What is an Executive Master’s Degree?

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Executive master’s are a growing group of graduate business degrees that offer a way to solidify your working knowledge into a tangible qualification.

They differ from traditional business master’s degrees in that they’re designed to accommodate the working professional and offer more flexible and convenient enrollment options. And while their delivery methods often mimic those of an executive MBA (EMBA), executive master’s are specialist programs that offer focused education in a specific subject area versus the EMBA which is a generalist program that covers a wide range of business topics.

Are you a good candidate?

Mid-career executives who seek to grow their expertise and develop their managerial skills should consider an executive master’s. Most candidates are looking for a way to expand their responsibilities, take on more leadership, and generally accelerate their career. Since some knowledge of the domain is expected or required, students typically have three to four years of work experience and most, if not all, continue to work full time. This affords you the opportunity to advance in your career without the opportunity cost of lost earnings.

What is the coursework like?

Your executive master’s curricula will focus on a particular area of interest and cover strategic topics for approaching problems within that sphere. Many top b-schools offer programs in leadership, human resources, sustainability, and information technology, among others. With the working professional in mind, programs often follow a part-time format and incorporate convenient course delivery alternatives. You may attend several full days of lecture followed by self-paced, online work and/or attend classes on evenings and weekends. The duration of your degree will depend on your program requirements, but most take two or more years to complete.

Where are these programs located?

Most candidates who pursue professional business degrees consider a program’s location among the most important factors that influence their b-school decision. Executive master’s degrees are most prevalent in the United States, and certainly more developed there than in other world regions. Canada also has established programs, however, and Europe’s most prestigious intuitions have started offering executive master’s, including INSEAD and London Business School. Use the Program Finder feature to find and connect with programs that meet your specific criteria.

Why would you get an executive master’s?

An executive master’s is a professional b-school degree that is typically offered in a convenient, part-time format, which allows you to continue working while you attend school. These programs are geared toward those with ample experience and offer leadership-based coursework that can help you accelerate your career to achieve a promotion or take on more managerial responsibilities. Your classmates are likely to be other mid to senior-level careerists who present an opportunity to expand your professional network and gain exposure to different industries and job functions.

How do I apply?

Once you’ve identified your target schools, review their entrance requirements and begin compiling the components of your application. Then, complete your profile on mba.com to register for the Executive Assessment (EA), the preferred entrance exam for professional graduate business degrees. The EA offers flexible scheduling options, requires minimal preparation, and is only 90 minutes long. Finally, consider how you’ll finance b-school; The cost for an executive-level program is on par with other professional business master’s programs. Explore your funding options and start conversations with your employer and your family about how you’ll balance your new academic responsibilities with work and home life.

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