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Executive MBAs, also known as EMBAs, are MBA programs designed specifically for business professionals with at least five years of experience. Many EMBAs are offered online during evenings or weekends, allowing students the flexibility to pursue their degrees while continuing work.
To find the best online EMBAs, Bankrate’s team evaluated a series of programs in four key areas: affordability, academic offerings, course flexibility and student outcomes. Our top picks not only exceed in these four areas but also bring something unique to the table.
Top 5 online executive MBA programs of 2022
- California State University, San Bernardino: Best online executive MBA program for flexible admission requirements
- Washington State University: Best online executive MBA program for field study opportunities
- University of Nevada Reno: Best online executive MBA for networking potential
- University of North Carolina Wilmington: Best online executive MBA for an accelerated program
- University of Hawaii at Manoa: Best online executive MBA for a customizable degree
What is an executive MBA?
An executive MBA is a degree program providing specialized coursework for seasoned professionals with at least five years of experience looking to get a degree without leaving their jobs. An executive MBA can teach finance, management, entrepreneurship and more, but the programs tend to be more focused and demanding than regular MBAs. Executive MBAs typically offer part-time enrollment, with many functioning entirely online.
Is an executive MBA worth it?
An executive MBA is worth it if it opens up more interesting and more lucrative career opportunities for you. Graduates with an executive MBA do have a high earning potential. PayScale lists the average salary for executive MBA graduates at$122,000, compared to about$90,000 for people with a general MBA degree.
What can I expect from an online executive MBA program?
Executive MBA candidates tend to be older than traditional graduate students and have five years or more of management experience. Executive MBAs enable professionals with knowledge of basic concepts to skip foundational courses and build specialized skills in a concentration.
Most online executive MBAs include a mix of core and elective requirements. Since the typical executive MBA candidate works full time, scheduling is typically flexible. However, students may be required to attend short campus intensives, in-person networking events or seminars and occasional residencies.
Executive MBA program courses
When you enroll in an online executive MBA program, you’ll likely need to take a standard set of courses. While the specifics of each course will vary by institution, the types of courses are largely the same from program to program:
- Financial accounting: Training in financial accounting is typically a core requirement of a graduate-level business administration program. Generally, this course trains students to understand, interpret and prepare financial statements.
- Data analysis: This course helps professionals hone their critical thinking and acute analytical skills specific to marketing and consumer data. Topics include statistical and regression analysis, diagnostic checking, model formation and testing techniques.
- Operations management: This course covers service and manufacturing industry managers’ key responsibilities and enables seasoned managers to enhance their project management, supply chain management and process analysis skills.
- Globalization: Core coursework in globalization explores macroeconomics, decision making and confident leadership in adaptive international commerce scenarios.
- Corporate strategy: Most corporate strategy courses explore the concept and implementation of corporate strategy in a competitive context, preparing students to set, achieve and exceed professional and business goals.
What can I do with an executive MBA degree?
The best executive MBAs enable working professionals to advance their careers to top leadership positions. Executive MBAs may enter the program with years of management experience in fields like sales, technology or marketing and qualify for careers as chief executives of global corporations upon graduation.
Graduates of an executive MBA program often pursue elevated corporate careers, including:
- Chief executive officer (CEO): Also called executive directors, presidents or managing directors, CEOs direct all aspects of a company. They supervise department-heads and may report to a board of directors regarding daily and long-term operations, company policy and compliance.
- Chief financial officer (CFO): CFOs are responsible for making all decisions regarding a company’s business capital, including when and where to make investments, reporting gains and losses and balancing debt, equity and internal spending.
- Director of operations: Directors of operations oversee the daily functions of a business or organization. In the manufacturing and service industries, this position may include specialized skills like compliance, transportation regulations and supply chain management.
- Marketing director: Marketing directors fill a specialized role in executive leadership, overseeing a company’s marketing teams, producing advertising materials and developing a brand identity.
