Professionals in business at a crucial juncture in their career or those seeking to advance will often view an MBA as a worthwhile goal. But, is an executive MBA worth it for a busy professional already deep into their positions? The answer is yes, as the EMBA specifically benefits mid-career professionals who simply can’t take the time away from their duties to pursue a full MBA program.
An executive MBA or EMBA is a degree and degree path with a focus on business nuances. To put that in perspective, a full MBA program will teach the fundamentals of business and business basics to prepare someone to enter the business world. By contrast, an EMBA works best for people who are already in the business world, have some experience, and are already in a leadership or management position.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Executive MBA Programs
Anyone looking into an Executive MBA program will have a sense of return on investment, so Great Business Schools editors want the ranking of the best EMBA programs to focus on real value. That’s why we feature only accredited, reputable programs, ranked according to factors like tuition cost, student satisfaction, and potential salary. Data comes from Niche and IPEDS.
1. University of North Carolina
The Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina offers one of the nation’s best executive MBA programs with its customizable executive MBA program (EMBA) that is built upon intensive weekend residencies. UNC’s best EMBA programs have received specialized accreditation from AACSB. Classes for this executive Master of Business Administration degree program include global economics, corporate strategy, leadership, ethical aspects of management, and managerial accounting, to name a few.
Established in 1789, the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina is the state’s flagship campus that serves approximately 30,050 students. The school’s university-town campus covers more than 700 acres in the downtown vicinity of Chapel Hill and includes two quads McCorkle Place and Polk Place – named to honor President Polk as an alumnus.
Highlight The University of North Carolina is recognized for its green initiatives throughout the campus, having earned more than one LEED Silver certification.
2. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business offers one of the nation’s best EMBA programs with its Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) that is designed for working professionals. Penn’s campus-based best executive MBA programs can be completed in only two years, which is only four months longer than the University of Pennsylvania’s full-time MBA program. Students can complete the residencies at Wharton’s San Francisco or Philadelphia campuses. Graduates complete more than 700 class hours, culminating in a capstone project.
The University of Pennsylvania is recognized as one of the nation’s nine colonial colleges, having been established in 1740, before the American Revolution. The University of Pennsylvania’s campuses cover more than 1,000 urban acres and serve approximately 22,350 students.
Highlight The University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished alumni include signers of the Declaration of independence, governors, senators, and supreme court justices.
3. Georgetown University
The McDonough Business School at Georgetown University offers one of the most recognized and best EMBA programs in the nation with its campus-based Executive Master of Business Administration degree (EMBA) program. Students enrolled in Georgetown University’s best executive MBA programs complete classes in decision analytics, microeconomics, marketing, strategy, global political economy, the structure of global industries, and financial accounting, plus an international capstone residency/project, among others. This EMBA program from Georgetown is completed in 20 months. Students can complete residencies near the school or globally in business or industry options across the globe.
Georgetown University was established as a Jesuit higher learning institution in 1789. Georgetown University’s (GU) campus in the nation’s capital is home to approximately 18,850 students, studying for more degrees in nearly 50 academic degrees.
Highlight Georgetown University holds the distinction of being the country’s oldest Jesuit university.
4. University of Virginia
The Darden Business School at the University of Virginia offers two of the country’s best executive MBA programs with its Global Executive Master of Business Administration (GEMBA) or its Executive MBA that is designed with about one-third of the classes available online. UVA’s best EMBA programs require degree candidates to complete the online curriculum in between the EMBA’s required residencies. Classes for this hybrid EMBA include business ethics, leadership communication, financial management, global economies & markets, and strategic thinking and action, to name a few.
Established in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia (U.Va.) is a research institution of higher education that serves approximately 24,940 students online and its multiple campuses.
Highlight U.S. News and World Report recognizes the University of Virginia among the top 25 national universities and fourth among national public schools.
5. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s Pamplin Business College offers one of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s best EMBA programs with its 18-month weekend-based executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program. Virginia Tech’s best executive MBA programs have reduced tuition fees compared to other DC-based MBA programs. Virginia Tech’s Executive MBA program has received accreditation from the AACSB. Students enrolled in Virginia Tech’s executive MBA program meet every other week for Friday & Saturday classes, with seasonal breaks in the summer/winter.
Virginia Tech was established as a land-grant higher learning institution in 1872. In addition, Virginia Tech is recognized as a senior military college that is also a space-grant and sea-grant school. More than 29,250 students attend classes offered by Virginia Tech.
Highlight Virginia Tech holds the distinction of having the second largest student body of all higher learning institutions in Virginia.
6. Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business offers the best executive MBA programs in Texas, according to the Financial Times. Working learners enrolled in Texas A&M University’s best EMBA programs complete interdisciplinary coursework and engage with professional leadership mentors during their tenure. Students attend classes on alternating weekends at the school’s Houston campus. Classes for this degree include leadership in organizations, supply chain management, managerial economics, operations management, and quantitative analysis, to name a few.
Texas A&M University (TAMU) is a senior military higher learning institution that was established in 1871. Additionally, Texas A&M University is a sea-grant and space-grant school that serves approximately 69,350 students on one of the biggest campuses by size in the United States, more than 5,000 acres.
Highlight The College Station campus of Texas A&M University became the flagship campus of the state’s A&M system in the late 1940s.
7. University of Florida
The University of Florida’s Warrington Business College offers a campus-based executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree program that can be complete in approximately 21 months. Students enrolled in the University of Florida’s best executive MBA programs are required to visit the campus four weekends each semester. Additionally, degree candidates typically need to commit 10 to 15 hours per week towards completing one of the University of Florida’s best EMBA programs.
The University of Florida was established as a land-grant school in 1853. In addition, the school is a senior member school of the state’s university system as well as a space-grant and sea-grant institution of higher education. The school’s 2000-acre suburban campus is home to approximately 52,650 students, with another 3,600 students attending classes online.
Highlight Student athletes and alumni from the University of Florida have won more than 100 Olympic medals, with more than 50 gold medals won!
8. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate Management School offers two of Tennessee’s best executive MBA programs with its Executive MBA edge track or its Executive MBA global immersion track. Both of Vandy’s best EMBA programs include a week residence in New Harmony, Indiana, plus core classes in managerial finance, corporate valuation, business ethics, and marketing management, to name a few. Each AACSB- accredited program has specific coursework during the second half of the EMBA degree program. Most students need approximately 20 hours per week for studying, in addition to class time.
Railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt established Vanderbilt University in 1873. Vanderbilt University is a space-grant school with a student enrollment of approximately 13,350 students.
Highlight Vanderbilt University’s distinguished alumni include vice presidents of the US, Rhodes scholars, U.S. ambassadors, members of congress, and Academy Award winners, among others.
9. Rutgers University
The Business School at Rutgers University offers a 57-credit unit Executive Master of Business Administration degree (EMBA) program that is ranked among the best executive MBA programs in the country. Rutgers University’s best EMBA programs are completed in 20 months and include a ten-day trip abroad to China. Students enrolled in this EMBA can opt for academic concentrations in marketing, finance, or supply chain management. All degree candidates must complete a capstone consulting project to meet the EMBA program’s requirements.
Founded as Queens College in 1766, Rutgers University is now New Jersey’s flagship university with a student enrollment that is approximately 68,850 students. In addition, Rutgers is also a space-grant and sea-grant institution of higher education with multiple campuses and academic centers throughout the Garden State.
Highlight Rutgers University holds the distinction of being considered a public Ivy League university.
10. Washington University in St Louis
The Olin School of Business, located within the Washington University in St Louis, offers an EMBA – an Executive Master of Business Administration degree (EMBA) program that meets just once per month for three days. Students enrolled in Wash U’s best executive MBA programs also spend about 12 to 15 hours per week completing online course assignments or meeting with other members of their cohort. Degree candidates complete these best EMBA programs from Washington University in St Louis in about twenty months. Wash U’s EMBA programs are available in St Louis, Mumbai, and Shanghai.
Washington University in St Louis is a multiple campus institution of higher education that was established in 1853. The school’s campuses are home to approximately 14,950 undergraduate and graduate degree students.
Highlight Washington University in St Louis opened the first law school that was situated to the west of the Mississippi River in 1867.
11. Northwestern University
Northwestern University’s Kellogg Management School offers one of the Midwest’s best executive MBA programs with its executive Master of Business Administration degree program that offers MBA degree candidates to immersion sites in the U.S. – Evanston, Illinois, and Miami, Florida. Students enrolled in Northwestern University’s best EMBA programs complete classes in analytical approach to uncertainty, economics of competition, foundations for strategy formulation, and leadership and organizations, plus a strategy management practicum, to name a few.
Northwestern University is a private school that was founded in 1851. In addition, Northwestern University is a space-grant school that serves approximately 21,850 students online and its multiple campuses in Illinois, San Francisco, Qatar, Miami, Florida, and Washington, DC.
Highlight The endowment of Northwestern University is recognized to be among the largest endowments in the nation – at more than $11 billion.
