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Is An Executive MBA Worth It?

Executive MBA students hone the skills needed at the highest levels of management. But with tuition often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, is an Executive MBA worth it?

Tue Feb 9 2021


Executive MBA programs are where experienced professionals with c-suite or executive-level aspirations go to take their next career step. 

EMBAs are aimed at business professionals with higher levels of experience than MBA candidates. EMBA students complete their studies alongside their work, with courses taking place part-time and taught during evenings or weekends, usually over several years. 

EMBA courses focus on developing the skills needed for those working at executive level, and many EMBA graduates receive promotions and salary increases on completing the course. 

There are more than 300 EMBA courses to choose from across more than 30 countries worldwide. But with tuition fees rising as high as $213,000, is an Executive MBA worth it?

Executive MBA Cost

A place on an EMBA can require significant investment. The average total cost for programs globally is $82,883, however the average Executive MBA fees among the Financial Times' top five programs are $141,151. 

Some of the most expensive programs are those offered through partnerships between prestigious global business schools. The Tsinghua–INSEAD Executive MBA costs $125,000 and is ranked fifth globally, while the HKUST–Kellogg Executive MBA costs $185,650 and is the highest ranked course in the world. 

Like MBAs, courses offered by US business schools are often the most expensive. The University of Pennsylvania: Wharton Executive MBA costs $210,900, while the Columbia Executive MBA costs $213,240. There are however some courses at other world renowned US business schools which are slightly cheaper, the MIT Executive MBA costs $178,302 while the UCLA Executive MBA costs $167,992. 

Paying these high tuition fees is made easier for EMBA students than those studying on full-time MBA programs, as they are able to continue working while completing their course. 

Top 5 EMBA Course Fees 

Some students also avoid paying their entire course fees by acquiring financial aid. Companies can sponsor students and pay their fees for them, or students can apply for Executive MBA Scholarships to help with funding. However, securing financial aid can be challenging and the number of students who are self funded has been rising in recent years, at 53% in 2019 up from 41% in 2015.

With many of the most expensive courses located in the US, courses in Europe can offer a cheaper alternative. ESCP Business School in Paris offers a highly ranked course at $85,507, while schools like Toulouse Business School and MIP Politecno di Milano offer EMBA programs with fees of around $40,000.

What are the benefits of an EMBA? 

The investment required to enrol in an EMBA means students can expect substantial benefits from their chosen school.  

Courses focus on developing the skills needed at high level leadership positions, with modules aiming to develop students’ leadership, decision making, strategy and entrepreneurial skills. 

Elaine Versloot felt the skills she learned on her EMBA at Nyenrode Business Universitiet prepared her to be a successful leader. She is now chief operating officer of tech company Binx, who specialize in optimizing  infrastructure for their clients and developing their IT solutions using the cloud. 

“Of course the theory did form a big part of what I learned, but the biggest part was definitely the personal development,” she says, “you get to know yourself and therefore who you are as a leader.” 


The emphasis on personal development means many EMBA students take on higher roles or are given increased responsibilities both during and after their course. 

A survey by the Executive MBA Council found 53% of students in 2020 saw their responsibilities at work increased during their studies, while a further 39% received a promotion after completing the program. 

EMBA students are also given chances to further their careers through networking opportunities, which are a key part of any course. 

Students can tap into wide alumni networks often including thousands of professionals working in a wide variety of industries. Interacting with classmates from a range of different countries and industries also gives students the chance to learn and broaden their experience. 

“It was amazing,” says Dante Bustos, CEO of Benelli Bike, who graduated from the Global EMBA at CEIBS in Shanghai in 2018. “You not only learn a lot of new ideas and ways of thinking but you expand your network of close friends and professionals, and all of them can contribute to you in the future."

Many EMBA courses also offer the opportunity to study and interact with different cultures, with trips abroad and exchange semesters on offer. 

READ: Why Study An Executive MBA In A Crisis?


HEC Paris' EMBA includes specalization sectors allowing students the chance to study in places like Boston, Doha, Berlin, Shanghai, Capetown, and Bangalore. CEIBS also offers global elective modules taught in eight different countries on five continents, helping students to develop their understanding of global business cultures. 

Thomas Perterer was able to secure roles in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Austria and Germany after his experience in the internationally focused Global EMBA at WU Executive Academy, which involves classes taught across three continents.

"The collaboration of people from different backgrounds and nationalities on solving case studies or discussing business ideas was a priceless experience, and nurtured my ambition to expand my professional playing field to international grounds," he says.

EMBA students can therefore expect to gain a wider understanding of business cultures while also developing the skills they need to progress in their careers. 

Executive MBA Salary: What will you earn? 

As well as the significant career opportunities, EMBA students often see a healthy return on their investment after graduating. 2020 Executive MBA Council figures show students’ salaries increased on average by 14.1% between starting and finishing their course, with graduates earning an average of $193,200 upon completing their EMBA. 

For the class of 2017, average salaries rose by 57% to $226,436 within three years of graduation. The long term financial benefits of enrolling on an EMBA are therefore a huge factor for students considering applying to a course. 

Top 20 Executive MBA Salaries


EMBA graduates who have gone on to executive positions believe their courses, though expensive, were essential in getting there. 

The opportunities on offer with an EMBA mean students can develop the skills they need to progress in their current company or meet the people they need to take the next step in a new role. 

The added bonus of being able to continue working while studying means less upheaval than enrolling on a full-time MBA, although it does mean the extra commitment of completing a graduate course while working full time. 

For experienced professionals prepared to make the commitment, an Executive MBA is a great option to improve  leadership skills and/or progress toward an executive level career.

When considering EMBAs, you should take time to research the world's best Executive MBA programs and find the program that's the right fit.