Professional MBA vs. Executive MBA: Which One is Right for You?

Posted by Albers School of Business and Economics on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 9:16 PM PDT

Professional MBA students walking up the stairs on campus.

There are many factors that inspire professionals to seek a master’s degree in business administration. Maybe you are looking for a leg up the corporate ladder. Maybe you want to make a career change or start your own business. Or maybe you’re looking to grow as a leader, inspiring your team and driving the vision and values of your workplace. No matter your goal, an MBA prepares you to take the next step in your career, helping you grow both personally and professionally.

But business education is not one-size-fits-all. A student early in their career needs different tools and support than a seasoned business executive. That’s why you need an MBA program tailored to your experience level and professional goals.

There are several paths towards a master’s in business administration: a traditional MBA, a professional MBA (PMBA), or the executive MBA (EMBA).

What are the differences between each program? And which one is right for you?

The Professional MBA (PMBA): A Flexible Curriculum for Working Professionals

A professional MBA program—or PMBA—is a business graduate degree built to accommodate the needs of working professionals. A PMBA can prepare you to move into a leadership position, with management positions expected to grow 9% by 2030. 

Someone fresh out of an undergraduate program may jump into a full-time traditional MBA program, but a working professional with a full-time job may need a different academic structure—and network—to work towards their goals. That’s where the professional track comes in.

At the Albers School of Business and Economics, the PMBA is a flexible evening program that can be completed part-time or full-time. What sets Albers apart is that the curriculum is tailored to your goals, allowing you to customize your degree and direct your education based on your skills and interests.

The PMBA and EMBA programs at Albers are both experiential, meaning you are encouraged to learn how to apply the skills you learn in the real world. 

The difference between a professional vs. executive MBA will be the level of work experience required to enter the program. Students who pursue a PMBA tend to have between 5-7 years of experience, while an EMBA is geared towards professionals with extensive leadership experience.

Sample Professional MBA Curriculum

Because they are designed for working professionals, Professional MBA programs often aim to equip you with the skills necessary to make an impact in your field now, move up the career ladder, or grow as a leader. See below for examples of courses from Albers’ Professional MBA. 

  • Teams, leadership, and decision-making
  • Management of change
  • Marketing research
  • Corporate financial management
  • Professional & interpersonal communications
  • Competitive strategy
  • International economics

The Executive MBA (EMBA): An Advanced Leadership Program for Senior Professionals

An executive Masters of Business Administration—or EMBA—is a type of professional program geared towards more seasoned executives.

Students in this program tend to have at least 10 years of professional experience, with several of those years being in a managerial capacity. If you’re in upper management, or aspire to be in the near future, this may be the path for you.

According to AACSB, “Executive business degrees provide the opportunity to explore specific disciplines or nuances of business, refine necessary skills like negotiating and crisis management, and build an extensive network of other professionals.” From physicians to corporate vice presidents, those who pursue an EMBA come from a wide range of industries, such as technology, financial services, and health care.

An EMBA can prepare you to move up in your workplace, improve your team’s dynamic, or make a career change. It also tends to lead to higher compensation, with EMBAC reporting that EMBA graduates receive a 14.7% increase in pay after earning their degree.

The EMBA at Albers arms you with leadership and management skills that you can apply directly to your current work environment. Because top management sets the vision for an organization, earning an EMBA can have a direct impact on your company’s success, creating a ripple effect across your teams. When you grow as a leader, your company grows, too. 

Sample Executive MBA Curriculum

Because they are designed for more seasoned executives, EMBA programs tend to be more strategic-thinking and global in nature. See examples of courses from Albers’ Leadership Executive MBA below. 

  • Building Vision for a Global Commons
  • Creating High Impact Teams
  • Ethical Leadership
  • Leading Responsible Organizations
  • Strategic Analysis of Domestic and International Economic Environments
  • Financial Accounting for Business Executives
  • Managerial Accounting for Business Executives
  • Data Analytics and Visualization for Executives
  • The Art of Influence and Negotiation
  • Microeconomic Concepts: Strategic Decision-making Tools and Frameworks
  • Financial Tools for Strategic Decisions
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Global Strategy Formation
  • Leading Change
  • Information Systems: The Role of Executives
  • Strategy Implementation
  • Enterprise Legal Issues
  • Planning for Significant Legacy

Ready to Take the MBA Leap?

At Albers, Our MBA programs are designed to empower you with the tools and professional development necessary for your career level and experience.

Whether you pursue a traditional MBA, PMBA, or EMBA program, you will go through the program with a cohort of fellow students, who can serve as a valuable network beyond the program. 

 Ready to decide which Albers graduate degree is right for you? This breakdown can help you determine the best step towards your next career goal.

Read more about our graduate programs: