There is no way to sugarcoat it: executive MBA (EMBA) programs can be pricey. While it’s possible to earn this degree for a reasonable $25,000, most programs charge at least $60,000. Some charge much more: the most competitive EMBAs can cost over $200,000.
Because attending a top program typically leads to desirable career outcomes, Executive MBA students suck it up. They may take out student loans, earn scholarships, and draw employer sponsorship or reimbursement to help pay for the experience. Still, the cost can be significant, especially if you’re paying off undergraduate education loans.
The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC)—the academic organization representing the degree—surveyed students to learn that over half of EMBA students self-fund their education. About 44 percent receive some form of financial assistance.
Why undertake such a significant expense? Because the return on investment (ROI) can be substantially more significant. According to a 2020 study by EMBAC, total compensation for EMBA graduates increased by 14.1 percent in the year after they completed their executive MBA program (and 39 percent of those surveyed received promotions while they were still in the program). For many students, the EMBA is the final piece of a portfolio qualifying them for a major promotion and perhaps a c-suite role.
Earning an executive MBA often leads to advancement, raises, and other benefits, meaning this degree is likely to pay dividends throughout your career long after your student debt is paid off.
So, how much does an executive MBA cost? This article answers that question, plus others like:
EMBA programs can be costly, especially at the most prestigious institutions. The University of Pennsylvania‘s Wharton School charges $210,900 for the two-year degree.
Other top EMBA schools and their total program costs include Northwestern University ($222,192), Yale University ($205,500), and University of Chicago ($194,000 for the US program). Program costs typically include course materials, lodging (not always airfare and other travel costs), and career services in addition to program tuition.
Public institutions tend to charge less than private schools. In-state students may qualify for a tuition discount, though not always a large one. Executive MBA tuition and fees at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor total $168,500 for in-state students, while out-of-state students pay $173,500. At the University of California – Berkeley, all students pay $219,560 (tuition and living expenses). At the University of Virginia, international students pay more while domestic students receive a discount. However, the difference is only $400 ($166,100 for domestic and $166,500 for international), representing a 0.25 percent discount.
Name recognition can impact tuition more than whether a business school is public or private. Programs outside the top ten (especially at public schools) are typically cheaper. Forbes‘ 14th-ranked program (University of Washington – Seattle Campus) charges $126,000. The University of Florida, ranked 24th, costsf $62,807. Emory University, a private school that occupies the 22nd spot, charges $120,496.
An Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree is typically earned in the midstages of a professional management career. They have the highest ten-year ROI of all business degrees—a staggering 1,747%. Over 30 percent of CEOs hold an MBA, the degree an EMBA program confers. (
The average Executive MBA earns about $205,000 before graduation and $233,000 after graduation. That represents a 13.5% increase in compensation, including both salary and bonuses. That average is calculated across programs, however. Prestigious programs are associated with the biggest paychecks. ( )
The cohort structure of executive MBA programs often leads to lucrative partnerships and business opportunities. After all, the average EMBA workgroup almost always includes senior managers, vice presidents, and directors. ( )
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According to EMBAC, nearly 60 percent of programs provide scholarship or fellowship opportunities, helping students reduce their executive education costs. Like undergrads, EMBA students can apply for private loans or federal student aid through FAFSA; veterans can utilize the GI Bill.
Employer sponsorship offers another option. Many employers agree to cover part or all program costs in exchange for the employee/prospective student agreeing to work at the company for a set number of years. The EMBAC study noted that 15.2 percent of students surveyed received full sponsorship, while an additional 28.5 percent secured partial sponsorship.
Finally, a significant number of executive MBA students (56.2 percent) self-fund their education. This should come as no surprise. EMBA programs attract experienced professionals well into their careers, with the capacity to make tuition payments.
Whether you’ll pay more for an EMBA or MBA depends on the school. According to Poets & Quants, the University of Washington charged $177,330 for its two-year MBA program in 2021—which was more than its EMBA cost. Wharton also charged more for the traditional MBA ($230,928). Northwestern charged $223,316, making the two programs comparable. The University of Florida charged permanent residents $26,473 for its MBA (less than the EMBA) and non-residents $61,260 (about the same price as the EMBA).
It’s hard to say. Most schools offer either an online or on-campus EMBA (some offer the program in a hybrid format), but relatively few provide more than one option. That makes it hard to draw comparisons.
The University of Georgia EMBA program is split 50/50 between online and in-person class time, with a tuition of $77,000. The program at Howard University is offered exclusively online for around $66,000, not including fees and extras. The cost of a Duke University EMBA depends on the program. The Global EMBA costs $156,560, while the weekend EMBA costs $152,500. Both offer distance and in-person residency opportunities at identical costs.
Executive MBA programs are designed for seasoned mid- to high-level managers seeking to advance to leadership positions. A significant number of students (although hardly all) already hold a master’s degree that has helped them advance their careers (e.g., a Master of Science in Data Analytics, a Master of Science in Marketing) to its current level. The EMBA helps them gain essential management skills and knowledge.
Since EMBA students typically have at least 10 years of professional work experience, the coursework skips over foundational business management classes and focuses on advanced business concepts.
These programs for full-time professionals tend to be fast-paced and intensive, with courses year-round and no time off. The commitment required may include multiple weekend- or week-long immersion experiences and campus residencies.
The average EMBA takes two years to finish, with most accelerated programs lasting between 18 and 20 months. Many EMBA programs run year-round, ignoring the traditional academic year schedule that takes summers off.
Of note, most EMBA programs only admit students with extensive relevant professional work experience. Some programs require at least 10 years of professional experience.
EMBA programs follow many of the same admissions requirements as traditional graduate programs. The application process typically includes letters of recommendation (including one from your current employer), personal essays,transcripts, and your resume/CV. Quite a few programs do not require standardized test scores, since professional experience provides a more reliable indicator of candidates’ ability to succeed in the program.
Students enrolled in Executive MBA programs take advanced business classes focused on various real-world management challenges and include classes such as:
Howard’s online EMBA highlights entrepreneurship. Applicants must have five or more years of experience in a senior management position and plan to take on C-suite roles (or form a company). Students study finance, management, and analytics-based decision-making. Through a capstone program, students showcase their business strategy skills and present their work to faculty and professionals. This program is offered entirely online, though students may access school networking, recruiting, and career services.
The University of Georgia offers an even split of online and in-person classes. Students also complete weekend programs, which facilitate networking and in-person learning opportunities. The program also offers an international residency that lasts 12 days, allowing students to learn about international business. The entire program is completed within 18 months.
At the University of Virginia, nearly a third of core coursework is offered remotely. Students have two Zoom class days per week. Though the school allows flexibility to complete lectures (students can obtain recorded sessions), they’re required to complete weekend and leadership residencies. Students can choose either the traditional EMBA program or a Global Executive MBA, which includes four residences across several continents. The traditional EMBA program also requires an international trip.
If you attend a school with robust career services and an extensive alumni network, the EMBA career pathways are practically limitless. However, many EMBA graduates continue working for their current employers with their ambition set on C-suite positions.
Top jobs for EMBA degree holders include chief accounting officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, and (of course), chief executive officer. How much you’ll earn is hard to determine, as it depends on where you work.
While Indeed notes that the average CEO earns just under $113,000 per year, it’s far from the full story, as this figure doesn’t include bonuses and other forms of compensation. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2018 CEOs at the top 350 firms earned between $14 and $17.2 million.
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