12. Cornell University
The Johnson Business College at Cornell University offers an executive MBA degree program that is available with immersion programs in about 20 cities across North and South America. Cornell University’s best EMBA programs require students to meet for classes every other weekend, but the program can be finished in approximately 18 months. The average age of students enrolled in Cornell University’s best executive MBA programs is 36 years old and enters the EMBA program with an average of seven years of professional business experience. Graduates of Cornell’s EMBA program have entered the workforce working for Citi, Deloitte, Microsoft, and Corning, to name a few.
Cornell University (Cornell) is recognized as an ivy league university that was is also a land-grant school, sea-grant, and space-grant school. Established in 1865 as a private school (with statutory underpinnings), Cornell University operates several campuses in New York and Qatar.
Highlight Located in upstate New York, Ithaca is home to approximately 23,950 students.
13. Michigan State University
Broad Business College, located at Michigan State University, offers an executive MBA degree program that is among the best executive MBA programs in the country. Students enrolled in Michigan State University’s best EMBA programs have two formats from which to choose – a flex option that meets online and once per month in East Lansing or the EMBA that meets alternating Friday evenings and Saturdays in Troy or East Lansing, Michigan. Degree candidates have complete access to MSU’s business facilities and library.
Michigan State University (Michigan State) was founded in 1855 as a land-grant school under the Morrill Land Grant Act. In addition, MSU is a space-grant and sea-grant university with a student enrollment of approximately 49,650 students.
Highlight Michigan State University holds the distinction of being one of the first institutions of higher education to teach agriculture from a scientific perspective.
14. Saint Joseph’s University
Saint Joseph’s University’s Haub Business School offers one of the nation’s best executive MBA programs with a global perspective, according to CEO Magazine. Saint Joseph’s University offers two programmatic tracks for its best EMBA programs – a twenty month (five semesters or 48 credit units) program created for working professional with a minimum of five years of professional work experience (plus an undergraduate degree in any field of study), or an accelerated EMBA program (one year or three semesters) for working professionals who already hold an undergraduate management degree.
Saint Joseph’s University was founded as a Jesuit higher learning institution in 1851. The school operates several campuses in Pennsylvania with a total student population of approximately 8,050 students.
Highlight Saint Joseph’s University is organized into four academic departments – business, arts & sciences, professional/liberal studies, and business.
15. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago’s Booth Business School offers an EMBA – an executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) that offers degree candidates five international business immersions. Students enrolled in U of C’s best EMBA programs will begin the degree program in August each year. Degree candidates complete three immersions in Chicago, London, and Hong Kong. Classes for U of C’s best executive MBA programs include statistics, financial accounting, analytical methods, economics, managerial psychology, corporate finance, and leadership exploration & development, to name a few.
The University of Chicago was established as a private school in 1890. U of C is now a space-grant higher learning institution with a student enrollment of approximately 16,350 undergraduate and graduate degree students.
Highlight The University of Chicago holds the distinction of having the 4th most affiliated Nobel laureates of any school across the globe.
16. University of Colorado Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder offers one of Colorado’s best executive MBA programs with its 48-credit unit EMBA degree that includes twenty management relevant classes. The University of Colorado’s best EMBA programs include classes in managerial financial analytical decision-making, interpreting financial reports, transitioning from functional to executive leadership, and the management of operations and processes, to name a few. This EMBA program has been specifically designed for working professionals with classes that meet on alternating weekends over about two years. This AACSB- accredited program from U of C is available in Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs.
The University of Colorado was founded in 1876, with the Boulder campus being the flagship campus for the state. The school’s multiple campuses serve approximately 35,450 students.
Highlight The University of Colorado’s Boulder campus is recognized as one of the public ivy league institutions of higher education.
17. Southern Methodist University
The Cox Business School at Southern Methodist University offers an Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) that Financial Times recognizes among the best executive MBA programs in the nation. Students enrolled in SMU’s best EMBA programs meet for classes two weekends each month over five semesters or about 20 months. Additionally, Southern Methodist University’s EMBA program has received accreditation from AACSB and offers students a study abroad trip to two cities across the globe. The average age of degree candidates in EMBA is 37.
Southern Methodist University was established in 1911 as a research institution of higher learning. The school’s Lone Star campus in University Park is home to approximately 12,250 students. The school is nonsectarian with regard to its educational offerings.
Highlight Southern Methodist University is home to the George W Bush presidential library.
18. Bradley University
The Foster Business College at Bradley University offers an executive MBA degree program that can be finished in less than 1.5 years. Bradley University’s best executive MBA programs is an AACSB accredited degree that offers degree candidates executive coaching throughout the entire MBA program. Students graduate from Bradley University’s best EMBA programs with the practical skills and managerial abilities to create viable solutions through executive leadership methodologies.