- Vice president of global operations: VPs work directly under the president or CEO to help direct and oversee the general operations of a business or organization. A VP traditionally requires advanced soft skills like communication, leadership and critical thinking or expertise in international regulations, negotiation and e-commerce.
Best online executive MBA programs of 2022
California State University, San Bernardino
CSUSB’s online MBA for executives emphasizes “conceptual knowledge and practical skills,” catering to business professionals with at least two years of leadership experience. The program divides the curriculum into five main categories: boot camp, foundation courses, essential core courses, elective courses and a culminating experience.
|Tuition||$36,000 total (out-of-state)|
- Flexible admission requirements: Unlike many online MBA programs, CSUSB does not require students to take the GMAT or the GRE. Besides that, you only need two years of work experience in a management or leadership role to apply for the program.
- Relatively low program cost: Compared with other top online programs, CSUSB’s course has a low base cost. Non-resident students pay a total of $36,000 for the 18-month program, while resident students pay a total of $25,000
- Minimal degree customization: In lieu of traditional concentrations, the online executive MBA at CSUSB incorporates specialized study in areas like accounting, finance or marketing into “boot camp” modules, which must be completed before the second quarter. The program layout leaves room for only one elective course.
- Inflexible course completion time: Executive MBA students who wish to take more than one course per semester to graduate faster must submit a written reason for exception, which must be approved by the MBA director. Other programs, in contrast, allow students to control their studies’ pace.
Washington State University
WSU offers an online executive MBA to business leaders looking to strengthen their cross-functional leadership, entrepreneurial abilities, global perspective and business planning skills. The program allows students to graduate in as few as 16 months and opens up opportunities for international field study and leadership conferences.
|Exam requirements||GMAT required (waiver available)|
- Leadership conference: Students and alumni of the executive MBA program have the opportunity to attend an annual two-day leadership conference designed for education and networking.
- Accelerated completion options: WSU designed its online executive MBA for completion in as few as 16 months. By comparison, WSU’s regular online MBA takes 22 to 29 months to complete.
- Optional international field study: WSU’s online executive MBA offers an optional 10-day international field experience as an elective course, which takes place in a different country each year. Participants enjoy unique professional networking and cultural opportunities.
- Not customizable: The online executive MBA program has a fairly rigid curriculum, with no opportunities to pursue a specialization or choose electives.
- For seasoned professionals only: To enroll in this program, you must have at least five years of management, senior management or executive business experience.
University of Nevada Reno
UNR’s College of Business emphasizes global commerce throughout its programs. Its online executive MBA offers core courses in addition to “breadth” courses, covering subjects like managing organizations in a global economy, personal branding and strategic management for executives. The program is cohort-based, which means that students will progress through the program with the same group of peers.
|Exam requirements||GRE and GMAT accepted (waiver available); minimum GRE score of 150 or GMAT score of 500 recommended|
- Cohort program: UNR uses the cohort model, meaning the same group of students move through the curriculum together for the entire two-year program. This helps to build working relationships and strengthens networking opportunities.
- Unique breadth courses: While UNR’s program doesn’t offer electives, the breadth courses required for all students are unique. Students will learn about managerial accounting, personal branding and managing organizations in a global economy.
- Flat tuition rate: Enrollees in the online executive MBA pay a total of $30,000 in tuition, regardless of their state of residence. Students also have the option to pay their tuition in $5,000 installments over the course of six semesters. UNR is also upfront about additional costs, estimating $2,500 for textbooks for the program.
- Not self-paced: All students must begin the program in the fall semester and move at the same pace as the rest of their cohort to complete the degree. This could challenge students who’d like to advance at their own pace.
- Rigid coursework: There is no way to customize your executive MBA with UNR; the 12 courses of the program are the same for all students.
