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Choosing an MBA Program: Traditional MBA vs. Professional MBA vs. Executive MBA

April 14, 2020 3:21pm

Those interested in earning an MBA might be surprised at the variety available: Traditional MBA, Professional MBA (PMBA), and Executive MBA (EMBA). What are these degrees exactly? Who are these programs right for? And what will someone gain from earning one? Here is a quick breakdown of what types of learners and professionals should consider each, what courses they can expect to take, and what they will gain from earning a graduate business degree.

Who are they designed for?

Traditional MBA:

Traditional MBA programs are generally tailored toward graduates with little to no management experience. Many MBA program candidates have just finished earning their undergraduate degree and want to earn their MBA in order to possess the credentials necessary to qualify for management positions. MBA programs can generally be completed in two years, though online programs can be completed sooner depending on the course load a student decides to take on.


Professional MBA programs are geared toward those who have been out of college for a few years and may have some, but not a lot, of previous leadership experience. Those wanting to complete a degree program while they continue to work full time find PMBA programs especially attractive as they are generally more flexible in order to accommodate the busy work schedules of the students. Additionally, online PMBA programs are great options for working adult learners as they tend to offer the most convenience and flexibility.


Executive MBA programs usually require that students have more than five years of management or administrative experience. These programs are built for those who may have reached the peak in their current management role. Since students are generally employed in full-time mid-to senior-level management positions, EMBA programs commonly offer a good amount of flexibility with online options available.

What are the course requirements?

Traditional MBA:

Those seeking an MBA degree can choose from many different programs, including convenient online options. Most of these programs involve courses including, but not limited to the following:

• Accounting
• Marketing
• Finance
• Organizational behavior
• Economic statistics
• Business Accountability and ethics


Just like any other degree program, course requirements and prerequisites for PMBA programs will depend on each school. But generally students can count on about 10 or 11 core course requirements, including some of the following common subject matter:

• Business law and ethics
• Global strategies
• Ethics
• Organizational dynamics
• Financial management
• Marketing strategies


Because students in EMBA programs have several years of management or administrative experience, course requirements are fewer and they typically take two years or less to complete. EMBA students can expect to explore topics including:

• Microeconomics
• Macroeconomics
• Organizational leadership
• Financial management
• Business communications
• Supply chain management

What are the benefits?

Traditional MBA:

Regardless of work experience, earning your MBA will show potential employers that you have invested the time to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to be a more compelling leader. You’ll emerge a better team player and effective communicator. Along with increasing your career options, you’ll boost your earning power as well. According to a survey of more than 100,000 MBA graduates, the average salary is $87,000. Of those surveyed, nearly 33% reported to be experienced in their field. And 4 out of 5 reported to be highly satisfied professionally.


The best thing about PMBA programs is they provide the much-needed flexibility to working adults in order for them to complete their education while continuing to work full time. If someone has been able to move up in their career over the course of a few years, earning a PMBA will give them the credentials to move on to more prominent leadership rolls. Many programs are offered in convenient online formats and the GMAT requirement is often waived. Students are also able to immediately apply what they are learning in class to their everyday work. Obtaining a PMBA will not only make someone a more knowledgeable and competent manager, it will open doors to higher level leadership roles and increased salary. Because the PMBA degree holds the same value as a traditional MBA degree, graduates of PMBA programs can expect to experience the same earning potential. And as they continue adding years to their career experience, their salaries will continue to increase.


Those enrolled in EMBA programs can expect to finish in under two years. Many employers will foot the bill for these degree programs and GMAT requirements are normally waived, especially in online programs. One of the greatest benefits of an EMBA program is the networking opportunities with other high-level executives from a wide range of organizations. Earning an EMBA will give someone in a leadership role exceptional tools and prepare them for promotions that would not be otherwise possible. According to the Executive MBA Council, a 2018-2019 survey graduates showed they reported a salary increase of 13.5% while in the program. And 40% reported having received a promotion while still enrolled.

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