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The 10 Best Online Executive MBAs

Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level? An online Executive MBA can open doors to serious career growth.

Harvard Business Review gives three good reasons to get an MBA. But for the online learner with a few years’ experience in the business world, there are arguably even better reasons to get an Executive MBA, otherwise known as an EMBA.

Like we’ve said before, the MBA is the most popular master’s degree to be offered online.

But for the more experienced working professional and online learner, it’s an even better idea to think about how you might earn an Executive MBA, otherwise known as an EMBA. The Executive MBA prepares learners to not only thrive in their chosen business environment—and not to mention, first pick on the job market—but also to drive and command their companies like the best executives out there, all at the same time as they work full- or part-time as professionals in their industries. This makes the Executive MBA ideally suited to working professionals who have full schedules and career aspirations to become managers or executives of their companies, as well as industry leaders in the business world.

Why should I get an online Executive MBA?

Pursuing any degree is a highly personal choice, and represents a considerable investment of time, money, and effort. There are five key reasons to pursue an online Executive MBA.

  • Resume boost. This credential is sought-after by employers, because it indicates advanced leadership expertise. The Executive MBA designation gives you a competitive edge in the business market.
  • Professional connections. Business executives know the power of industry networking. In an EMBA program, you’ll forge influential connections with professors, classmates, alumni, and corporate partners.
  • Designed for executives. An Executive MBA program is designed to fit the needs and availability of executives. The academic schedule is expressly tailored for those with demanding business careers and limited free time.
  • Workplace applicability. Your skill growth will boost your job performance. Employers support their executives’ pursuit of EMBAs because they know the skills they acquire will add immediate value to the company. In fact, The Executive MBA CouncilÕs poll of recent EMBA grads found that, during the time they were enrolled, 53% were trusted with greater responsibilities and 38% were awarded promotions.
  • Increased salary. Reports on salary increases with an EMBA vary, but many programs cite an earnings growth of 36% or more. On average, an executive MBA degree pays for itself within 17 months.

Executive MBAs vs Traditional MBAs: What’s the difference?

Traditional MBAs have a lot in common with Executive MBAs, and people outside the managerial world might not even immediately realize that the two are not the same. Both are aimed at corporate and organizational managers. Both follow a famously rigorous business curriculum. Both teach skills in finance, management, and operations. Both generally take about two years to complete. Both are sought-after by employers and popular with online degree seekers. So what is the difference between a traditional MBA and an Executive MBA?

Though similar in many ways, there are five essential differences between a traditional MBA and an EMBA.

  • Experience. While a traditional MBA usually requires just a GRE, an executive MBA program generally requires 5 years’ experience, and you’ll need to show a developed resume. On average, an executive MBA student has 10 more years’ organizational experience than their traditional MBA counterparts.
  • Time commitment. A traditional MBA generally takes 2 years to complete, while an EMBA often takes a bit longer. This has to do with the fact that the majority of MBA students are recent college grads and take graduate classes full time. Online EMBA students, on the other hand, have an average age of 32- 38 years, and maintain high-performance jobs while enrolled in online classes on a part-time basis.
  • Academic focus. Unlike a traditional online MBA, an online executive MBA program typically includes few to no electives. Instead, the curriculum is highly focused on leadership. If you want to specialize in a different area, such as supply chain management or project management, a traditional online MBA might be a better fit.
  • Employer sponsorship. Unlike most MBA students, the executives in an EMBA program are working to advance existing careers. Employers are often willing to pay all or part of executive MBA tuition, anticipating the value it will add to their organization. According to Forbes, employers partially sponsor about 36% of EMBA educations and fully fund about 25%.
  • Associated salary. According to the Washington Post, the average salary associated with a traditional MBA is $90,000, while the salary for professionals with an executive MBA averages $164,845.

Executive MBA Curriculum

As noted above, an EMBA is a more focused degree than a traditional MBA. The curriculum in a typical MBA program will cover a wide range of business topics, such as accounting, marketing, finance, and project management. In an executive MBA program, however, you can expect to encounter a curriculum with a tight focus on executive skills: leadership, communication, and analytical and strategic competences.

