Earning a Wharton MBA While Working Full-Time: How to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Can you work full-time while pursuing your MBA in Wharton’s EMBA program? Yes.
It’s not easy, but students in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives learn time management skills that help balance both work and school. Many students juggle additional responsibilities like families, aging parents, and even international moves. Despite these challenges, Wharton’s EMBA program remains an excellent choice for students who don’t want to take two years off from work and disrupt their career trajectory. Below, read tips from both students and Wharton alumni on how they made it work.

Openly Communicate

Communication is key. Communicate with your boss and direct reports about what to expect from you during the EMBA program. Make sure they know when you will be away at school and not available for work. Delegate members of your team to step in for you when you are at school. And communicate the value of the program with your organization. In addition to sharing your schedule, consider sharing learnings from classes that will help your coworkers in their roles. Doing an EMBA program goes more smoothly when you have support from your managers and team members.

“I was lucky to have a flexible work schedule with an understanding supervisor and team, and I could sometimes use lunch breaks as an opportunity to study or do team work.” — Chez Uzoh, WG’20

Make Your Schedule Far In Advance

Make sure you share your school schedule as far ahead as possible. Wharton makes the full two-year schedule available when you apply to the program. Map out school weekends and full-week sessions for your team. Also, consider when you will study and work on group projects. If possible, block out those times on your schedule to maximize efficiency and make them part of your routine.

“I was still getting my bearings well into the first term,” she says. “The EMBA staff were so supportive, and it helped knowing I had my class manager, study group, and classmates in my corner. Balancing work, school, and family can seem like a constant juggle, but this experience has shown me how important it is to lean on your support system when things get stressful.” – Maria Devassy, WG’23

Get Support From Your Family

Communication is also important with your family. Make sure that your partner and children know your school schedule in advance. Going back to school is usually a family decision, so make sure everyone is on board and ready to support you. This may mean lining up support for childcare and delegating household responsibilities to ensure that you are able to focus on school and get the most value out of the program.

 “My family is a big supporter of my education. I’m the only sibling out of five to have a four-year degree, and they are proud that I’m earning my Wharton MBA.” — Grace Wu, WG’24

“My wife and I agree that each year you get older is one year less that you can capitalize on a degree. Although it’s a serious commitment, we decided together that it was the right time for me because of what I wanted to achieve.” — Christopher Hayden, WG’24

Be Ready To Make Some Sacrifices

You may need to set aside a few hobbies and decline some events during the program. Decide what is important and what you can let go — and then try to maintain those boundaries. This is only two years, so assure friends and family that you will return to a normal schedule after graduation.

“I’ve become deliberate with my time. I am comfortable saying no to commitments outside my goal areas.” — Maggie John, WG’18

“Overall, returning to school has been humbling. It’s been 25 years since I finished medical school, so getting back into a highly structured and organized way of learning was an adjustment.” — Dr. Fahim Rahim, WG’24

Take Care of Yourself

EMBA students don’t have a lot of free time, so make sure to prioritize taking care of yourself. If you usually go to the gym, try to continue making that a priority during the program. Take breaks as needed because nothing is more important than your physical and mental health.

Find A Program That Fits Into Your Life

When you look at EMBA programs, make sure to check out the format. Are the classes remote or in-person? Are they held at night or during the day? Do you stay on campus during class sessions or commute home?

Wharton’s EMBA program is specifically designed for working professionals. For members of the Philadelphia and San Fransisco cohorts, classes are held every other Friday and Saturday with a few one-week sessions throughout the program. On class weekends, all students stay at the same hotel. Our unique residency requirement creates a focused living-and-learning environment that facilitates forming close bonds among students.

Members of the Global cohort are expected to attend synchronous classes and remote classes wherever they are based. This time commitment may come accompanied by long nights or early mornings, depending on the time zone of where the student resides.

A typical Wharton EMBA Weekend

Benefits of the Wharton EMBA Program for Working Professionals

Support for Students

We take care of the logistical details so that your attention is on your studies. Then when you’re home, you can concentrate on work and family. Each cohort has a dedicated class manager who handles the program particulars, while also anticipating the challenges you will face. Your class manager will:

  • Distribute all program materials, including course packs, textbooks and e-books
  • Manage billing and process your tuition payments
  • Act as a liaison between students and faculty
  • Coordinate arrangements for the second-year international trip
  • Create the master schedule for each semester
  • Act as your registrar, enrolling you in your courses for each term
  • Arrange on-campus accommodations and meals
  • Provide moral support as you make your way through the program

“I really enjoy advising students…I like being there for students in this way; helping them make tough decisions, talking through what success looks like for them, and brainstorming ways to manage their time effectively. I’m a real people person and love working with our EMBA students. .” — Fele Uperesa, Class Manager of the San Francisco cohort

Continue Your Life

Picnics with jugglers and face painters, baseball games, ice skating, dining at area restaurants, bowling nights, cruises, trips to the aquarium… While you won’t find these listed on the academic calendar, these special events provide partners and families of students with opportunities to become more familiar with the EMBA program.

Visiting campus offers a better understanding of where and how you’re spending every other weekend. Some special programs are planned for the whole family, while others are for partners. Students’ families can also make arrangements to stay with them at the hotel on regular program nights.

“That’s one of the more powerful things about Wharton. You’re building the airplane while you’re flying it and becoming a better businessperson while you’re working.” – Dr. Paul Dohrenwend, WG’21, MD

“Our kids called visits their ‘Wharton Weekends’ and loved exploring the campus while we were in class.” — Dr. Ije Akunyili, WG’20

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