Executive Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an executive business program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an executive master's and PhD and potential careers.
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Executive Master's and PhD in Business Administration at a Glance

An executive master's or executive doctorate in business administration can prepare students for transition to a range of higher-level positions. These programs are designed for and tailored to leaders in the field; they generally only accept applicants with demonstrated leadership capabilities. Executive programs can be useful as both training and credentialing for business leaders at the highest levels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that top executives are among the highest paid workers nationwide. According to the BLS, employment of top executives was expected to increase five percent from 2010-2020, which is slower than average.

Executive Master's Executive Doctorate
Who is this degree for? - Mid-career individuals interested in developing their business careers through further education beyond the bachelor's level - Individuals looking for an educational credential in business instead of, or beyond, the MBA
- Those who want to enter academia as professors or researchers
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - General and operations manager ($95,000)*
- Marketing manager ($116,000)*
- Chief executive officer ($167,000)*
- Same as executive master's, plus:
- University business professor ($75,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years 3-5 years
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 15-25 courses
- Master's thesis for some programs
- Master's exam
- Roughly 17-25 courses
- PhD qualifying exams
- Dissertation
- Teaching or internship requirement
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Significant business experience
- Bachelor's or master's degree
- Significant business experience
Online Availability Yes Hybrid

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Executive Master's in Business Administration

An Executive Master in Business Administration (EMBA) focuses on real-world skills and career competencies, helping you cultivate team-building and leadership practices that can be applied immediately to jobs in the corporate world. Although the topics covered are similar, an EMBA differs from a standard, full-time MBA mostly in that it is targeted at working professionals and is undertaken alongside a current career, rather than full time. In many cases, the cost for an EMBA is considerably higher.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Executive degrees are offered in a format amenable to those continuing in their current career
  • Since programs are designed for mid-career professionals, they may create additional opportunities for business networking
  • EMBA degree programs are generally part-time, and they aren't tied to traditional semester-based courses

Cons

  • The cost of an EMBA is generally significantly higher than that of an MBA
  • Not all EMBA programs carry the same prestige as a full-time MBA
  • Entrance into EMBA programs may require written sponsorship from a current employer

Courses and Requirements

The coursework of an EMBA is likely to cover management studies, economics and marketing, as well as social and environmental influences in business and the marketplace. Developing familiarity with common business technology is a prominent feature of this program, as is developing effective project management skills. Independent study and research are required as well. Specific coursework may focus on industries of interest to you, and general courses may cover such topics as:

  • Accounting for managers
  • Developing influence and power
  • Corporate strategy
  • Global economics
  • Marketing management
  • Organizational change management
  • Risk analysis and decision making
  • Statistical analysis

Online Degree Options

Since Executive Master of Business Administration degree programs are designed for mid-career professionals, these programs can be found in online and hybrid formats. Many schools offer online and hybrid options, permitting asynchronous education that can more easily fit your busy schedule if you're a working professional.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you are looking to stand out with an EMBA degree, you may want to focus on three goals. First, when selecting classes and instructors, find ones that specifically address challenges in your career. Second, you may want to foster close professional relationships with both mentors and fellow students as a way of developing your network. Third, you can use the informational technology resources of the business school to familiarize yourself with new technologies and tools.

Executive Doctorate in Business

For students who have already completed work at the master's level and are looking to further develop their educational and research goals without leaving their current employment, an executive doctorate in business can provide an opportunity for further education. Some students may also apply directly to these programs without completing a master's program first. In certain competitive business environments, a doctoral degree may provide opportunities for promotion. Like other executive degrees, these are targeted toward working professionals. However, like other PhD programs, they may also be designed for aspiring university and college teachers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programs may focus more on practical business applications of research
  • Executive PhD programs can act as proper preparation for academic teaching and research careers
  • In fields where many have MBAs, these credentials may provide an edge in competing for promotion

Cons

  • While MBAs often take 1-2 years to complete, doctoral programs may take significantly more
  • PhD and DBA programs may have significant research requirements
  • Doctoral coursework and research must be tailored to specific concentrations in some schools

Courses and Requirements

The coursework for an executive doctorate in business administration program covers a host of organizational issues at the macro and micro levels. As doctoral programs, they also provide relevant training in research methods. Because of the cross-disciplinary nature of business administration programs, research methods can involve both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Courses may cover such topics as:

  • Applying research for competitive advantage
  • Organizational theory
  • Leadership, innovation and creativity
  • Quantitative research methodologies
  • Qualitative research methodologies

Online Degree Options

Fully online executive doctorate programs in business administration aren't commonly available. However, some programs may have hybrid options, using an online format to supplement required attendance on campus at intervals.

Stand Out with This Degree

Since a doctorate in business administration may be preparation for both high-level business leadership and academic research activities, you may want to focus your research and coursework on areas that are directly applicable to both current career challenges and the state of the field of study. In addition, developing relationships with peers and professors in your program can enhance your network and lead to additional career opportunities.

Other Fields

Executive degree programs are designed for mid-career professionals, and classes are often scheduled on weekends and evenings for mid-career professionals. Though these are commonly business-related programs, they may be offered in other fields as well.

Executive Doctorate in Higher Education

Programs that offer an Executive Doctorate in Higher Education or a similar degree are designed for students interested in becoming senior-level university administrators or managers. These programs cover topics like organizational management, higher education law and institutional leadership.

Executive Doctorate in Industrial Engineering

Another field that offers executive programs is industrial engineering. These programs may explore problems of company infrastructure and its relationship to a globalizing world. Coursework covers process development, the implications of cultural differences, profitability and sustainability.

Executive Doctorate in Public Health

Those seeking the highest levels of training in healthcare management may enroll in an executive degree program leading to a doctorate in public health (DrPH). Generally following along the same lines as a Master of Public Health (MPH) program, but continuing to the highest level of education, the DrPH may require previous graduate study, though not necessarily an MPH degree.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Management
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Project Management
      • Master: Management/Project Mgmt
      • MSM in Leadership
      • MSM in Organizational Design and Development
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
      • MBA
      • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)
      • MBA: Leadership
      • MS in Leadership
      • Master of Science in Business Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Management
      • Master of Project Management
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
      • Master of International Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
      • Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Management - Project Management
      • Master: Management
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
      • MBA: Operations Management
      • MBA: Project Management
      • M.S. - Management: Organization Leadership and Change
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Business Administration, MBA
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Advanced Accounting
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Health Care Administration
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Leadership
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Project Management
      • Organizational Leadership, MOL
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Seton Hall University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Public Management
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • M.S. in Management
  • Master : Business Admin
  • MBA: Project Management

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
  • MBA
  • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • Master of Project Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Project Management

Are you a US citizen?

Georgetown University

  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Master: Management - Project Management
  • Master: Management
  • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship

Are you a US citizen?

Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Business Administration, MBA
  • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Advanced Accounting
  • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?