Courses and areas of focus vary from school to school, of course. Some start with a broader foundation in business, while others immediately zero in on executive coursework. Regardless, you will more than likely cover the following topics in any online EMBA program, including:

  • Operations Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Leading Organizational Change
  • Global Strategy

Beyond coursework, the curriculum of most Executive MBAs can be expected to include a strong focus on real-world business scenarios and on teamwork, with frequent collaborations between classmates required. For this reason, the majority of EMBA programs follow a cohort model, in which a set group of students progresses through the program at a fixed pace. The curriculum of most executive MBA programs is also fixed; most follow a prescribed course of required classes, with few or no electives. The duration of an executive MBA program varies from one school to another based on the rate of coursework. Most schools design their EMBA degrees to be completed in 2- 3 years, though a few are shorter or longer. Broadly speaking, students can expect to spend 6-10 hours per week engaged in class modules, and another 10-12 completing assignments.

To help those individuals find the best possible Executive MBA programs available, we’ve found and ranked the Top 10 EMBA programs according to three metrics that matter most to online learners who are also working professionals: Affordability, Flexibility, and Student Support. That’s why the list of schools below uses a three-dimensional metric that measures Affordability in terms of tuition per credit hour; Flexibility in terms of number of concentrations and accelerated options available; and Student Support in terms of the level of accessibility to administrative personnel. By these metrics, only EMBA programs with the lowest tuition per credit hour, greatest number of flexible options for degree completion, and the greatest quality of student support services have risen to the top.


  • Affordability (1/3): an institution’s cost per credit hour for out-of-state residents provided by the degree program or institutional website.

  • Flexibility (1/3): the number of options—including acceptance of prior college credits, self-paced learning initiatives, accelerated courses, and number of specializations—that allow students to complete a program at a pace of their choosing.

  • Student Support (1/3): an institution’s rank for providing student support services, such as digital library assistance, virtual office hours, and access to career services.

1. University of North Alabama

Established in 1830, the University of North Alabama (UNA) is the state’s oldest public four-year university. Located in the small city of Florence, Alabama, it occupies a key seat in the state’s Northwestern corner. UNA maintains a series of graduate degrees in business administration, educational administration, and criminal justice, all of which are offered entirely online to its growing enrollment of nearly 8,000 students. It has been ranked among the top public and regional schools according to U.S. News and World Report, which has also placed its online MBA program among the best such programs for the year 2017.

The University of North Alabama’s Executive MBA (EMBA) is ranked 115th in the nation for Best Online MBA Programs in 2017, placing it among the highest in its region and division for business administration. Its MBA program also places among the top three in the State of Alabama for the highest total number of MBA graduates per year. UNA’s Executive MBA is designed especially for experienced businessmen and women who want to complete their coursework entirely online. The program also allows online learners to begin the program with a self-paced foundation course, which permits students to start with no required prerequisites. Student support services include financial aid, online advisement, online office hours, educational technology services, and career services.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $450
  • Additional Offerings: No Academic Prerequisites Required

2. University of Arkansas

Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas (UofA) is a public, nonprofit and research university located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. As the state’s flagship university, the UofA furnishes its enrollment of approximately 27,000 students with a plethora of online learning opportunities via its Global Campus and Online Learning initiatives. Both of these growing initiatives offers a bounty of award-winning courses and degree options in a number of major areas, including but not limited to business, education, architecture, communication, and nursing practice.

The University of Arkansas’ Online Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) is offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business from the heart of the retail industry, placing it among the best-located online MBAs in the United States. The program is designed especially for working professionals as a hybrid/online program, which allows students to obtain their degree in two calendar years by attending classes on-site only one Saturday per month. It also offers a series of unique areas of concentration, including Supply Chain Management, Finance, Business Analytics and Retail. The UofA also offers a concentration in Innovation & Entrepreneurship that focuses on new venture development and has seen multiple students start successful businesses. It is possible to waive the requirement to submit GRE / GMAT scores for admission if applicants have 5 years of quality work experience and a strong academic record. Student support services include financial aid, career services, as well as online tutoring, advisement and office hours.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $542
  • Additional Offerings: Five Concentrations

3. University of Wyoming

Established in 1886 as the state’s public flagship, land-grant university, the University of Wyoming (UW) is a nonprofit research university stationed in Laramie, Wyoming. As the largest university in the state, UW offers all of its nearly 14,000 students with online learning options via its Outreach School initiative. This initiative offers 41 degree options, as well as certificates and endorsement programs to distance learners throughout the state and beyond. The degree programs include but are not limited to its online MBA degree, undergraduate and graduate degrees in almost every major discipline, accounting for approximately 23% of all enrollments at the University of Wyoming.

