Wharton Tops New EMBA Ranking

Students in Wharton's Executive MBA program in San Francisco meet in one of the rooms used for study groups in the historic Folger Building. (Photo by Jakob Masur)

That old cliché, “you get what you pay for,” just might ring true in a new ranking by Poets&Quants of the best executive MBA programs in North America. At the top of the heap is the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which offers the two programs with the highest MBA price tags in the world. Wharton’s West Coast program, based in San Francisco, costs a whopping $172,200, while its executive MBA at Penn’s home campus in Philadelphia is priced at $162,300.

Both programs, however, are world-class educational experiences. They have the same tough admissions criteria as Wharton’s full-time MBA program, the same academic content and degree requirements, and the same high grading standards.

“Our students are taught by the same Wharton faculty who hold them to the same standards of performance and intellectual rigor,” says Anjani Jain, Wharton’s vice dean, MBA Program for Executives.

And what about those sky high costs, some $64,200 more than the tuition and fees for Wharton’s regular MBA?

Jain insists the premium is worth it. Once you include room and board for the program’s alternating Friday-Saturday sessions, which is included in the fees, Jain says the cost is “actually comparable to that of peer institutions. Many other EMBA programs have substantially fewer contact hours, or don’t include room and board in the base tuition.”

The other schools at the top aren’t exactly bargains, either. Wharton is closely followed in the new ranking by Chicago’s Booth School of Business ($142,000 in tuition and fees), Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management ($153,900), Columbia Business School ($148,320), and New York University’s Stern School of Business ($144,000).

To find a high-ranked school offering an executive MBA for under six-figures, you have to reach down to no. 9, the University of Texas at Austin, which has an EMBA program for $80,169 — less than half the cost of either Wharton program (See the full list of the top 50 Executive MBA programs).

The new ranking by Poets&Quants measures the overall reputation of these programs by combining the four latest ratings on EMBA programs from BusinessWeekThe Wall Street JournalThe Financial Times, and U.S. News & World Report. By blending these rankings into a composite list, the methodology tends to diminish common anomalies in any one rating system. It also takes into account an array of metrics to measure the quality of the programs, from surveys of student satisfaction to income increases attributed to the degree.

Who gets an executive MBA?

These executive versions of the MBA degree, of course, attract an older, more seasoned group of students. Typically, EMBA candidates bring more than a dozen years of work experience and eight years of management experience to a program. Executives often bring their work challenges into the classroom, seeking help from faculty and fellow classmates.

These days, there’s a wide of range of people studying for the degree, from doctors and lawyers to politicians and entrepreneurs. Ari Harkov spent the better part of his adult life as an aspiring and professional opera singer, touring and singing in London, Italy, France, and the U.S. He’s now at Columbia Business School’s EMBA program.


    John has done a great job bringing out what it is out there for MBA’S with these big schools (ranking/reputation/costs!)

    I wish he can transcend this site from mere informer and a educator to an instrument of advocacy and critic that can bring a change to this lopsided system!

    I only see what here and hardly any why!
    But still great work!


  • 100k plus loan looms large for the wrecked,ditched,miserable and the lost souls!

    thinking of taking that plunge again? thinking of doing an encore? thinking of that pain which will go up like the mount everest and wont bust till the volcano explodes? thinking of another gate to pursuit that million which is many many a miles away?

    who wants that mba? guys who have hit the wall? or guys who are gonna hit the wall?or for the guys who wanna jump over the wall? or for the guys who wanna break the wall?

    who wants to go in to that abyss again having still not come out of tahe previous one?
    With the impeding forces of
    the recession, the monotony and drudgery of existing job, or hunting of a new one, the weight of accruing lode of doughhhhhh! The future unclear and unknown, the gf ready to ditch or marriage falling apart! The sick feeling of joining other miserables who say, do and follow same things and still think that they are different from each other!

  • my mind is broken, so is my english!

    with so much random thoughts going on in my head and my discotheque of dislikes for these exorbitant MBA programs. My punctuations have got punctured!

  • oh boy! This is the I was talking about!

    This is the most expensive executive MBA ever! And it is gonna go to 250k soon! And a host of other institutions are also taking the queue( MIT has executive mba, stanford might follow, trium mba is hitting 150k mark).
    I have no idea why companies want to bear this extraordinary cost for ordinary employee!

