AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

What Is an Executive MBA vs. MBA?

Image: executive mba vs mba

For many students contemplating returning to graduate school for business, there is a critical decision to make. Which is the right program for you: an executive MBA vs. MBA? Traditionally, Master of Business Administration programs, or MBAs, have required that students leave the workforce to attend a full-time program for up to two years. The payoff was enhanced knowledge and greater potential career prospects. But students who have families, mortgages, great full-time jobs, and other considerations may not have the flexibility to put everything on hold to go back to school. Let's take a closer look at how the executive MBA could be the right fit for some students and what those programs entail.

What is an Executive MBA?

An executive MBA is a program that's typically geared toward students with at least five years of professional experience. The major differences between these and more traditional MBA programs relate to how the degree program is structured and the student's job situation. Historically, MBA students have focused on their education full-time. Many students today are unable or unwilling to leave the workforce to complete their educations. The executive MBA offers an alternative approach that's more flexible and targeted to the needs of experienced students.

These programs typically focus on students who are older and employed. Students usually work full-time and attend classes on nights, weekends, or during extended residencies. Courses may also have a different content focus than a typical Master of Business Administration program. Where a standard MBA has a strong focus on building basic skills in business, an executive MBA often gears its courses toward those with advanced skills and real-world experience to build on.

How an Online MBA Compares

One of the downsides of executive MBA programs is that there is often a rigid, in-person schedule that needs to be completed. Students may end up spending every Saturday in class or using all their vacation time to complete residency requirements. If you need or want more flexibility, an online MBA may offer the advantages of an executive MBA program without the drawbacks.

Comparing an executive MBA vs. MBA – especially an online program – may not immediately reveal the parallels. But these programs can serve the same audiences. An online MBA allows students the flexibility to stay employed while going to school, so they can apply what they learn and continue bringing home a paycheck. Whether you've got a great job that you want to build on through education or simply can't sacrifice the income to go to school full time, an online MBA lets you stay on the job while learning.

Attending school online also lets students learn, complete assignments and connect with classmates and faculty when it is convenient for them. At some universities, these programs may also incorporate learning technology that customizes the learning experience to each student's needs, allowing them to skip over they already know and focus their time where they need it.

For students who want to earn their Masters in Business Administration but desire an experience that's different than the traditional two-year and full-time program, there are many options. An executive MBA may be the right choice. But if you're interested in the executive MBA experience with more flexibility, consider exploring online MBA programs.

Ready to learn more? Learn about AIU's intellipath-driven online MBA.