It's generally recognized that the market value of MBA programs has shrunk as more people have taken the degree. So the new growth market for b-schools has become executive education, a catch-all phrase for non-degree coursework aimed at sharpening managers' skills without distracting them from the actual job.
The definition is broad on purpose: Classes vary from single-day blasts to multi-month programs that technically culminate in an MBA if completed (known as an "executive" MBA, or EMBA). Some are mobile and global and even take place inside corporate corridors; some in more traditional classroom offerings. Even non-schools are bandying around the phrase in the drive to build their businesses.
Choosing an exec ed program can be tricky. It need not be: If the topic is central to your work and the academic is respected, it's likely well worth a few days out of the office.
Start with the media rankingsBusiness schools take issue with rankings, for many good reasons. And exec ed is such an apples and oranges product that actual rankings are rare. But there are several reasonably good lists out there to begin your search.
Check to make sure the program is qualityJust about the toughest accreditation for business schools to complete is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, AACSB. See if your target program is tracked by them before signing the check.
seach page with detailed information on what each program provides. Accreditation matters: Intel recently decided to stop funding non-accredited business programs for its people.
If you have a school selected, find the classCourses that last a day or two go by quickly. It helps to settle on where you will realistically be taking the class and then find your subject matter.
Your best choice may not be a business schoolIncreasingly, large trade groups with extensive and talented membership bases are offering what amounts to ad-hoc, non-academic executive training. It's worth a look.
- Executive education is fast: a brain dump from a top academic, extremely focused and fast and made to be consumed and applied. Be ready for an intense experience.
- Be realistic about time/reward assumptions, since you'll get no degree to show off. Also, find a program close enough and relevant enough to your real problems on the job to hold your interest.
- Definitely, get your employer involved early. They might pay for some or all of the tuition. Your HR folks should have a good idea of what financial help is available. Chances are good there's budget but no one asks for it.