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Part-Time MBA vs EMBA – Which to Pick?

Choosing an MBA program isn’t easy in the best of times, and there are so many options out there it can make your head spin. Here I’ve broken down some of the key points of comparison between part-time MBA and EMBA, in order to make your decision a little bit easier.


First of all, a note about cost.

PT: It’s hard to make a side-by-side comparison here because most PT programs are flexible in term and the costs can be spread out.

EMBA: The cost of an EMBA is always higher than PT. However, when comparing EMBA costs, keep in mind that programs that meet twice per month might be more costly than those meeting once per month. Also, some programs include housing costs for the weekend. 

Scholarships are rare for either program unless you are part of a particular group set aside for merit awards, and if you do get one it’s not likely to be substantial.


Do you want to “pivot”?

PT: Not as good as full-time for this, but doable with the right program. Among PT programs, Haas and Booth allow for you to quit and do an internship, whereas NYU and Kellogg require you to be employed full-time the duration of the program. It’s pretty case-by-case in terms of attending OCR events or the degree of support you will receive from career services.

EMBA: Is just not realistically set up for this. The main goal here is to gain skills you can sell to your current organization with the aim of getting promoted or achieving a C-level role. If you want to switch jobs, however, the cohort and alums can help set up interviews for you. There might, however, be some source of ongoing support like career coaching (Kellogg) or executive training. I do feel that Wharton EMBA graduates are able to pivot fairly readily, but it’s best not to go in with this expectation.


How much work experience do you have?

PT: Average is about 5 years of work experience, could be as little as 2.

EMBA: Average is 12 years, could be as little as 8 (however for Oxford EMBA, it’s 5.)


How old are you?

PT: No lower limit, the average age hovers around 30.

EMBA: Average age is around 37 for most programs, including Wharton, Booth, Duke, Kellogg, Ross, Haas and Stern. It is around 33 for Columbia, possibly because there is no part-time program at CBS. For MIT, average age is 40 and most work at the director level.


What’s your test score situation?

PT: There might be a waiver provision but in general, a test score is always required. All accept the GMAT, GRE or EA. Average EA for Booth. Average EA for Booth is 680, to provide some indication.

EMBA: There is no test score required for NYU, Ross, Kellogg, or MIT. That being said, you must show some evidence of your quant abilities and MIT requires that you have completed courses in stats and calculus. Undergraduate courses are the best way to show this and if you have poor math grades, it’s best to take the EA. Having a CFA will also work in most cases. I like to recommend if it’s a borderline situation. The median EA for Booth is 155; for Wharton, 157.

Keep in mind that for both these program types, if you are overrepresented in the application pool, the competition drives up the required test score, which means you’ll need a higher test score than average.


Do you have management experience?

PT: This is always a bonus, and you should have leadership present in your profile as you would for the full-time program. If not in your job, then somewhere else such as in employee resource groups. Helping with recruitment. Even better, creating a positive impact in a community leadership role. But this is obviously less of a requirement than it would be for the EMBA.

EMBA: I have helped those without people leadership roles get into top EMBA programs (Wharton specifically) though it’s not ideal. You need at least very developed project management skills with an eye towards advancing into a people management or C-suite role.

EMBA students are seeking help with people-oriented challenges; recruitment, retention, motivation, and organizational change. Having stories and solutions to share in the classroom will position you well for the EMBA. Your work experience is a big deal in the value proposition you bring.


How mobile are you?

PT: If you choose the evening option, you will need to be local. If you work from home, it might be a good idea to relocate (preferably to the Berkeley area or downtown Chicago.) For weekend MBA programs, 75% of Booth weekend students fly in and the same option exists for Kellogg. For Haas EWMBA, 72% of the students are local. It’s a bit more similar to an FT MBA program in that it offers a cohort system.

EMBA: There is generally less travel involved for most of the programs. You will be traveling to school every other weekend in most cases, including NYU, Booth, and Wharton EMBA. For Wharton, you will stay on campus with your cohort in Philly or a hotel in SF. At MIT, you meet 2-3 times per month. For many, it’s an attractive option to meet once per month. Ross, Kellogg-Miami, and Duke WEMBA offer this.


How much time do you have?

PT: Part-time programs are not lockstep, or at least not for the entirety of the program. For example, Haas has a cohort system where you take the first 3 semesters of core curriculum in lockstep, but you can take up to 5 years to complete the program. Booth and Kellogg both also allow up to 5 years, and NYU allows 6. This can vary; the FEMBA states 3.

EMBA: Most EMBA programs are lockstep; everyone begins and ends at the same time. They range from 21 months to 24 months. Lockstep allows for deeper bonds, which makes sense because gaining a network is one of the primary goals of doing an EMBA. Schools usually state you need to allow for 20 hours on the weekends you don’t meet for classes. I will say my clients who have done the program emphasized that it was very rigorous.

Most require “time sponsorship”, in that you will need to present a business case to your seniors and have them sign off on you being gone from work. They really frown upon you using PTO for the program and sometimes will not allow it.


What do you want to get out of this?

PT: This is usually the best option for those primarily focused on building skills, climbing the ranks, and potentially pivoting. The main motivation is a well-rounded business education. It’s usually considered to be rigorous. No one is likely to fail, but it’s rigorous. For totally flexible programs, this puts in peril how valuable or deep your bonds are with classmates.

EMBA: While most of the programs are apt at delivering a well-rounded business education or “skill” building, others are more focused on leadership development (primarily Ross, Kellogg and Duke GEMBA) and are subsequently less rigorous. One of the biggest takeaways for an EMBA program should be your relationships/network. You can get the content on Coursera but not the teamwork or network experience.

Side note: Admissions puts a lot of emphasis on your letters of recommendation for EMBA because 1) you should be imparting some good “content” in class to enlarge the perspective of your colleagues, and 2) you need to be likeable and a value-add to the class from a social perspective.


Sloan Fellows – the 1-year full-time option for older adults

And last but certainly not least – the full-time option for those mid-career or beyond. If you want a total sabbatical from work for 1 year and you are past the typical age of a full-time MBA student, you might look into the Sloan Fellows programs. There is Stanford MSx in Palo Alto, SFMBA in Boston at MIT, and London Masters in (obvi) London, which has the highest average age of the 3.


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