Is an Executive MBA Beneficial for Business Professionals?

CEO shaking hand with employee with an Executive MBA

Advancing your career is likely something you think about often. From starting your first position post-grad to getting promoted and working your way up to your dream role, climbing the corporate ladder is natural as your career progresses.

However, it’s also easy to become stuck in a mid-career rut. If you want to move beyond middle management and into the C-suite, or simply hope to redirect your career trajectory, an Executive MBA (EMBA) program can help.

Washington State University’s Executive Master of Business Administration is an 100% online degree program that allows students to continue working while they learn essential leadership skills employers are seeking. Let’s explore whether an Executive MBA is beneficial for your dream career path.

Is an Executive MBA Worth It?

The goal of an EMBA program is to provide students with broader business knowledge. With an understanding that most Executive MBA students already hold positions of authority in their companies and have real-world experience, this program builds upon their skills and knowledge to help them obtain more senior roles.

Here are a few of the reasons why an Executive MBA can be beneficial for business professionals:

Enhance Hard and Soft Skills

EMBA students already have the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to excel in management roles, but they must continuously hone these capabilities to advance into higher-level positions. Here are a few of the in-demand hard and soft skills an Executive MBA program can help students cultivate:

Hard skills

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Information technology (specifically working with artificial intelligence)
  • Business analysis
  • User experience
  • Cloud computing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Sales

Soft skills

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Persuasion
  • Critical thinking
  • Organization

It takes a certain set of skills to advance to a management position, and an EMBA program refines them through a leadership lens. This requires a broader understanding of business and an emphasis on interpersonal and management skills needed to succeed in an executive position.

Receive a Higher Salary

Executive MBA programs are proven to have a positive return on investment. According to the 2019 EMBAC Student Exit Survey conducted by the Executive MBA Council, EMBA graduates typically receive a 13.5% increase in compensation (including salary and bonuses) after program completion.

The payoff often begins before an EMBA course is complete. The same survey found that 40% of respondents received a promotion during the program and 53% reported their employers gave them more responsibility during their studies.

Michael Desiderio, the EMBAC executive director, further explained: “Exit survey data consistently shows great outcomes for [EMBA] alumni, such as salary increases and promotions, as well as high levels of satisfaction.”

When you pursue an executive education, employers take notice. No matter if you’re looking to advance to the C-suite in your current organization or want to change careers, you can leverage your Executive MBA experience for a larger salary.

Continue to Work

The majority of EMBA students participate in the program while continuing to work full-time jobs. A 100% online EMBA program is especially convenient, as it allows students to study at a time best suited for their schedule.

Having this flexibility is invaluable, as students can enhance their professional career while in school rather than putting it on hold. With an emphasis on networking and real-world experience, an EMBA program allows students to use their knowledge from their studies in their current role. This allows employers to see their progression in real time and delegate more responsibility or offer a promotion to match their growing skill set.

Continuing to work while earning an Executive MBA helps students maintain a steady income, improve their hard and soft skills in a real position, and advance their career simultaneously.

Experience More Career Opportunities

An Executive MBA is meant to be mutually beneficial to employers and professionals wishing to broaden their business knowledge and become executives in their industry. Writing for IvyExec Inc., EMBA educator Sophie M. Mathiaut explained some of the ways EMBA graduates contribute to their company that could result in a promotion:

  • Introduce fresh ideas: In class, EMBA students pick up invaluable insights from fellow students who bring their own expertise into the learning experience. They can bring these ideas back to their own company for a fresh perspective on problem-solving and adapting to business trends.
  • Enhanced leadership skills: EMBA programs provide business and leadership coaching to help students discover their individual authoritative styles and develop their managerial skills.
  • A proven track record of relevant projects and teamwork: Newly minted EMBA graduates often become consultants to their companies due to their vast experience with intensive team projects they participated in during their degree program. They can show their employer how they deployed new strategies and worked with others in the program as examples of their success.
  • Use their network for good: EMBA students can broaden their network with other skilled professionals in their own industries. They can also connect their company to a deeper talent pool of individuals who have similar strengths and educational backgrounds.

When an EMBA graduate brings these skills to the table, employers are inclined to give them more responsibility and consider them for executive positions.

