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Degree Programs

What is an Executive MBA program (EMBA)?

Published: June 2023

Imagine a turbocharged boost to your career – a rocket strapped to your professional trajectory. That’s what an executive master of business administration (EMBA) brings to the table. An EMBA is like a high-octane upgrade to your business skills, designed for experienced professionals. This degree will give you the skills, confidence, and insights to catapult your career to new heights. It can be a valuable investment in your future, propelling you toward new leadership roles, executive positions, and overall future success.

The decision to pursue an EMBA requires careful consideration of multiple factors, such as your career goals, personal commitments, and aspirations. In this guide, we’ll give you all the insight you need to make an informed choice. By exploring key aspects of pursuing an EMBA, like admission requirements and program benefits, we’re here to help you make a confident decision in your professional and educational journey.

  1. EMBA vs. MBA: What’s the difference?
  2. What are the focus areas in an EMBA program?
  3. What are the admission requirements?
  4. How can an EMBA help your career?
  5. Should you get an EMBA? Things to consider
  6. Is an EMBA right for you?

EMBA vs. MBA: What’s the difference?

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, provides executive-level management tools and teaches core skill sets. MBA students continue learning various business practices, from accounting and finance to marketing and project management. This advanced degree is suitable for professionals looking to take their business careers to the next level.

Unlike an MBA degree, EMBAs are tailored to current executives (The “E” in EMBA stands for “executive.”) The average executive MBA student is between 32 and 38 years old and offers increased flexibility to accommodate busier, full-time schedules. If you’re still unsure which degree best aligns with your career goals, dive deeper into a comparison here.

What are the focus areas in an EMBA program?

Leadership skills are a focal point of executive MBA programs. That’s because EMBA students will make significant impacts within their organizations, often spearheading major decisions and taking on big responsibilities. They’ll also gain more strategic management experience along the way.

EMBA students will take courses in marketing, finance, business innovation, operations, and much more to become the fearless business leaders of tomorrow. In fact, it’s common for graduates to explore their entrepreneurial side and launch startups after completing an EMBA program. Students can also use the knowledge gained during an EMBA program to foster initiatives in their current organization.

Is IMD’s EMBA program for you?

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Graduation of EMBA April 2023 Cohort on 1st April 2023. © Olivier Vogelsang / IMD

What are the admission requirements?

Leadership potential and a growth mindset are just a few criteria an EMBA candidate needs to make it through the admissions process. You’ll also be evaluated based on your career growth thus far, your international experience, and how your professional responsibilities have grown. The knowledge you’ve gained at work and the positive impact you’ve had on your organization will also help qualify you.

Before considering an EMBA degree, ensure you understand (and embody) the soft skills and work/academic experience needed to pursue one of these degree programs.

Work experience

EMBA requirements may vary depending on the business school you attend, but admission into an EMBA program usually requires around 10 years of business experience (especially in management). You’ll also need to demonstrate consistent career progression and promising leadership potential. 

IMD’s prestigious EMBA program is a one-of-a-kind business education program for aspiring business leaders, consistently ranked as the No. 1 business learning program for executive leadership development. Backed by a powerful executive network and international faculty, grads are known to become champions of innovation and entrepreneurship as they navigate IMD’s world-class EMBA program.


Academic prerequisites vary depending on your chosen degree program. Some institutions are interested in your past scores (e.g., GMAT and/or GRE), and others focus more on the quality of your years of work experience. 

For example, IMD’s EMBA program is open to individuals with at least a decade of relevant work experience. Instead of numerical grades, IMD prioritizes the assessment of an applicant’s work-related intangibles over their historical academic performance.


A letter of recommendation gives your school of business a more detailed assessment of your personality, business achievements, and leadership capabilities that aren’t evident from your academic scores. When asking for a letter of recommendation, seek individuals qualified to speak on behalf of your professional achievements and career outlook. In this case, a current or former supervisor could be an appropriate option.

How can an EMBA help your career?

Getting your EMBA degree can provide many benefits. Depending on your career goals and aspirations, the following advantages may align with your professional path.

IMD Executive MBA: a Global, Transformative Learning Journey

IMD Executive MBA offers you truly global learning, taking you to environments that will have the biggest impact on your learning and development.

Advantages for mid-career professionals

Participating in an EMBA program at a renowned business school or will increase your chances of getting a work promotion. That’s because companies acknowledge and value what an EMBA degree brings to the table. Climbing the leadership ladder is an attractive objective for a mid-career professional, and pursuing an EMBA can expedite the process.

Networking opportunities

You’ll meet many like-minded individuals while working through your EMBA coursework. And not just any individuals; they’re high-level executives that also happen to be your classmates. EMBA programs tend to have fewer students per class than MBA programs, so you can maintain more substantial, closer relationships with your peers. You’ll learn practical tips from them along the way and develop a tight-knit alumni network that could benefit you well into the future.

Immediate practical application

As we know, EMBA programs enhance workplace skill sets in more ways than one. But one of the main benefits is that your education can better align you to your company goals immediately. That’s why many companies sponsor EMBA programs for their high-ranking employees. Their newfound leadership and management abilities benefit their company, so the return on investment (ROI) for these employers tends to be favorable.

One of IMD’s EMBA program participants shared: “IMD is the only school where  you really dive into concrete, down-to-earth learning that enables you to immediately deliver and apply it in your professional environment.”

Should you get an EMBA? Things to consider

Considering key factors like cost, ROI, and time commitment before pursuing an EMBA is important. Carefully assess whether you can commit to an EMBA program in terms of both the cost and the time commitment.


Like admission requirements, the cost of EMBA programs varies by school. At IMD, the program fee is CHF 115,000 (roughly USD $127,000) and includes tuition, learning materials, and a three-course lunch served on campus each weekday. Options like employer sponsorship and financial aid are available (the former is a requirement for IMD’s EMBA program). Company support will be vital as you complete the program, and IMD also offers flexible tuition payment plans tailored to your needs. 

Return on investment (ROI)

An EMBA degree is an investment in your future, and the long-term benefits can present themselves in different ways. Financially, EMBA grads often receive a salary bump, and some even receive promotions during their program. Grads also develop vital leadership and management skills they can apply and continue to refine throughout their careers. Plus, they will cement their place among an elite alumni network – a benefit in the workplace and beyond.

Time commitment

While EMBA programs are designed for working professionals, they do require a substantial time investment. That’s why IMD splits its EMBA program into two stages: Foundation and Mastery. IMD offers two options for the Foundation stage: either three weeks of in-person learning and five weeks of distance learning, or 22 weeks of distance learning only. The Mastery stage takes 12 months to complete but only requires six weeks out of the office. These accommodations allow students to complete much of the program part time. 

Is an EMBA right for you?

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An EMBA offers an all-encompassing upgrade to one’s business skills. It provides a fast-paced, intensive program that equips experienced professionals with the knowledge, confidence, and networking opportunities necessary to accelerate their careers. 

When it comes to EMBA program admission, most schools are primarily interested in who you are right now and who you can become down the road. It’s a truly transformative experience that can provide access to many specializations. From international business to healthcare and sustainability, there’s an EMBA program for you. If you’re an ambitious professional or entrepreneur who aspires to lead, discover IMD’s world-class EMBA programs today.

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