The University of Wyoming’s part-time Online MBA program is ranked among the best part-time MBA Programs for 2018, placing it among the highest ranked online MBA programs in the state of Wyoming. UW’s EMBA is designed to prepare experienced business professionals to advance in a variety of leadership roles, from management and marketing, to finance, economics, and business information systems. It also maintains accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, an accreditation held by less than 5% of business schools worldwide. UW also offers concentrations in the energy-focused areas: Supply Chain Management in the Energy Industry, Energy Finance: Project Evaluation, and Fundamentals of Accounting in the Energy Industry. Student support services include career services, advisement, and Information Technology services.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $630
  • Additional Offerings: Three Concentrations in Energy Industry

4. St. Joseph’s College

Founded in 1916, St. Joseph’s College (SJC) is a private liberal arts school with locations in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. As one of the larger Catholic-affiliated universities in the State of New York, SJC provides its over 4,000 students with 2 relatively new online learning opportunities: the Executive MBA and Advances Certificate in Human Resource Management. St. Joseph’s College ranks among the Top 80 Universities in the North, according to U.S. News and World Report.

St. Joseph’s College’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) is designed to prepare experienced business professionals to enter a variety of leadership roles in management across a broad spectrum of global industries. It focuses on developing students’ senses of leadership and value, real-world business savvy, awareness of new technology, and the social responsibility of businesses to interact with their surrounding communities. The program can also be completed in 2 years’ time. Student support services include advisement, career services, office hours, and Information Technology services.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $520
  • Additional Offerings: Can Be Completed in 2 Years

5. Rochester Institute of Technology

Established in 1829, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a private doctoral university located within the New York town of Henrietta and the eponymous city of Rochester. As one of the larger private institutions in the state that has earned a number of top rankings according to multiple indexes, RIT is well known for its career-focused education, which includes over 200 academic programs. These include but are not limited to 18 online degrees or certificates in Business, Management, and Communication.

RIT’s Online Executive MBA is offered by RIT’s Saunders College of Business and designed especially for mid-to-upper level business professionals who wish to enhance their careers even further. RIT’s EMBA is uniquely suited to online learners who want a high degree of interactivity with their faculty and peers. In order to foster such connectivity, the program focuses on providing ample opportunities for its learners to discuss, argue, compete and collaborate with one another via its cohort and team-based structure. It can also be completed in 17 months, or around 1.5 years, by taking two courses every six weeks, which makes it easily digestible for the busy working professional. Student support services include career services, advisement, online office hours, and Information Technology services.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $972
  • Additional Offerings: Can Be Completed in 17 Months

6. Washington State University

Founded in 1890, Washington State University (WSU) is the second-largest public research university located in Washington State. With 4 campuses spread across the southeastern corner of the state including a Global Campus for its online degree program, WSU is consistently recognized among the top 150 universities in the United States for its undergraduate and graduate programs. Its Global Campus is increasingly noted for pushing the envelope of innovation in online education.

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business offers an Executive MBA Online that is designed to prepare students for making big-picture decisions and advancing to careers in the C-Suite. With over three quarters of the program’s enrollees having at least 10 years of management experience, WSU’s EMBA teaches managers, market researchers, public relations managers, and e-marketers through how to think globally, behave ethically, and be at the helm of innovation of international business ventures in healthcare, aerospace and beyond. In addition to providing such career preparation, WSU’s optional International Field Study and Leadership Conference provide its experienced learners with even greater opportunities to expand their educational and experiential backgrounds. Because of these professionalization options, along with student services like advisement and career services, Washington State University offers one of the best Executive MBAs on the market.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $1,175
  • Additional Offerings: Can Be Completed in 18 Months

7. Bethel University

Established in 1842, Bethel University is a private Christian institution of higher education located in McKenzie, Tennessee with satellite locations in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Jackson, Paris and Clarksville. As one of the largest universities affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Bethel University supports an enrollment of around 6,000 students, and it offers 100 graduate and undergraduate degree options, 6 graduate certificates, and 10 professional licenses for educators. Approximately one third of all its degree offerings are online, which makes it a standout online institution.