    Meaning, if you are already important in your firm, I understand you must have already contributed enormously to the institution( what else new business firms could teach you? I wonder). if the company is investing in middle-tier employees of their firm and they are hoping to get leaders of them that logic also seems flawed( all managers cannot be ceo’s and vp’s of their firms! can they?)

    Sponsoring on your own is out of question here unless you have money to throw around!

    Most of the guys who want to executive mba would be some one who is doing tech work and wanna be a manager and I don’t think companies will cope up with this kind of burden in this economy!

    In terms of pure knowledge, I have no problem people pursuing EMBA’S. But I have no clue how they can bring so much money to table to afford it either through company sponsored or by killing few alquieda fellas or doing naked shorting of some AIG stocks….OR gigoloing lonely boss ( she or he if you he or she, or get it he/he and she/she)
    Sponsoring companies have some serious money to throw around to get their fellas for these executive degrees!

  • Phoenix Rising

    Arthur, Your comments are completely unfounded and quite simply ridiculous.

    Furthermore, and interestingly, I notice that you have purposely neglected to mention the perspective from which you made those unfounded comments (ie. you haven’t mentioned where your MBA is from or what your current position is). Put up or SHUT UP!

  • Toro

    It’s funny how some people here express opinions without researching these programs and are just purely negative. Yes, the world will end in 2012 according to the Mayans! If you consider the income while still working and tax deductions, the financial sacrifice is not that bad. There are many many people switch careers from the exec programs. Just visit the class and talk to the alums and students. I heard that close to 50% switch jobs and/or career tracks during or after the program.

  • How is the program for those who are not looking to career transition? Are you finding the curriculum and educational content intellectually satisfying, or is the program more suited to networking and providing a credential?

  • WhartonSF

    @Arthur: unsponsored Wharton EMBA here. I don’t agree with your comments that there is no career path unsponsored EMBA graduates. Many of us use the program to discover what it is that we want to do. I do agree however that, generally, the schools do a very poor job of career services for EMBA students and that some of the more traditional hirers of MBAs do look on the executive experience differently. But, with the right approach, the program can be the launch pad for most career transitions.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    @Vic: The unsponsored guys are not more attractive because an EMBA isn’t considered the same as a good full time MBA. All of these programs are intended for sponsored candidates. There’s no career path for unsponsored guys. They’re chasing a hoop dream.

  • Vic

    @Arthur: Why would the un-sponsored guys go nowhere? I would imagine they could stay at the company they worked for while getting their EMBA once they finish their EMBA if they couldn’t find a job somewhere else. I am not following your logic. Plus, if they want to leave that job, they are now more attractive to other employers.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    @Vic. What are the outcomes for Wharton’s EMBAs? The sponsored guys get to keep their jobs (or not in a bad economy) and the unsponsored guys go nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Outcomes not nearly comparable to a lower ranked full time MBA.

  • Vic

    Arthur, do the math. If the EMBA costs $64k more than the full time MBA at Wharton, and an EMBA student is not being sponsored, the EMBA student is still making a salary for those two years where the full time MBA student is not. Look at the average salary for an EMBA student at Wharton and you will see that the EMBA student ends up spending less for the same education and they don’t miss out on two years of work experience.

  • AsianGranny

    Hi John,

    I know its kind off the topic, do business schools ‘like’ LLB undergrads? I am currently contemplating between an LLB and an business undergrad

  • MH

    Thanks! But is there a link from the p&q site to the exec site and vice versa?

  • MH,

    It is prominently displayed. In fact, it’s a completely separate site: http://poetsandquantsforexecs.com

  • MH

    Why is the p&q EMBA site not prominently displayed? Is it “hidden” for some reasons?

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    @Ruler, if Wharton is so “proud” of equivalence between their regular MBA and their EMBA, then I must say that I’m skeptical of their MBA.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Yeah? What’s the IRR for unsponsored students?

  • Why do you say no substance? Wharton seems to pride themselves on the EMBA being truly equivalent to the full-time MBA in terms of academic rigor and quality of professors. The professors I talked to seemed to indicate that the quality of the students and depth of discussion was superior in the EMBA classes as well.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Mere prestige without substance. But costs a pretty penny. Someone should do a survey of outcomes amongst those EMBA students who haven’t benefited from employer sponsorship. Pure negative IRR, I reckon.