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9 Important Questions Every Prospective EMBA Student Should Ask

A young man wearing professional business attire sits in a board room, smiling and holding a cell phone.

It’s normal to have many questions about what it takes to pursue a master’s degree in any discipline and what it’s like to go to graduate school as a working professional. Prospective students considering Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs often have more questions than most, because there are so many types of MBA formats. The Executive MBA, or EMBA, is one MBA variation that generates a great deal of confusion.

Finding out what, exactly, the EMBA is (and isn’t) is challenging because there are so many myths floating around about this degree. It’s crucial that you understand the content and benefits of these programs, however, because you’ll spend quite a bit of time and money earning your degree.

Maybe you’ve encountered sources that describe the EMBA as a kind of fast-paced, part-time MBA program designed for students who can’t or would prefer not to take a sabbatical while pursuing their degrees. Keep researching, and you’ll likely find other sources that group Executive MBA programs with accelerated MBA programs, stating outright that enrolling in an executive program is the fastest way to earn an MBA. Still, others assert that EMBA programs are just high-caliber, elite MBA programs for the brightest, most experienced students.

"Employers respect the time-management skills and perseverance it takes to complete an online EMBA program."

These and other myths proliferate quickly online because of the nature of the Internet, so don’t feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if you question the information you find about Executive MBA programs online. You should feel confident in your decision to enroll in an on-campus or online EMBA program like the one offered by Howard University School of Business, and that can involve boldly confronting the questions surrounding this degree pathway head-on.

Below are nine of the most important questions prospective students should ask about Executive MBA programs, and the answers you’ll need to decide if an EMBA is the right degree for you.

Nine important questions about earning an EMBA

The questions below may seem relatively benign, but they keep many promising businesspeople from even exploring the possibility of going to graduate school.

1. Is an Executive MBA less prestigious than a traditional MBA?

EMBA programs aren’t more or less prestigious than traditional full-time MBA programs, part-time MBA programs or Professional MBA programs. They’re simply designed for a different but very specific audience. Think of the EMBA as a specialized business degree pathway for students who already have significant managerial or leadership experience. That work experience might be wasted in a traditional MBA program or Professional MBA program that’s primarily focused on teaching fledgling businesspeople or career switchers basic management fundamentals.

In Executive MBA programs, students have their sights set on executive positions. They are there to learn from not only professors but also peers who bring a similar amount of experience to the cohort. Everyone in an EMBA cohort has a unique skill set and value to add. Students in Howard’s Online EMBA program, for example, typically have seven or more years of work experience in business and entrepreneurship, including five years of work experience in management or leadership roles. Additionally, their resumes show evidence of a strong upward trajectory that will someday land them in C-suite positions.

2. Are online EMBAs respected?

School reputation is more important than format when it comes to employer perception, so it doesn’t matter whether you pursue an Executive MBA online or on campus. An online EMBA from a highly ranked business school carries the same weight as one earned in person because top online Executive MBA programs are similar to, if not identical to, programs delivered on campus. Distance learners take the same courses, meet the same domestic and international immersion requirements (usually one or more week-long residencies), and can access the same pre- and post-graduation career support as students studying in person. At Howard, students in the Online Executive MBA program study abroad and are recruited by national and international corporate partners and government agencies, just like on-campus learners.

"EMBA grads are more efficient and more effective leaders."

Princeton Review ranks Howard School of Business #3 for having the Most Competitive Students. Future employers will recognize and respect the time-management skills and perseverance it takes to complete an online EMBA program while holding a full-time, senior position. Further, most Executive MBA programs confer an EMBA, not an “Online EMBA”—meaning you’ll have the same credentials on your resume as any other Executive MBA graduate. Whether you choose to share the fact that you earned your degree online is up to you.

3. Is it easier to get into an Executive MBA program than an MBA program?

It’s true that Executive MBA programs accept a larger percentage of applicants than traditional full-time MBA programs, but the discrepancy isn’t caused by lax standards. Many traditional MBA programs welcome early-career professionals and career-switchers, and it’s not always clear what kind of academic and professional experience will appeal to admissions officers. EMBA program applicants, on the other hand, often have to meet a much more rigorous and specific set of admissions standards. It’s sometimes easier to see at a glance whether your professional experience, skills and education are the right fit for an EMBA program—and many programs don’t require applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores—but that doesn’t mean getting into an Executive MBA program is easier. What’s more likely is that the exacting standards of these highly selective programs keep prospective students who aren’t a great fit from ever applying.

4. Why do you need an Executive MBA if you’ve already achieved so much in your career?

The demographics of Executive MBA programs speak for themselves. The average age of Executive MBA students is 38, and a typical EMBA cohort is populated by senior managers, vice presidents, directors and other experienced—and remarkably accomplished—business leaders. While Howard University EMBA applicants must have seven or more years of relevant professional experience to apply, it’s not unusual for degree candidates to bring 15 or more years of relevant experience to their cohorts. Contrary to what this question suggests, EMBA students are high achievers looking to gain and polish the kinds of enhanced skills, knowledge and tools that will empower them to accomplish more.