Bradley University was founded in 1897 as a private university. The school’s Peoria campus covers more than 75 acres and serves approximately 4,550 students. U.S. News has recognized Bradley University as the fourth-best Midwest regional university.
Highlight Bradley University is named to honor its benefactress who lost her husband and six children suddenly who donated land, equipment, and an ongoing income to maintain the university’s operating expenses.
19. Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University’s Business College offers an Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program that is AACSB accredited. CSU’s EMBA degree is recognized among the best executive MBA programs in the midwestern U.S. Cleveland State University’s best EMBA programs require degree candidates to meet each Saturday with the same cohort they follow throughout the program. Each EMBA cohort begins the program in August every year and completes the 19-month program together. Classes for this degree include supply chain management, finance for managers, international business strategy, marketing strategy, plus a practicum and international business immersion, among others.
Cleveland State University is a space-grant school that is a member of the University System of Ohio. Founded in 1921 as the Cleveland YMCA school, CSU now serves approximately 15,550 students vying for the more than 195 academic degrees offered by CSU.
Highlight Cleveland State University is organized into fourteen academic divisions/colleges/schools.
20. Marquette University
Marquette University offers an Executive MBA – Master of Business Administration degree program that is among the best EMBA programs in Wisconsin and the greater Milwaukee area, according to U.S. News & World Report. Marquette University’s best executive MBA programs can be completed in only seventeen months and are specifically designed for working executives by offering classes on alternating Saturdays in Milwaukee. Classes for this EMBA program include strategic management, information technology, international study of business, ethical & societal issues in business and corporate social responsibility, and applied ethics, to name a few.
Marquette University was founded as a college in 1881 and is affiliated with the Roman Catholic (Jesuit) Church. Marquette University is home to approximately 11,550 students and is the largest of all private universities in Wisconsin.
Highlight Marquette University is named to honor a missionary from the 17th century intent on providing Catholic education to the area’s enlarging German population.
21. Baylor University
The Hankamer Business School at Baylor University offers one of the Lone Star state’s best executive MBA programs with its executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) that can be completed in only 21 months. Baylor University’s best EMBA programs meet one night per week for four hours in downtown Austin. Baylor’s EMBA program begins in either January or August each year. This EMBA program’s residencies include an immersion experience in Waco, Washington, DC, and an international study abroad trip. This MBA degree program is offered with a focus on health care, with a specified curriculum for this academic track.
Baylor University is a Baptist higher learning institution that was established in 1845. Baylor University’s college-town campus is home to approximately 19,150 students and offers more than 1000 acres in Waco.
Highlight Baylor University was established prior to Texas becoming a state and was chartered by the Republic of Texas’ congress.
22. Fairleigh Dickinson University
Fairleigh Dickinson University offers an EMBA – an executive MBA degree program that is ranked among the best EMBA programs in New Jersey and beyond. Fairleigh Dickinson University’s best executive MBA programs have received AACSB accreditation and meet Saturdays in FDU’s Florham Park campus in northern New Jersey. Students enrolled in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s EMBA program can complete the degree in two years (or less) while working full-time, including a two-week international study abroad business immersion. The EMBA offers two specialization tracks – a general management track and a health sector management track.
Fairleigh Dickinson University is a multiple campus higher learning institution that was established in 1942. Fairleigh Dickinson University’s campuses are located in Florham Park, Madison, Teaneck, and Hackensack, with a student enrollment of more than 10,900 students.
Highlight Fairleigh Dickinson University holds the distinction of being the largest of all private universities in the Garden State.
23. Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago Quinlan Business School offers an executive MBA degree program that requires degree candidates to complete 48 credit units to graduate. Loyola University’s best executive MBA programs include classes in the relevant business areas of business analytics, leadership, international business, managerial economics, strategic cost accounting, and performance improvement, to name a few. Students enrolled in LUC’s best EMBA programs include an international study immersion, which in the past have included Brazil, Europe, China, Vietnam, India, Chile, and South Africa, to name a few. LUC’s EMBA program offers ¼ of its coursework through the school’s distance learning platform.
Loyola University Chicago was founded as St Ignatius College in 1870 by the Society of Jesus. The school’s campus in Chicago is home to approximately 17,050 undergraduate and graduate degree students.
Highlight Alumni from Loyola University Chicago include winners of the Pulitzer, Peabody, Grammy, and Emmy awards, among others.
24. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana University of Pennsylvania offers one of the best executive MBA programs with its hybrid delivered executive Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) program that is complete 50% online and 50% on-campus. Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s best EMBA programs requires students to meet on alternating weekends in the school’s East Pittsburgh location. Students have graduated and entered the managerial workforce with BNY Mellon, Ernst and Young, Rockwell International, IBM, and Dow Chemical, to name a few. On average, students enrolled in IUP’s EMBA degree program typically complete the degree in about two years.
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) was established in 1875 as a teacher’s training school by the commonwealth’s general assembly. Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s rural campuses (Punxsutawney, Monroeville, and Northpointe) is home to approximately 9,650 students.
Highlight the Indiana University of Pennsylvania is organized into eight colleges/schools that offer more than 20 0undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
25. Loyola Marymount University
Loyola Marymount University offers one the best executive MBA programs on the West Coast that is AACSB accredited. Loyola Marymount University’s best EMBA programs meet each Saturday in L.A.’s Silicon Beach campus, with completion scheduled for 22 months after its inception. U.S. News recognizes LMU’s Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program as one of Southern California’s most prestigious executive MBA programs available in the marketplace.
Loyola Marymount University is a Jesuit institution of higher education that was established in 1865 as St Vincent’s College. The school’s campus covers more than 140 urban acres (on the Del Rey Hills bluffs) and is home to approximately 9,550 students. LMU operates a solar electric array that generates about 5% of the school’s power needs.
Highlight Loyola Marymount University’s campus has been recognized among the nation’s top ten most beautiful campuses.
Why Should I Get an Executive MBA?
Many wonder, why get an executive MBA, or is an executive MBA worth it. Just as the name implies, the executive MBA or EMBA is typically reserved for career professionals who already have business experience and acumen, but need a program that helps them to focus more on the nuances or niches of business. In this sense, the question of why get an executive MBA becomes clearer.
For those who wonder what is the value of an executive MBA beyond that of a traditional one, the key difference is the time involved. The EMBA isn’t as immersive as a full MBA program, but it doesn’t need to be because those who choose the EMBA already have an immersive business experience. An accredited EMBA program has a faster pace, but less full-time commitment. This will leave busy business professionals to continue their job duties while they earn their degree.
Is an executive MBA worth it to people who aren’t yet working in the business field? Someone with little business experience can certainly pursue an EMBA, but they may find it harder to meet eligibility requirements, and they may not receive some of the necessary instruction that only comes with experience in the field or a full-time MBA program.
What is an Executive MBA?
What is an executive MBA if it’s not the same as a regular MBA? This is an often-asked question, and the answer isn’t always easy to pin down.
When asking what is an executive MBA or what is an executive MBA program, it’s important to know that the average EMBA student already has several years of experience and is possibly well into their 30s. Traditional MBA programs tend to attract younger potentials who want to enter business management roles as part of their future career path.
What is an executive MBA vs MBA? As stated, the differences have a lot to do with the differences in overall goals. Some professionals will benefit more from an EMBA than others. Those who lack any business experience would likely do better pursuing a traditional MBA.
What is an executive MBA degree compared to other types of MBAs? What is an executive MBA worth compared to other types of MBAs? For those seeking an MBA program, they may come across other types of MBAs as well since these degrees and programs aren’t just limited to the traditional MBAs and executive MBAs.
The EMBA is always worth it for people in the field who want to pursue a higher business administration degree while still working. However, some other types of MBAs can work well for people in other types of situations.
What Will I Learn in an Executive MBA Program?
The curriculum for an executive MBA program typically mirrors that of a traditional MBA program. A major difference when it comes to an EMBA is the high-level discussions that take place. Keep in mind the EMBA classes will contain professionals, people with business administration experience, and people already well into their career paths. This means the classes will focus more on the nuances of specific subjects rather than overviews of the subjects themselves.
Students will sit among diverse business professionals and will likely learn just as much from each other as they do from the curriculum. Schools that offer EMBA programs understand these dynamics, which is why many schools and programs have stringent requirements for executive MBA programs. One typical executive MBA requirement is that an applicant has relevant work experience or credentials.
Applicants may also have to submit GRE or GMAT results, but this isn’t always a necessary executive MBA requirement. Applicants may also need to take an entrance exam of some sort, usually the Executive Assessment. Schools and programs vary, so applicants need to pay close attention to the requirements for executive MBA programs they’re most interested in.
Once accepted, an EMBA student will learn business administration and management skills they can likely use immediately in their professions. Since EMBA students are typically working while they attend the program, they can start applying their new knowledge almost as soon as they learn it. Also, they will have classes with other people doing the same thing, so they can match strategies, network, and learn even more as they go.