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Online Executive MBA Degree Programs (EMBA Programs)

Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs provide general and advanced training and instruction in financial, personnel, and operations management, as well as in leadership skills for business professionals. The core MBA curriculum covers proficiencies in areas that have applications across a broad spectrum of careers and types of businesses. Many MBA programs are open to students with a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds. However, there are specialized MBA programs that are designed specifically for business professionals who occupy managerial and leadership positions. These programs are designated as Executive MBA, or EMBA programs. EMBA programs selectively admit applicants who have several years of qualifying experience in the business world, and they are structured to accommodate professionals who plan to continue working while completing their degree.

What Is an EMBA Program?

EMBA programs are MBA programs that require applicants to meet certain criteria for professional experience, usually at least five years working in a managerial or administrative position. The type of students these programs are geared toward is the key distinguishing characteristic between a regular MBA and an EMBA program. EMBA programs typically hold classes at times that are convenient for working professionals and may use other structural adjustments, such as weekend sessions, to accommodate those who have a full-time job. In addition, it is not uncommon for an EMBA program to incorporate networking conferences, an international travel component, and other professional development opportunities designed to benefit experienced business executives.

Online Executive MBA Programs

A subset of EMBA programs are offered online by schools that utilize distance-learning platforms to deliver all or most of their required coursework. These programs provide what is often a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional campus-based programs, especially for students who cannot or would prefer not to travel or commute to a college or university campus for classes. Students in an online EMBA receive the same training and instruction as students in an on-campus program. They are able to access lectures and other course materials from anywhere with a secure Internet connection. Online programs use learning management systems (LMSs), which are instructional platforms that deliver lectures, facilitate online discussion forums, and allow students to participate in other interactive learning activities. Students in an online program can typically contact instructors, advisors, and program administrators through the LMS using text, audio, and/or video conferencing applications.

How Identifies and Classifies Online Executive MBA Programs researches MBA programs in order to identify and classify programs based on several criteria. Online EMBA program must offer all or most of their required coursework online. Programs that require more than two campus visits per year are not classified as online programs and are not listed on the site. All online EMBA programs on the site are offered by non-profit colleges and universities through schools of business and/or management that have programmatic accreditation from one of three bodies: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). In order for a program to be classified as an online EMBA program it must be designed to accommodate business professionals with at least five years of qualifying experience and have a curriculum that is geared toward experienced business managers and executives.

What Students Learn in an Online Executive MBA Program

EMBA programs offer a curriculum tailored to the needs of accomplished business professionals. The coursework covers many of the same business administration topics as the traditional MBA curriculum, such as financial and managerial accounting, personnel management, strategic marketing, business IT systems, and human resource management (HRM). However, the instruction in an EMBA program emphasizes proficiencies that are useful to experienced professionals. For example, it is not uncommon for EMBA programs to emphasize executive leadership and organizational communication skills, or for the coursework to be geared more toward global business leadership.

In contrast to traditional MBA programs, EMBA programs are less likely to offer the specializations, although there are EMBA programs with tracks in global/international business, strategic marketing, HRM, and other specializations. EMBA programs often include an applied capstone project, and some programs incorporate professional development seminars and workshops, networking conferences, and international travel opportunities. These features vary by program; prospective applicants should research EMBA programs carefully to determine which programs offer these components.

Online Executive MBA Courses

The table below offers an overview of some of the courses that are commonly found in an online EMBA curriculum. The titles and descriptions are drawn from actual online EMBA program courses.

Course TitleCourse Description
Foundations of Teamwork & LeadershipInstruction in various strategies for fostering teamwork in organizations and developing leadership skills in business environments.
Business AnalyticsAnalytical skills for decision-making, including data collection and analysis; sampling, inferential, and regression methodologies; and time series and forecasting analysis.
Business CommunicationCultivating best practices in business writing, speaking, and other professional communication skills.
Legal & Ethical Issues in BusinessThe social, economic, and historical background of contract law, and laws pertaining to property, sales, secured transactions, negotiable instruments, agency, partnerships, and corporations.
Operations ManagementSurveying the concepts, theories, and techniques for decision processes critical to short-term and long-range operations management. Topics include product and process design, operations planning, project management, inventory management, capacity planning, quality control, and scheduling.
Applied Economics for ExecutivesThe principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics and their application to strategic planning, with a focus on executive decision-making processes.
Corporate FinanceAn examination of corporate finance issues, including discounted cash flow techniques, capital budgeting and valuation, investment decisions under uncertainty, capital asset pricing, options, and market efficiency.
Administrative ControlManagerial evaluation of budgeting and cost accounting, and the financial analysis methods used in operations control.
International Business ManagementDecision-making in the international environment with a focus on political, cultural and economic factors.
Management of InnovationTechnological transitions and technology strategy in business, leveraging knowledge and creativity in organizations, and managing innovation through cross-functional cooperation.

Admissions to Online Executive MBA Programs

The criteria for admissions to online EMBA programs tend to be more restrictive than for other types of MBA programs, primarily in the area of work experience requirements. While these requirements vary by program, EMBA programs typically restrict admissions to candidates who have five or more years of professional business experience in managerial or leadership positions and there are EMBA programs that require ten years of qualifying work experience. Some programs also require applicants to be sponsored by their employer. In addition, applicants may be asked to furnish undergraduate transcripts, GMAT test scores, a personal goals statement, written answers to one or more essay questions, and letters of recommendation. EMBA programs are also more likely than other types of MBA programs to require an in-person interview as part of the application process, although some online programs may conduct admissions interviews via video conferencing.

Online Executive MBA Program Formats

EMBA programs are typically structured to accommodate students who work full-time while earning their degree. As a result, most EMBA programs offer some type of part-time enrollment option, which may involve taking one course per eight-week or ten-week term, and/or completing coursework year round, during fall, spring, and summer semesters. These programs are generally designed to be completed in two years, often by cohorts of students who enter and proceed through the program together as a group. Programs that use a cohort model may have fewer start dates per year and/or have stricter limitations on the number of students they accept per start date.

There are other format variations that may impact the relative convenience and/or flexibility of an online EMBA program, including online instructional methods. Courses that utilize synchronous instruction require students to be logged on to an LMS at designated times for weekly or biweekly lectures and activities. Courses in which asynchronous instructional methods are used do not have designated meeting times, providing students with the freedom to log on to the LMS for lectures and other coursework at their own convenience, 24-7.

Another important factor to consider is whether or not a program requires students to attend on-campus orientation sessions or other learning activities that involve traveling to a specific location for periods of time, which may last from a weekend to two weeks. does not list EMBA programs that require more than two such immersion sessions per year, and there are EMBA programs that are 100% online.

For a more information about these differences, refer of our Online MBA Programs page.