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Executive MBA Requirements: Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-Haves

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Finding information about various Executive MBA requirements at different universities is a lot like solving a puzzle. You need to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Perhaps you’ve searched for ‘Executive MBA criteria,’ Executive MBA standards’ or ‘Executive MBA requirements’ and gotten very different results each time. That’s because those terms are all relatively vague. Business school programs have admissions standards, application requirements and degree completion requirements. They may also use terms like “requirements” and “criteria” interchangeably, frustrating your efforts to determine if you’re a strong candidate for admission or ready to commit to a particular program.

Knowing what you need to look for is the key to solving the Executive Master of Business Administration, or EMBA, puzzle. Howard University School of Business has relatively simple Online Executive MBA requirements, which we outline in full below: the standards and criteria you’ll encounter, plus smart tips designed to help you approach the EMBA must-haves strategically. But first: Is Howard’s Executive MBA program for you?

The ideal Howard University Executive MBA candidate

The average age of Executive MBA students is 38 for a reason. Most programs will only consider applications submitted by candidates with significant professional experience. Howard University looks for Online EMBA candidates with at least seven years of postgraduate professional experience, including five or more years of full-time work experience in management or leadership roles. However, some students enroll in business school with more. Additionally, applicants have to show proof of progressive experience that demonstrates they’re on a path that will eventually lead to a C-suite or similarly senior role. Many EMBA candidates at Howard are already managers, directors and vice presidents who plan to keep working while in graduate school, so they don’t miss out on any advancement opportunities while pursuing their master’s degree.

"Prove to the admissions office that you'll thrive if admitted to the EMBA program."

What are the general requirements for an Executive MBA?

Executive Master of Business Administration requirements vary widely but almost always fall into three basic categories: admissions requirements, application requirements and graduation requirements.

Admissions requirements

Admissions requirements detail the professional and academic standards needed to be eligible to enroll, and Executive MBA admission requirements can be quite specific. Most schools expect EMBA applicants to have bachelor’s degrees (sometimes in specific disciplines) plus a minimum number of years of work experience, including time in management positions. Some colleges and universities also ask or require that applicants have GMAT scores meeting a certain minimum threshold.

Application requirements

Application requirements are everything applicants have to submit to apply and usually include transcripts, resumes, letters of recommendation and (at some schools) official standardized test scores. Some programs also require that applicants submit a personal statement, an MBA essay or both.

Graduation requirements

Graduation requirements encompass everything a degree candidate has to do to be eligible to graduate. Graduation requirements generally include taking and passing certain core courses, completing a specific number of elective classes or credits (when offered), presenting a capstone project and/or fulfilling residency or immersion obligations. There are 20-credit Executive MBA programs and 60-credit EMBA programs, but most (including Howard University’s 42-credit hour, $66,000 EMBA) fall somewhere in between and take about 18 months to two years to complete.

Howard Online EMBA admissions and application requirements

Must-Have: A current resume or CV detailing previous work experience

Howard University School of Business has such stringent Executive MBA admissions requirements related to work experience because incoming students need to be comfortable with basic business and management concepts. Executive MBA students in each cohort work closely with one another and benefit from their knowledge and leadership skills. Some people assume that the EMBA is just an accelerated MBA, but that’s one of the most pervasive myths about Executive MBA programs. What sets many EMBA programs apart from traditional MBA programs are the collaborative opportunities built into the curriculum. Students learn from their peers as well as from faculty.

Nice-to-Have: Meeting the letter of this requirement is relatively simple, but keep in mind that nearly everyone applying to the EMBA program has the minimum required experience—if not more. You can make your application stand out by updating your resume or CV to showcase your work history, notable accomplishments, and quantifiable professional achievements like sales figures or revenue generated.

Must-Have: An undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited college or university

Like nearly all business schools with Executive MBA programs, Howard University School of Business requires that applicants have a bachelor’s degree. You don’t need to have majored in a specific subject, though it’s helpful to have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration or an undergraduate degree in a business-adjacent specialty like finance or marketing.

Nice-to-Have: While applicants have to submit official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, they don’t technically have to meet any GPA requirements. That said, your application will be much stronger if you have at least a cumulative 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

"A big part of what makes Howard different is the support applicants and students receive (even after graduating)."

Must-Have: Standardized test scores

GMAT or Executive Assessment scores are a must-have part of the application requirements at some schools. However, many on-campus and online EMBA programs, including Howard’s, accept applications submitted without them. The fact that GMAT scores are optional doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include them, however. Choosing not to share your GMAT or Executive Assessment score won’t count against you, but strong standardized test scores can boost your chances of acceptance.

Nice-to-Have: For those with lower undergraduate GPAs, standout standardized test scores can ensure that college grades aren’t a liability.

