What Is the Difference Between Executive & Professional MBA?


Professional and executive master's programs both cater to professionals who want to continue working while they earn their degree. Professional MBAs are often known as part-time MBAs and provide schedules of night and evening classes, while EMBA programs cater to advanced professionals with many years of business experience and are designed to work around extremely busy schedules.

Typical Candidates

  • Both PMBA and EMBA degree programs are designed for those already employed. PMBAs, such as those offered by Rice University and George Washington University, emphasize being able to take classes while continuing to work in a full-time professional capacity. PMBAs usually require two or three years of work experience for applicants. The typical EMBA student is older, with at least eight years of experience in her field.

Class Schedules

  • Because they are designed for students who are also working full time, PMBA and EMBA programs both schedule their classes outside of normal work hours. A PMBA program will usually offer classes in the evenings. For instance, the majority of the University of Memphis's PMBA classes begin either at 5:30 or 7:10 p.m. EMBA programs must work around even more stringent schedules, keeping in mind that their students will often be unavailable for large periods of time due to meetings and business trips. Classes are often scheduled on weekends, and multiple scheduling options may be offered. For instance, Columbia's EMBA program offers three schedules: a Friday and Saturday schedule, a Saturday-only option and a monthly week-long course offering.

Program Length

  • Because PMBA students are not studying full time, the program usually takes longer to complete than an MBA program. While a full-time MBA usually takes one or two years, a PMBA may take as long as five, depending on a student's course loads. Some programs offer online classes, which can be taken at a student's own pace to speed up this program. Despite catering to students with even busier schedules, EMBA programs are typically completed in two years. However, this means that EMBA students will likely lack free time outside of their work and study.

Financial Requirements

  • PMBAs and EMBAs share a significant advantage in terms of financial aid, because a student's employer may subsidize part of or all of their tuition. However, EMBA programs are significantly more expensive than PMBAs. At the time of publication, the most expensive standard MBA degrees top off at around $100,000 for the entire program, and part-time MBA tuition usually reflects standard MBA costs. However, EMBA costs can reach well above that number. The Wharton School's EMBA program, for instance, had a cost of over $180,000 at the time of publication. Wharton and other similar EMBA programs have seen their costs rise dramatically in recent years.

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