We're adding a wall to separate a garage and want to put outlets and a light switch in the wall but it was installed aligned with a steel beam above it so there is no way to fish a wire down into the wall from above. Would it be within code to come down from the ceiling about 8" away from the wall and run conduit down the wall to a switch? Also, in that same conduit could we run the wire for the outlets and just continue that in the wall to install outlets? It won't look great but it will be in a closet anyway.
The problem is you want to put two NM cables in one conduit.
You aren't using the conduit as the conduit wiring method, only as wire armor, so the full weight of conduit rules don't apply. But you simply will not fit two NM cables (or a /3) in one 1/2" EMT conduit. 3/4" conduit would be viable for two.
Surface conduit is an option, and can just fit one cable, but again two cables will be too much for systems like normal size Legrand Wiremold. You may find a larger format surface conduit. Or you could run two surface conduits.
Keep in mind that regardless, it is no longer permissible to run /2 cable as a switch loop. You must now provision neutral*. That means running a /3 cable. That also means that if you want to carry line power onward from the switch location, the /3 brings down both always-hot and neutral, so you are able to do this. If a 3-way switch is involved, all bets are off.
* remember, this is not the conduit wiring method, this is the NM cable wiring method using "any random pipe" as physical protection as required in an exposed location. The random pipe happens to be also usable as conduit, but that buys you nothing.
I will take a crack at this even though most of this is in the previous answers.
The short answer is yes, you can run EMT conduit exposed, it's done all the time. If you work with it all the time and own a bender, it's easy to work with, and cheap.
However if you are not proficient working with EMT, you wind up buying a lot of ready made bends and fittings and it will come out looking a bit rough. Maybe a lot rough.
You can also run Wiremold or other surface raceway exposed, it has a more finished appearance. More importantly, there's no special tool needed, just a hacksaw and basic tools, and it's easy to work with the first time you use it.
Either way, you'll want to transition from NM to THHN where you enter that first box. Don't try to run NM in the raceway or conduit, it's pointless at best and a code issue at worst. And when you stuff a raceway with NM you lose one of the best things about a raceway: it's very easy to add or change things in the future. You can buy rolls of THHN as small as 50' at the home improvement stores, so you don't have to have a lot of scrap.
Spend some time with the raceway catalog to make a good parts list, Wiremold has a good document that sums it all up in a few pages. Use the larger V700 over the smaller V500 or whatever the equivalent is in other brands. You never know if you might want to add something to the raceway later.