Executive Education

Professional Development: 3 Education Options For Any Executive

professional development

The road to success does not come with a map. As executives navigate the way onward and upward in their career trajectories, finding the next step that can best guarantee success is critical.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, for some people, looking outside their company’s walls will be the best way to climb the corporate ladder by enrolling in executive education courses. But executive education—like most career trajectories—is not one-size-fits all. To be the GPS on your road ahead, Ivy Exec has the breakdown on several education options that may make the difference in your career advancement.

  1. Open enrollment

Perhaps the most flexible option for a mid-career executive is an open enrollment program. These are courses offered by a university’s executive education program and they pop up several times a year. They are typically open to corporate leaders who are working full-time and are not enrolled in the university as a student. These courses might run for several days and require a participant to remain on-site at the university throughout the duration of the class.

Open enrollment courses can give an executive a chance to sample a university’s higher education offerings without committing to several years in a full or part time program. Furthermore, these courses can be a part of a group strategy within the workplace. Wharton’s program, for example, offers special benefits to corporations that send multiple participants to any given open enrollment course. In this way, a team from within an organization can step away from the routine of the workplace and develop together in a short but intense, university-led program. 

  1. Certificate programs 

For those seeking a course of study that offers more formal recognition of one’s participation, a certificate program may be a strong fit. Somewhere in the middle ground between the flexibility and freedom of an open enrollment class and the years’-long commitment of working toward a degree, a certificate program can give a participant the best of both worlds.

Certificate programs generally meet several times a year for a few days and can be custom-designed to give a participant access to several different concentrations. With a few major requirements to meet over the course of several years—or to be fast-tracked at the student’s discretion in a single visit to the school—participants can structure their course-load and demand according to their needs and other commitments. Given the ability to structure a course of study over a number of years also gives the participant in these programs some ability to price them out as he or she sees fit by selecting a heavier or lighter course load and paying per class depending on other financial commitments in a particular year.

Unlike the open enrollment option, participants in these programs will receive an actual certificate—as the name would suggest. But more important than a piece of paper, some schools open greater networking access to participants in these programs than they do for open enrollment students. MIT’s Sloan School, for example, gives Executive Certificate recipients access to special networking events and online membership to the school’s LinkedIn group. The access allocated to certificate program participants, however, does not often compare to the breadth of networking options ultimately available to degree program participants. 

  1. Degree programs

Degree programs are the most immersive among these options but are also potentially the most rewarding in the long term. By enrolling in an Executive MBA program and pursuing that degree, a participant can see the greatest career advancement and even return on investment with an average salary boost post-degree of nearly 17-percent according to the Executive MBA Council. An EMBA participant will also have full access to all of his or her university’s respective networking options.

Another major boon that participants in degree programs will receive is access to a cohort of other executives. Through peer engagement over the course of a few years, many EMBA recipients cite their cohort experience as the most rewarding part of their executive education. Being able to consistently tap into the career-honed insight and networks of this group of like-minded achievers can be as enlightening as any of the Executive MBA coursework.

An Executive MBA degree can also bring more prestige than some of the less time-consuming options. The application and selection process for EMBA participants is far more rigorous than it generally is for certificate and open enrollment programs. Gaining admission to an Executive MBA program at a top-tier school speaks much more to an executive’s value than whether or not he or she simply participated in a course or two at an Ivy League institution.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.