Executive MBA v. Full-Time MBA?

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I often get asked what the difference it between our full-time and Executive MBA programs. The quick answer is that we are “Pure Chicago”: same degree, same requirements for foundation and functional courses, same professors, etc.

The longer answer is a bit more complex. I teach two classes, Microeconomics and Organizational Design, in both of these programs. They are a good way to think about the differences between the two programs.

Microeconomics is a foundation class, taken at the beginning of our program because so many other courses build from it. It is also a quantitative and analytical class. Organizational Design, by contrast, is a functional class that applies foundational concepts to help students think more effectively about actual practices in their jobs.

Our full-time students tend to be about 4-5 years out of college, and very strong in quantitative training. Our Executive MBA students have been out of college for about 13 years. Their quantitative training tends to not be as fresh in their minds as that of the full-time students. However, they have far more practical business experience, including running organizational units and managing and leading people.

I teach my courses in both programs using exactly the same textbook, cases, lectures, and exams. Despite this there are some differences. Our full-time students tend to pick up the Microeconomics material much faster, given their comparative advantage at quantitative skills. My lectures can go more quickly and sometimes can cover slightly more advanced issues. We give our Executive MBA students extra resources (teaching assistants, etc.) to make sure that they are able to learn the material in this class.

In my Organizational Design class, the opposite is true. Here, the full-time students have less experience and grasp the concepts more slowly. They have less ability to draw on personal work experience, especially in taking the perspective of a senior manager or leader. My EMBA students almost always have experience with the topics I am talking about, so we can go quickly to advanced discussion of the nuances of practical application. In this class, I often learn from my students, since they “do it for a living.”

In short, both groups are superb students, but they have different relative strengths and experiences. We give them the same curriculum but they engage differently in the courses because of their differences. To the extent that you seek advanced knowledge of management practices, taking courses such as Organizational Design with our advanced executive MBA students is without parallel.

Mike Gibbs