Which to Take, MBA or EMBA? Aalto EE Experts Share Their Thoughts

Mikko Laukkanen and Kerttu Kuokkanen urge you to base your decision on the transformation you wish to see in your career.

A group of Aalto MBA participants in fall 2023. Photo: Otso Alasko

Anu Haapala, 01.02.2024

Those interested in executive education often contemplate which program would suit them better: Aalto MBA or Aalto Executive MBA (Aalto EMBA).

Both programs are designed to be taken alongside work, and similar topics are covered in both. But according to Mikko Laukkanen, Academic Director at Aalto EE and Professor of Practice at Aalto University School of Business, and Kerttu Kuokkanen, Director of MBA programs at Aalto EE, some key differences do exist.

The MBA program typically attracts seasoned experts who might not yet have much leadership experience or competence.

In Aalto MBA, the focus is more on the practical level,
whereas in EMBA, the participants typically
already have some background in leadership."

“In Aalto MBA, the focus is more on the practical level, whereas in EMBA, the participants typically already have some background in leadership. Therefore, the aim of the EMBA program is to expand the participants’ existing competence rather than build a foundation," Laukkanen says.

In MBA, many of the topics are new to the participants, whereas EMBA participants are often familiar with the topics and the depth of the learning experience is formed through peer support.

The experiences shared by other participants, peer learning, and networking play a major role.

“The participants are in similar situations, facing similar challenges in their work,” Kuokkanen explains.
 

Think about the career change you are looking for

Both programs attract participants from various backgrounds and different industries.

However, the motives and motivation for taking the MBA program vary more than the motives and motivation for taking the EMBA program. The decision might be based on the wish to either advance in one’s career or pivot to a whole new career path.

“EMBA participants are typically in leadership positions, thinking about ways to find more depth and new motivation for their work or looking for the ability to solve the strategic challenges facing their business,” Kuokkanen explains.

When choosing the program, it is important to
consider the type of change you wish to see
in your career."

“Many EMBA graduates will reassume their previous leadership roles, often with a new outlook. MBA graduates, on the other hand, typically advance to completely new positions,” Laukkanen sums up.

In light of the above, when choosing the program, it is important to consider the type of change you wish to see in your career.

If you wish to be able to do things and understand business on a practical level from different perspectives, MBA is most likely the right choice.

If you already have a solid foundation and wish to obtain a more in-depth understanding of certain topics, see their interconnections more clearly, and be able to act on a more strategic level, then EMBA will most likely serve you best.
 

Impact stems from more than just content

All Aalto MBA programs promise to have an impact, and according to alumni, they live up to that promise.

But impact doesn't come for free. All MBA programs require significant investment, both in terms of money and time.

The decision to take leadership studies often stems from the wish to speed up career advancement, for example.

Compared to programs that are provided free of charge,
our programs will simply have a greater impact."

“Compared to programs that are provided free of charge, our programs will simply have a greater impact,” Kuokkanen states.

“Our programs also come with just the right network: they attract highly ambitious people that are ready to pay for impactful education. They are determined to invest in their education.”

According to Laukkanen, who you choose to spend two years of your life with matters.

“The contents might be available online, but the actual impact stems from taking the contents to practice and discussing them with other smart people," Laukkanen says.

Studying with people in similar situation as you will provide you with concrete examples and inspiration for initiating a change at your own workplace.

“You will find yourself thinking, ‘if they were able to take this forward yesterday, then I can do it on Monday'," Kuokkanen explains.
 

Marked differences in contents

The differences between the programs are reflected in their contents.

In MBA, the main focus is on practical exercises, whereas in EMBA, more emphasis is placed on looking for new perspectives by building on existing experience and knowledge. Discussion and reflection play a major role.

There are slightly more lectures in EMBA than in MBA, which in turn involves somewhat more group work taking place outside contact teaching.

In EMBA, leadership is placed front and center throughout the program. In MBA, on the other hand, participants will have the opportunity to specialize in certain business areas such as financing, innovation or entrepreneurship.

But there is one myth that both Laukkanen and Kuokkanen wish to dispel. EMBA is not “better” than MBA; the two programs are simply designed to meet different needs and support leaders and experts in different career stages.

“One of our alumni first took the EMBA program and felt they did not get everything they were looking for. They then decided to take the MBA as well, wishing to obtain more fundamental and in-depth knowledge about different business topics,” Kuokkanen concludes.
 

Participants in Aalto EE's MBA programs experience a journey of transformation, including elements of personal leadership transformation as well as business and organizational transformation. Our program content is generalist in nature, covering all key areas of business. The program diplomas are granted by the Aalto University School of Business. Read more here.
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