Executive and business education in Switzerland

MBA, EMBA, MAS: the different types of business degrees and programmes

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Last update on February 08, 2019

Continuing your education even well into your career is seen as almost necessary these days, especially in the cutthroat field of business administration.

Universities and other educational institutions have responded by developing broader, more advanced programmes to better prepare business students to become the leaders of the future. Rochester-Bern Executive Programs, which offers a number of higher education programmes in Bern, Switzerland in cooperation with the University of Rochester, New York, explains the different types of business degrees and certificates in Switzerland and around the world to make sure you find the right fit — and the right career path.

What is an Executive MBA degree?

Executive MBA degree programmes are designed to help mid-career professionals expand their knowledge and become better, more rounded leaders. The first EMBA programme launched in 1943 at the University of Chicago in the US; just under 40 years later, the Executive MBA Council was founded to ensure that all EMBA programmes, counting just about 50 at the time, strive for excellence in education. Now, there are hundreds of EMBA programmes around the world, all of which battle to rank among the best. Switzerland, in fact, has six MBA programmes ranking on the Financial Times’ Executive EMBA Ranking.

Average EMBA students are about 40 years old and have approximately 14 years of work experience, both of which have risen in the past few years. Programmes typically last one to two years, and most programmes are joint offerings from universities in various countries to allow students to take advantage of each university’s strengths and local expertise. Students are often sponsored by their employers or receive scholarships to fund the programmes, whose tuitions are relatively high (anywhere from EUR 60,000 to 100,000 and up) due to the inclusion of several international trips, accommodations and meals — over 90 percent of EMBA programmes, according to EMBAC, offer international trips as part of the programme.

What is an MBA

It is the format of the programme that most clearly differentiates itself from standard full-time or part-time MBA programmes. Whereas full-time MBA programmes are immersive, executive MBA programmes are structured so that students may maintain their jobs outside school. Classes are typically held on weekends or during full weeks spaced months apart and cover the same core subjects found in the MBA, but more tailored towards the students’ collective experience in the workplace. The type of EMBA programme you choose is based, in part, on the structure of the programme they offer.

What is an MBA degree?

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a typically full-time degree programme that began in the early 20th century in response to the industrialising world. The first MBA programme in Europe followed in 1967 in France, but now there are equally excellent programmes all over the world. Students are typically younger than those in EMBA programmes — often in their late 20s to early 30s — and many have come directly after earning undergraduate degrees. These students have little to no actual work experience just yet, and they are often earning their degrees to make themselves more marketable to future employers, rather than EMBA students who are often developing their skillsets for current employers.

Because MBA programmes are more intensive — they often do not allow for students to maintain a full-time job outside school — they provide more opportunities for students to specialise as they generally offer a larger number of electives. Modular or part-time MBA programmes have grown in number over the past few years, as students are more eager to combine real-life work experience with higher education — and many cannot afford to forgo work to continue studying.

What is a Master of Advanced Studies?


A lesser known degree, the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) degree is a postgraduate degree available in select countries — in Switzerland, the MAS is an official postgraduate diploma from higher education institutions. The curricula of such programmes are comparable to MBAs but are tailored towards very specific fields such as architecture, international affairs and engineering, among others. Some universities may offer entirely unique programmes, such as a MAS in Healthcare Organisation Leadership. These degrees are particularly useful for mid- or late-career business individuals who plan to remain in a specialised field.

Non-degree programmes: the DAS and CAS

The Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) comprises a postgraduate study programme that aims at educating those who have already undergone undergraduate education and are currently in the workforce. The purpose of the DAS is to encourage continuing education for business leaders, as it is not often a requirement as in other industries that base their practices on evolving knowledge, such as medicine.

The CAS, or the Certificate of Advanced Studies, has a similar aim but require fewer course credits — it is a useful tool to add to a curriculum vitae, or to further specialise your skillset according to the industry in which you work. Course credits from these programmes are sometimes transferable to a qualifying master’s degree, allowing you to later shorten the duration of the programme should you choose to continue your education.

Because these non-degree programmes are shorter, intense programmes, they are often completely customised to the relevant field: you can earn a DAS in Financial Management or a CAS in Banking, which can be even further tailored to asset management or real estate, for example.

There are numerous types of business degrees, diplomas and certificates that can help executives and leaders strengthen their knowledge and make them better managers — but only if they choose the right programme, whether it’s an EMBA, MBA, DAS or even CAS.


Rochester-Bern / Expatica