5. Are Executive MBAs less expensive than regular MBA programs?

EMBA programs may be shorter than some traditional MBA programs, but they’re not usually less expensive. On average, an Executive MBA costs between $75,000 and $85,000, which typically covers tuition but not books, materials and things like fees or required travel. What’s different about EMBA programs is that they’re more likely to pay for themselves than either a traditional MBA or a master’s degree in another field. The average Executive MBA grad earns about $233,000—a 13.5 percent increase in pay, including salary and bonuses—which is more than enough to allow many EMBA students to pay off any student loans they take out to finance this degree in just a few years.

6. Do employers understand what an Executive MBA is when they see it on your resume?

Employers know that EMBA programs are typically more competitive, focused and intensive than traditional MBA programs. The Executive MBA is, after all, designed for working professionals, so employers tend to be very familiar not only with this degree but also with its benefits. EMBA grads are more efficient and more effective leaders and, as an added benefit to companies who support employee education, can apply what they’re learning in the classroom in real-time. That makes this degree very attractive to employers and one that companies may be more comfortable funding in part or in full for their star employees.

7. Do employers pay for EMBAs?

Nearly half of EMBA students fund their own degrees, but many companies do still pay for promising employees’ EMBAs. Just don’t go into any discussions with your current employer expecting a full ride. The Executive MBA Council reports that 17.6 percent of EMBA candidates received full employer sponsorship in 2020, while 28.6 percent received partial sponsorships. Even with generous employer funding, however, it’s likely that you’ll still shoulder some expenses related to your degree. Some students in Executive MBA programs take out federal and private student loans, and many receive scholarships. In fact, more than 60 percent of colleges and universities offer scholarships to their EMBA students.

8. Do I have the knowledge and skills to succeed in an EMBA program?

EMBA programs tend to have clear, if stringent, admissions standards, making it easy to see if you’re qualified to enroll. Getting accepted into an Executive MBA program is no guarantee of success, but it is a strong predictor of success. Your business background and years of work experience will serve you well as you complete the general management and global business coursework that’s the hallmark of EMBA programs. More importantly, you’ll have many chances to apply the new skills and strategies you learn in your classes in your work life.

You may be wondering if Executive MBA programs offer electives in addition to core courses, and what you need to know is that some do and some don’t. Some EMBA programs offer specializations like healthcare administration or supply chain management, but these are relatively rare. Most programs have a set curriculum that’s laser-focused on advanced management fundamentals.

Don’t take that to mean that completing an on-campus or online Executive MBA program is easier than completing an industry-focused MBA program with specialization tracks. You’ll work very hard in an Executive MBA program, and you’ll make sacrifices. For the duration of the EMBA program you choose, you’ll spend some of the time you might otherwise have spent on hobbies, travel or other personal pursuits doing homework and studying. As demanding as the work is, however, it’s also manageable. In Howard’s Online EMBA program, you’ll have plenty of support from peers, professors and mentors—all of whom are aware of the fact that EMBA students have full-time professional commitments (and sometimes also full-time personal commitments).

Don’t let imposter syndrome keep you from applying to an Executive MBA program. If Howard University or another highly ranked school invites you to enroll, take it as a sign that you’re ready to do extraordinary things.

9. Is an Executive MBA program worth it?

As touched on above, the ROI of an EMBA is clear and quantifiable. This degree is associated with a pretty significant salary increase as well as with accelerated advancement. One recent Executive MBA Council survey found that nearly half of all Executive MBA students receive a promotion while enrolled in this degree program. Top EMBA programs are also known recruitment hubs. Leading corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations seek out Howard University School of Business graduates because they trust they’ll find top-performing professionals among their ranks.

The value of an Executive MBA can also be measured using intangible metrics. Studies find that the vast majority of EMBA grads report that their business school experiences were personally and professionally rewarding. More than half see the scope of their responsibilities in their current roles expand. And all EMBA graduates grow their networks before and after graduation. Howard alumni, for example, gain access to an extensive and proud network of alumni located around the world.

It’s true that having a specific degree isn’t a guarantee of future success, which may be why this question persists. An Executive MBA’s value has more to do with how you leverage this degree when seeking out opportunities than with average salary increases or employer perception. A diploma can open some doors, but only if you knock first. It’s ultimately up to you to proactively reach out to the network you create, seek out opportunities and be bold about selling your knowledge and skills in an increasingly competitive employment marketplace.

What to do if you still have questions about earning an Online EMBA at Howard

The above questions about Executive MBA programs and online Executive MBA programs only scratch the surface. Some prospective students researching Howard University’s Executive Master of Business Administration or similar programs already know whether an online Executive MBA program will be the best fit. Others have additional questions about the online student experience, whether career services are available to distance learners or what makes Howard’s Online EMBA different.

If you feel strongly driven to pursue the next level of success in your career, but you need to know more before you commit, the smartest thing you can do is connect with an enrollment advisor via email at onlinebusiness@howard.edu or phone at 202-921-3413. They will answer any questions you have about the Howard Online EMBA, whether you’re looking for more information about class sizes, faculty backgrounds, scholarships and financial aid, the technologies students use or what you’ll learn in the University’s EMBA program, so you can be sure ours is the right program for you before you apply.

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