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Thinking About Executive Education? Pick the Option that Best Suits Your Lifestyle

executive education

Pursuing an Executive MBA is a major commitment. But achieving higher levels of executive education does not need to be an all-or-nothing scenario.

Several top tier schools offer a range of options for executive education: from online courses to open enrollment classes. Understanding which format suits you best is key to making the most of your time and money in the classroom. 

  • Online Education

The learning option with the least amount of time commitment will naturally be online. Some schools offer online courses as a complement to in-classroom learning while others offer entire certificate programs on the web.

Cornell’s dedication to online-only learning is particularly remarkable: students can earn a certificate from this Ivy League institution without ever setting foot on campus. Prospective students can also engage in Cornell’s online learning without undergoing a rigorous application process. Dubbed eCornell, the school’s online courses are designed by Cornell faculty. Many include live instruction from the school’s faculty and industry experts.

  • Open Enrollment

An open enrollment program can be a perfectly flexible option for executives who do not have the time or capital to invest in a full Executive MBA course of study. While some prospective students desiring flexibility will find an online program to be the right fit, for others, maintaining some level of face-to-face learning will be a priority. Another key benefit to open enrollment EMBAs is that students can effectively bypass what would otherwise be a lengthy admissions process: most schools simply require students to register.

At the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, students can register online and pursue a range of education options. This program is optimal for the executive who wants to hone her skills but is willing to do so without receiving a higher education degree. Students can, however, create their own certificate programs by selecting four short courses and completing them within a certain period of time. With each course lasting about two-to-three days, students can earn certificates in business excellence, leadership excellence or management fundamentals.

Open enrollment students at Vanderbilt also enjoy classes with the same faculty who teach in the MBA and EMBA programs—giving them access to top minds in their fields without a full commitment to earning a degree. 

  • Full EMBA Program

Executive MBA programs vary at different schools. While most will require some degree of in-person learning, Rutgers is unique in its dedication to 100-percent, in-classroom learning. With classes meeting every other week on Fridays and Saturdays, the program also includes a series of four, intensive, one-week residencies throughout the course of the 20-month program. Students also enjoy an eye-opening, 10-day trip to China after wrapping up their first years in the program. While every trip is different, in the past, Rutgers EMBAs have visited Boeing, Chrysler-Daimler, Coca-Cola and Lenovo computers—in addition to meaningful cultural visits to sites like The Great Wall of China.

Between the hours of dedicated, in-classroom learning, the four stateside residencies and the trip to China, Rutgers EMBAs have access to frequent and purposeful face-to-face contact with their cohort and faculty.

Bottom Line: Not every executive pursuing higher education needs to go all in with an EMBA. However, when considering the various types of education options available, it is important that a prospective student weigh the importance of receiving a degree at the end of the road. If simply honing one’s skills and gaining new industry connections is not enough, an open enrollment or online course may be best. Another point to keep in mind is that participating in an open enrollment course or an online course could simply be a way to test the waters of executive education. If an executive finds the time commitment to be less overwhelming than previously thought and the courses to be particularly illuminating, perhaps a full EMBA could be the next step.

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.