Must-Have: A personal statement

Your personal statement is a chance to explain how and why you’d be a good fit in an Executive MBA program. Howard EMBA applicants must submit a two- to three-page personal statement summarizing:

  • The uniqueness of their character
  • Their abilities and academic history
  • Their professional experiences
  • Community service they’ve done
  • How they’ve been affected by issues of diversity
  • Their interest in the Online Executive MBA program
  • How earning an EMBA will help them realize their career goals

Nice-to-Have: This is another area of the EMBA application where meeting the basic requirements isn’t enough. Your personal statement shouldn’t rehash the content found in your other application materials. Instead, flex your writing skills and ability to communicate clearly. Prove to the admissions office that you’ll thrive if admitted to the EMBA program. Showcase your business acumen, problem-solving skills, and out-of-the-box thinking. Some applicants use this space to tell a story about their professional life that emphasizes their leadership qualities, passion, career goals and drive. Share compelling information about yourself that will prompt the admissions committee to move your online application into the “yes” folder with confidence.

Must-Have: Letters of recommendation

Most business schools require EMBA applicants to provide two or more letters of recommendation submitted by supervisors, mentors, colleagues or a professor—in short, people who can attest to their capabilities and potential. Not all letters of recommendation are created equal, however, so choose your recommenders carefully.

Nice-to-Have: Current supervisors write the most powerful letters of recommendation, and their words may carry extra weight if they’re Howard alumni. Titles are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if your letter of recommendation comes from a manager or the CEO, provided the writer can speak to your integrity, ability to work with others, leadership qualities, oral and written communication skills and community involvement.

What the EMBA application process looks like

The prospect of applying to Executive MBA programs is understandably overwhelming because there’s so much to consider. Gathering the materials outlined above takes time and effort, but this checklist breaks the EMBA application process into smaller, more manageable steps. While you’re doing that, you’ll also need to think about funding—another potentially daunting prospect. However, paying for an Executive MBA is easier than most people realize because financial aid is available.

Many EMBA candidates receive scholarships, and plenty of employers offer sponsorships to promising employees, helping to pay for their business school education. Howard University’s trained Enrollment Advisors can answer any questions you have about financial aid, scholarships and more. Even if you have to take out student loans, chances are you’ll be able to pay them back quickly because Executive MBAs are associated with wage premiums.

What you need to know about the EMBA admissions process

When applying to Howard’s Online Executive MBA program, keep in mind that the application process is deadline-based. Howard has three application rounds for upcoming cohorts:

  • If you have everything polished and ready to go and you’ve connected with an Enrollment Advisor, applying in the Priority Submit round may increase your chances of acceptance because the pool of early decision applicants is usually smaller.
  • There are often more applicants in Priority Submit II, the second application round, but waiting can give you more time to make your application shine.
  • Contrary to popular belief, applying in the Final Submit round won’t hurt your chances of acceptance—especially if your personal statement explains why you waited.

When you receive a decision may depend on when you applied. If you’re accepted, you have until your cohort’s deposit deadline to decide whether or not to enroll in the program. For the summer cohort described above, you’d have until the beginning of April to make your decision. And if you receive a rejection, don’t be discouraged or give up on your dreams. Applicants who aren’t accepted are always welcome to reconnect with an Enrollment Advisor and reapply in the following term.

What are the requirements to complete Howard’s EMBA online?

There are 13 core courses in Howard’s Online Executive EMBA curriculum:

  • Accounting for Executives
  • Applied Economics for Executives
  • Creating Value through Supply Chain
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Management
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Business
  • Management Consulting
  • Management Statistics and Data Analysis
  • Managing Technology and Innovation
  • Managing the Global Business Environment
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Organizational Behavior and Leadership
  • Strategic Communications

There are no electives, and the international immersion opportunities open to EMBA students are optional. The EMBA graduation requirements include a semester-long strategic management capstone course, in which students tackle complex, real-world business challenges and then present their findings in front of a panel of faculty and top industry professionals.

In traditional on-campus Executive MBA programs, students might take two or even three years to meet graduation requirements. Howards’ Online EMBA takes just 18 months to complete. EMBA candidates typically take two courses per semester over eight semesters, a manageable load for most working professionals (even if they work full-time and personal obligations to meet). Most classes in the Online Executive MBA program include both a live class component and asynchronous coursework that allows students to decide how many hours per week they need to devote to their studies to succeed in the program.

What makes Howard’s EMBA different?

Perhaps you noticed that the word manageable appeared more than a few times in this piece. A big part of what makes Howard University’s Online Executive MBA different is how much support applicants and students receive (including career support after graduation). The admissions requirements, application requirements and graduation requirements outlined above are specific so applicants and students know what to expect and can prepare. In other words, the point of the University’s Executive MBA requirements—whether you’re looking at the must-haves or the nice-to-haves—isn’t to shut people out, but rather to help them get in.

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