Bethel University’s Executive Online MBA is designed specifically for students with executive experience. The program’s EMBA is specially tailored to help such experienced learners perfect their practical and professional skill at implementing changes and measuring results for their institutions and larger industries. At the same time, the EMBA will broaden professionals’ managerial horizons, strengthen leaders’ ability to think strategically, and sharpen executives’ communication techniques. With its holistic and career-oriented approach, the program develops its leaders into broad-minded businessmen and women. Tuition includes all course fees, all required textbooks and course materials, as well as student support services like technology, 24/7 tutorial support, breakfast and/or lunch on orientation and seminar dates, as well as advisement and career services.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $550
  • Additional Offerings: Can Be Accelerated By Taking Multiple Courses Concurrently

8. University of Nevada, Reno

Founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) is a public research university situated in the eponymous city of Reno, Nevada. As the public flagship and sole land-grant university in the State of Nevada, UNR enroll approximately 21,000 students, all of which can take advantage of its growing opportunities for online education. These opportunities include over 200 online courses offered every year, as well as 10 graduate degree programs, and a smattering of graduate certificates ranging from Addiction Treatment to Renewable Energy. In terms of its ability to offer such a range of online learning opportunities options in Nevada, UNR places at the top of such schools in the state.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Online Executive MBA (EMBA) has been ranked #1 by U.S. News and World Report for the year 2017. The program is designed around a cohort structure to build supportive working relationship and a sense of online community, as well as to be completed in 2 years’ time. It offers busy working professionals the ability to complete their degree with a level of competitive rigor that is unparalleled at many similar online institutions, which will serve budding executives well as they transition to the C-Suite. UNR’s Online Executive MBA is also approved for veteran and veteran-related education benefits, which means that its Student Support includes the Veterans Services Office, as well as advisement, career services and tech support. Nevada System of Higher Education Employees are also eligible to use Grant-In-Aid benefits for the Executive MBA.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $833
  • Additional Offerings: Can Be Completed in 2 Years; Veteran Education Benefits

9. Athabasca University

Established in 1970, Athabasca University (AU) is public university that specializes in online distance education situated in the eponymous town of Athabasca, in the Alberta province of Canada. AU was the first Canadian university to specialize in distance education, and it is the largest of its kind in country, enrolling approximately 41,000 students, all of which take advantage of its numerous opportunities for online education. These opportunities include 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees, diplomas, or certificate programs, ranging from general disciplines like Arts, Business, Counselling and Distance Education, to concentrations as specific as Business Administration and Distance Education Technology.

Athabasca University’s Online MBA for Executives is descended from the first fully interactive online MBA in the world. The EMBA program is specially designed to prepare working business professionals who have some experience in Business Administration to take on an even wider range of management responsibilities in the C-Suite. With its challenging and career-oriented approach, the program concentrates on developing practicing professionals into global business leaders who have mastered the key management areas that affect organizational performance: strategy, analytics, human resources, finance, marketing, operations, and information technology. All this so AU’s graduating executives can bring their critical, analytical and decision-making prowess to bear on both their immediate workplace and the global business environment. The program also has concentrations available in a number of focus areas, including but not limited to Project Management, Entrepreneurship, and IT Management. Student support services include advisement, career services, technology services, and academic support services.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $977
  • Additional Offerings: Accelerated Option; Capstone Option / No-Capstone Option

10. California State University, Monterey Bay

Established in 1994, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is a public nonprofit university based in the West Coast cities of Marina and Seaside, California. CSUMB offers undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, minors, certificates, and specialist degrees to support a growing enrollment of approximately 7,200 students. CSUMB’s budding online programs are considered local leaders in the growing initiative to deliver online courses and degree options to the state of California, especially those who are not able to attend normal classes.

Cal State Monterey Bay’s online MBA Executive Track (EMBA) is designed for experienced business executives to gain an edge over their competitors with their advanced command of new technologies, corporate leadership, entrepreneurship, and global business acumen. The EMBA program prefers to enroll current executives with seven or more years of business executives (three in a managerial role), demonstrable thought leadership, and stellar academic credentials . The program supports learners’ interaction with other students via high level discussions, challenging assignments, and case studies, all of which are bent on preparing students to play an active role in shaping the future of business. Applied projects encourage students to gain competencies in Ethical Reasoning, Critical Thinking, and Effective Communication, among others. Student Support services include advisement, career services, and financial aid, which includes the opportunity for first-year enrollees to earn a tuition discount of $3,000.

  • Homepage
  • Cost per Credit Hour: $866
  • Additional Offerings: Tuition Discount of $3,000 for First Year