and support of Kellogg’s part-time program.”

Difference between EMBA and Part-time MBA programs

Perhaps most importantly, before applying to these non-traditional programs, you’ll need to know how they differ and which schools offer which programs.

The most salient difference between EMBA and part-time programs is age and work experience. An executive MBA cohort will cater to older professionals who have more work experience, while the candidates of part-time programs typically have similar profiles to that of a full-time program: they are about 5 years out of undergrad, and are in their mid to late twenties. 

Other differences include the length of the programs, how frequently they meet, and their flexibility. However, it must be noted that top business schools differ on their offerings of EMBA and part-time MBA programs: some offer one or the other, some offer both, and some do not offer any at all. 

For example, Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB do not offer either, and instead have the Program for Leadership Development and Leadership and General Management programs, respectively. As another example, Yale offers an EMBA, but not a part-time option: meaning if you are set on Yale SOM, but you cannot join a full-time degree, your only choice is the executive program, even if your age and experience level would be better fit with a true “part-time” cohort. Lastly, and most flexibly, Kellogg is an example of a business school that offers both: it has an Evening & Weekend MBA program as well as an executive MBA track. 

EMBA and Part-Time MBA Program Offerings at Top Business Schools

SchoolPart-time MBA?Executive MBA?
UPenn Wharton
Northwestern Kellogg
Chicago Booth
Columbia Business School
MIT Sloan
UC Berkeley Haas
Yale SOM
UVA Darden
Duke Fuqua
Michigan Ross
UT Austin McCombs
Cornell University, Johnson
UCLA Anderson
NYU Stern
Carnegie Mellon Tepper
UNC Kenan-Flagler
Emory Goizueta
USC Marshall
Georgetown McDonough
Indiana University Kelley
UW Foster
Rice Jones
Note: There are neither Part-Time nor EMBA programs at HBS, Stanford GSB, & Tuck.

EMBA and part-time MBA programs are clear options for some prospective business school students. They offer the same benefits as a full-time MBA degree, but with more flexibility and the ability to continue working. Whether you are considering an executive or part-time MBA, planning to apply, or actively working on your application, we encourage you to check out our EMBA/Part-time profile pages as well as utilize the schools’ resources for more information.