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What Are the Requirements for an Executive MBA?

Jan 8, 2021
Get to know the admissions requirements for EMBA programs and discover whether or not the GMAT is required for an Executive MBA

By Kara Sherrer

You’re thinking about applying to an Executive MBA program, but it seems like every school has its own way of doing things. Some require an interview while others don’t, and you’re still not sure if you have to take the GMAT, Executive Assessment, or another test. So what exactly are the requirements for an Executive MBA?

To get the answer to the this question, we caught up with Juli Bennett, Executive Director for Executive MBA Programs, and Sarah Fairbank, Director of Recruiting for Executive MBA Programs. They walk prospective candidates through the 6 main components of an Executive MBA application and offer advice for completing each part.

Test Score

If you’re wondering “is the GMAT required for an Executive MBA?”, the answer is increasingly “no.” While the GMAT was once the standard entrance exam for business school, the Executive Assessment (EA) is becoming more popular among EMBA candidates and programs. Bennett says that around 75-80% of Vanderbilt Executive MBA candidates now take the EA in any given application cycle.

Sarah Fairbank

“The Executive Assessment is designed for experienced working professionals. It is premised on the section that is called integrated reasoning, which are skills you develop throughout a career and they tend to be things that you can’t learn in an academic setting,” Fairbank explained.

“Integrated reasoning speaks to critical thinking, decision making, data analysis — all of those things are kind of compiled (into a score), which is the reason we really like (the EA). If you’ve developed those skills, you’re probably a pretty good candidate for the Executive MBA,” Bennett added.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted testing, Vanderbilt Business is also accepting expired GMAT and GRE scores on a case-by-case basis. Check with your top Executive MBA programs to see if they have changed any of their testing policies this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Like pretty much any graduate program, a resume is required to apply to Executive MBA programs. This document should cover your employment history and highlight your main accomplishments at each position. Executive MBA programs are looking for candidates who have increasing responsibilities and a clear career trajectory, so make sure that your resume demonstrates that.

Career Essay

The career essay is a chance for applicants to cover anything that didn’t fit in their resume, as well as to explain why they want to attend an Executive MBA program and how an EMBA program will benefit them professionally. “One of the things we’re looking for from an essay in particular is: is what we’re offering (at the EMBA program) going to help them with what their career goals are?” Fairbank said.

“We’re looking at (whether or not) they’re making upward movement, and that this will help boost that trajectory,” Bennett confirmed.


Juli Bennett

The Vanderbilt Executive MBA program requires candidates to submit 2 letters of recommendation with their applications. For almost all candidates, at least one of these letters will be from their boss or direct supervisor. The other one should also come from an individual who relies on the candidate’s work, but it doesn’t have to be a supervisor — it could be a teammate, a client, or a vendor. “It doesn’t have to necessarily be straight up the org chart. It can be someone lateral or someone who depends on their work in a different way,” Bennett said.

Generally speaking, Executive MBA programs are less interested in academic references than other degree programs geared towards less experienced candidates. Because EMBA applicants have been in the workforce for longer, professional references are a better reflection of their current skills than academic references from degrees that were completed years ago.

Personal Interview

Not all Executive MBA programs require an interview, though many of the more competitive ones do. At Vanderbilt Business, the personal interview can occur at various points in the application process. In some cases, the interview may be held before all of the other application components have been received. It’s important to note that the application is considered incomplete, and therefore an admissions decision cannot be issued, until the interview has taken place.

“When we have enough information to know that someone is probably a good candidate, we will go ahead and do the interview so that we have another data point pretty early in the process. Sometimes it’s when we’ve seen just a resume and I’ve talked to them, but often it’ll be (when we) only have one letter of recommendation in or… before they have actually taken an entrance exam,” Fairbank explained.

Undergraduate Transcripts

Executive MBA programs will want transcripts from any previous degrees you have completed. For most people, this will be their undergraduate degree, but some people have additional degrees as well. Vanderbilt Business requires a separate unofficial transcript from every college or university the candidate is attending or has attended. If you’re offered admission, then you will be required to provide official transcripts from each institution you have attended.

To learn more about Executive MBA requirements, visit the admissions page.

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