MBA or Executive MBA: Which One to Choose?

Pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can be a wise move for anyone looking to move into a leadership role in business. But the business world offers so many diverse leadership positions that prospective students would do well to consider exactly which type of MBA they wish to aim for. Furthermore, with the availability of MBA programs across the country, Carson College of Business dean Chip Hunter and The Wall Street Journal discuss challenges that MBA programs face.

Traditional MBA degrees focus on the skills and disciplines common to specialized, mid-level management positions such as marketing, finance, international business, and even hospitality business or healthcare management.

Executive MBA degree programs (EMBAs), on the other hand, offer a curriculum designed to prepare students for upper-level management and executive positions with critical responsibilities in areas ranging from overall operations management and administrative policy to maximizing workforce productivity.

While EMBA degrees groom graduates for high-paying, executive positions, the competition for executive roles is steep and fewer positions are available. Alternatively, MBAs prepare students for more specialized middle-management positions in specific departments. These middle-management positions pay exceedingly well and are much more plentiful. MBA candidates on the right career track with the right qualifications can look forward to a long and rewarding career.

The Traditional MBA Approach by Concentration

When choosing to pursue an MBA over an EMBA, students are more likely inspired by a particular career specialization, such as marketing or finance. Everyone has different interests, and those interests don't always include general, executive authority over large segments of a corporation. Some people prefer to hone in on one particular province.

MBA specialization, according to U.S. News & World Report journalist Farran Powell in her article, “Enhance Earnings with an MBA Specialization,” gives students a competitive edge by providing a sort of structured roadmap to success.

Choosing a specialization, however, doesn’t mean that an MBA education would not be useful if plans change and new opportunities arise. An MBA student's training will apply to many disciplines, and will include courses in financial and managerial accounting, marketing, data analysis, business law, strategy formation, managerial leadership, and information systems management.

This comprehensive post-graduate business education provides a solid foundation for any leadership position in the business world. Adding a specific concentration to an already stable background can only increase students’ chances of carving out a niche for themselves, regardless of whether they prefer working in financial management, business data analytics, marketing, information systems, cyber security, or even in an executive position.

An MBA offers other professional advantages as well. Executive coach Ed Batista notes in his Harvard Business Review article, “Should You Get an MBA?,” that in addition to education and training, an MBA offers students a number of other benefits, including:

• Practical leadership and management skills
• A credential that sends a signal to the marketplace
• Membership in a learning community and access to an alumni network

These benefits apply to students of any MBA or EMBA program, and the last item on the list, membership in an alumni network, has been lauded as the most useful and far-reaching benefit of a post-graduate business school education.

Opting for the Executive MBA Edge

Linda Jackson, the CEO of French automobile manufacturer Citroën, arrived at the top of her industry thanks to an EMBA degree, writes Financial Times reporter Peter Campbell in “How an EMBA Fuelled Linda Jackson’s Drive to Become Citroën CEO.”

Jackson obtained her EMBA in 1992 while working for the British car company Rover. Shortly after that, she began steadily moving up the chain of command and became the finance controller for MG Rover group. In 2005, Citroën brought Jackson onboard as finance director. By 2014, she became the Citroën global chief executive.

“I really do believe that I wouldn’t be here without [my EMBA],” says Jackson. “I had gone into the industry without a degree, so having an [E]MBA gave me much more confidence. It widens your eyes and your perspective as to where you might go.”

Curriculum in an EMBA program is designed with managers in mind, covering topics such as administrative control, marketing management, international business management, professional ethics, and management of innovation. There are fewer concentrations in EMBA training than in traditional MBA programs because executives need to have an all-encompassing understanding of every aspect of business, rather than just one or two specialized areas.

While an MBA can be undertaken by professionals at any level of business, more often than not, EMBA students are already leaders in their respective organizations. “The EMBA is structured so that you’ll be ready to take on a leading role in your company immediately after finishing or part-way through,” explains career coach Iain McLoughlin in his blog post, “Is an Executive MBA Right for You?”

“Put another way,” McLoughlin continues, “you’ll be somebody who’s looking to accelerate in your existing career, with the benefit of applying in your organization, the lessons learned in the classroom. It’ll feel more intensive, but the learning is more tangible and the results quickly visible.”

Washington State University’s EMBA Degree Program

WSU’s Carson College of Business offers an online Executive MBA program that provide students with the knowledge, skills, and training to rise to the top of their industries or their departments as strong, influential business leaders.

Though candidates should already have management or even senior management experience for an EMBA, coursework is designed to give students a holistic view of executive leadership. Contact WSU for more information.


• Enhance Earnings With an MBA Specialization –
• Should You Get an MBA? –
• How an EMBA Fuelled Linda Jackson’s Drive to Become Citroën CEO –
• Is an Executive MBA Right For You? –