Gain a Global Perspective

The 2019 Executive MBA Council Survey also found that 93.2% of all EMBA programs offered mandatory or optional global trips. These international excursions help students broaden their professional network across borders and gain a global business perspective.

This experience can be hugely beneficial to companies with a global reach or that wish to branch out into foreign markets. An EMBA graduate’s international experience and knowledge of global business practices can set them apart from other applicants for executive positions.

Executive MBA vs. a Traditional MBA Experience

If you are interested in pursuing higher education but want to know if an MBA or Executive MBA is better for you, it’s important to consider how the experiences differ. Here are some of the most important distinctions between the two programs to keep in mind:

Time commitment: An MBA program may be more akin to what you experienced during your undergraduate education. Programs are offered on a full-time or part-time basis (though many students opt for a full-time course load to accelerate their education). An EMBA program, on the other hand, is already tailored to working professionals and is typically only offered as a part-time, flexible course. This ensures students can still excel at their work while furthering their education. The ability to take classes on the weekend also helps EMBA students balance their work, life, and education.

End goal: What you hope to gain from higher education will also factor into which program is best for you. An MBA is ideal for professionals who are still relatively new to the working world and would like to learn more about the necessary skills for management positions. By contrast, an EMBA program is best for professionals who already have years of managerial experience and want to enhance their skills and broaden their networks. EMBA candidates typically aspire to join the C-suite or fill another executive position within their industry.

Curriculum: While both MBA and EMBA programs focus on core business competencies (marketing, accounting, finance, etc.) there are slight differences between curriculums. Namely, an Executive MBA program has a focus on teaching students global business competencies that will help them in an executive position. From harboring a strategic mindset to honing their soft skills, an EMBA program leverages students’ experiences to make them better leaders.

Students: Perhaps one of the most noticeable differences between these two programs is the student body. MBA students can be any age, but are typically recent graduates or professionals early in their careers. In 2019, the average age of enrolled EMBA students was 38 years old, according to the previously mentioned report by the Executive MBA Council. These students also have approximately 14 years of work experience, including nine in a management role. The age and experience of EMBA students is also the reason why the program is structured differently and also faster paced.

Pace: EMBA programs are known to be more rigorous than MBA programs. Because students already have extensive experience in the business world and likely have a bachelor’s or MBA degree, an executive program moves at a faster pace. Students are expected to use their skills and knowledge in the classroom and apply it to concepts they may already be familiar with, but through an executive or global business lens.

Preparation for Higher Education

Professionals who are most likely to benefit from an EMBA are those in positions where interaction with coworkers and subordinates, team-building expertise, and a wider understanding of the big picture are essential. The ideal EMBA student also has at least a decade of work experience, including a few years in a management role. With these qualifications in mind, these are the things they can do to prepare for this unique education experience:

  • Figure out financing: Who will be financing your higher education? Many students pay their tuition for an EMBA program themselves, which is made easier since they continue to earn an income as they study. However, some employers may offer to pay for a portion of their classes because they understand the value an EMBA graduate can bring to their company.
  • Define your “why”: Why do you want to earn an Executive MBA? Is it to earn an executive position in your current company, or are you switching careers and want to set yourself up for success? Having a goal in mind for your EMBA helps you choose the right program and ensures you have a clear plan for your career moving forward.
  • Organize your academic and work records: Most EMBA programs require applicants to submit information about their educational and work background, and to take an entrance exam. This means organizing everything from transcripts, admission tests, and a portfolio that highlights their professional experience and case studies.

When it comes time to choose your EMBA program, consider Washington State University’s Executive MBA Online program. Providing students with the knowledge, skills, and training to rise to the top of their industries as strong, influential business leaders, WSU knows what it takes to give students a holistic view of executive leadership. For more information, visit online executive MBA program.


Recommended Readings:

Top 10 Strategies For Leading Distributed Teams

Thinking About an MBA/Executive MBA? Read This!

How to Successfully Juggle Family, Work and School



WSU I Carson College of Business - Executive MBA Online

WSU I Carson College of Business - The Importance of Learning Hard and Soft Skills

WSU I Carson College of Business - 7 Key Competencies for Global Business Leadership

Industry Insights by the Executive MBA Council

How to Best Convey the Benefits of an EMBA to Your Employer by IvyExec

2019 Executive MBA Council Survey Results by the Executive MBA Council