University of North Carolina Wilmington
UNCW’s online executive MBA combines online coursework with hands-on experiences. Students can choose between a general degree or a specialization in business analytics, finance, health care management or international business — all of which can give you an edge if there’s a specific industry or career you’re pursuing.
|Tuition and fees||$57,255.06 (out-of-state)|
|Exam requirements||GRE and GMAT accepted (waivers available); GMAT score of 500 or equivalent GRE score required|
- Can be completed in 12 months: UNCW packs 42 credits into an accelerated 12-month program, combining seven-week courses in economics, information analysis and management and business analytics with required residencies to develop field experience.
- Six start dates per year: UNCW offers six annual start dates: two terms each in the fall, spring and summer semesters. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis and may admit students before their preferred start date.
- MBA specializations: Students can complete a general program or select a specialization in an area such as finance, business analytics or health care management, all specifically designed for the online executive MBA. Each specialization involves a choice of electives in a student’s desired field of expertise.
- Low cost for resident students: If you’re a North Carolina resident, the program’s cost totals less than $25,000.
- You’ll need significant experience: Applicants must have at least five years of work experience to be admitted into the program.
- Nonresidents pay significantly higher tuition rates: While the online MBA offers reasonable tuition rates among AACSB-accredited programs, students who are not North Carolina residents pay over $30,000 more than North Carolina residents.
- Requires campus and international residencies: Students must spend two weekends in residence at UNCW’s Wilmington campus and culminate the degree in a one-week trip abroad for the capstone experience. Learners must pay airfare for the international excursion.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Programs delivered through UH Manoa’s Shidler College of Business emphasize international commerce from a Pacific-Islander perspective. The online executive MBA program offers several management tracks and several electives. The program enrolls only every two years, with cohorts starting in the fall semester.
|Exam requirements||GMAT score over 500 (waiver available)|
- Financial assistance for Hawaii residents: Each year, the school awards up to $150,000 in scholarships to Hawaiian residents. Additionally, UH Manoa has a transportation stipend available for students on neighboring islands.
- Customizable electives: UH Manoa has a healthcare management track and a travel industry management track for executives looking to customize their experience. Students can also choose from electives, including negotiation and multicultural management.
- Mentoring opportunities: UH Manoa students can access the free Executive Mentoring Program. If you sign up for the program, you’ll be paired up with a professional mentor from a Hawaiian business. Topics could include launching a business, enhancing leadership capacity and discovering your personal brand.
- Lack of schedule flexibility: UH Manoa broadcasts its distance courses online in real time, in a virtual classroom that facilitates live interaction among the participants. This could be particularly challenging for students attending from a different time zone.
- Campus attendance is required: Students must attend a five-day intensive residency, as well as occasional Saturday classes throughout the degree. There is a tuition stipend for Hawaii residents, but the in-person elements may be prohibitive for students living outside of Hawaii.
Frequently asked questions about executive MBA programs
Regular MBAs offer introductory and specialized business curricula for traditional college students, and they often require only two years of professional work experience. Executive MBAs, on the other hand, often require at least five years of work experience, as they target experienced professionals seeking a more in-depth course to enhance their careers.
An executive MBA requires as much dedication toward its rigorous curriculum as a traditional MBA; however, executive MBAs tend to offer more flexibility to mid- to late-career students with full-time jobs and family obligations.
Executive MBAs often hire well-known, high-profile (and expensive) experts as instructors. Additionally, schools tend to charge more for executive MBAs because they know that students can continue to earn income or receive employer tuition assistance while completing their degree.
An executive MBA prepares graduates for high-paying executive positions. Some of the highest-paying positions available to executive MBA graduates include the following:
Position Average salary Source: PayScale Chief executive officer $156,452 Chief financial officer $141,275 Vice president of operations $133,595 Marketing director $92,947 Finance director $116,989 Information technology director $122,735
To find the best online executive MBA programs, we evaluated colleges’ academic offerings, affordability and programming — weighing statistical data like enrollment rate, graduation rate, average net price, percentage of enrolled students taking out federal loans and more. Our top picks are all accredited programs with unique features like flexible enrollment and diverse course options.