5 Reasons Why You May Prefer Open Enrollment Programs over Executive MBA

Executive MBA is a brand name, something easy to agree upon and relatively widespread. However, there are multiple reasons to choose shorter education programs that are likely to create more value for participants and their employers.

There are at least three good reasons to participate in an Executive MBA program:

1. Acquire new knowledge, skills, and competencies

2. Engage in networking opportunities

3. Get a resume booster, which some high-ranking programs can provide

Having said that, there are also multiple drawbacks to Executive MBA programs.

  1. Price is an obvious one (a top program can easily cost some USD 200,000) but, somewhat surprisingly, not the most important one. The key problem to consider is that it may be not the right time in one’s career. Chances are, if you are seriously considering an Executive MBA program, you may already NOT need it. MBA programs normally consist of generic skills any business requires in one form or another: finance, marketing etc. Their goal is to verse everyone in a common language and prepare for a corporate career (which is why only very few MBA programs pride themselves for educating entrepreneurs, non-profit and public sector leaders). With several exceptions, EMBA programs are essentially a shorter version of the same MBA program with more senior participants and condensed classroom experience. EMBA participants do not have to study fulltime as the programs are usually organized in modules either taking place on weekends or in weeklong modules once a month or bimonthly.
  2. Almost all Executive MBA programs still require the GMAT and sometimes waive it for professionals with more than 15 years of experience. Nothing is wrong with standardized tests including GMAT, but it is worth noting that it does not test the skills required in real business life. Its main purpose is to test applicants’ ability to learn at business school level. That may be justified in case of younger MBA applicants (although multiple studies have shown that undergraduate GPA scores and professional experience do a better job predicting applicants’ aptitude) but may not necessarily be the best way to work with executives. Taking a couple of months to prepare for the test means spending time, effort, and money on acquiring/reviving knowledge and skills that cannot be immediately applied to business needs. This seems excessive, to say the least!
  3. There are clear benefits to having a thoroughly designed extended development program with a full menu of business skills, but it may not fit everyone. The list of topics covered is rather generic: strategy, marketing, finance, negotiations, innovation etc. Yes, they are all useful in real-life business situations, but do you really need to spend all that time and money to learn or re-learn them? It may be useful to get some basic finance knowledge if you spent last 15 years in communications, but why would a Deputy CFO sit in the same Finance 101 class? Yes, there may be certain flexibility within EMBA programs but overall it is a prix-fixe menu. Which is definitely a viable option unless you know better what your development needs are so you can order a la carte, especially given that you can order from different places. Advanced Marketing Management from Kellogg and Advanced Corporate Finance from LBS will most likely be a better use of time and money for a marketing and finance manager respectively than having those as part of a generic program.
  4. EMBA programs do offer outstanding networking opportunities as they bring together established professionals from various management functions, industries and nations. Is it the best networking opportunity out there, however? Probably not. Depends on who you plan to meet there. EMBA participants are the ones that spent precious time to prepare for GMAT. Although thousands of extremely successful individuals take these programs every year, there are better chances of meeting C-suite executives, CEOs, and business owners that become your clients, investors or employers in some of the shorter programs such as Disruptive Innovation class with Clayton Christensen or Leading Strategic Growth and Change with Rita Gunther McGrath.
  5. Finally, even in terms of boosting one’s resume there are options that consume less time and money. Yes, it is indeed great to become an Ivy League business school alum in your 30s, 40s, 50s or later, however, even that does not require USD 200K. A lot of top business schools offer an alternative option: a comprehensive program lasting usually anywhere from 4 to 7 weeks that also grants participants alumni status. A program like that is also very expensive (anywhere from USD 50K to USD 80K at top schools) but it is still less expensive than a typical EMBA. These Advanced Management Programs are still extremely selective (probably even more so than EMBA programs), and the selection process is based on professional experience, motivation letters, and interviews, not on tests. Self-selection also plays a significant role. Because of a less sophisticated application process and shorter time spent in class, AMP programs also attract participants that are more senior than the ones taking EMBAs. Fun fact: neither Harvard nor Stanford offer Executive MBA programs. Instead, there are great AMPs in both Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Another great news is that AMPs can be industry-tailored making them an even better fit for participants. For example, there is an AMP for Oil and Gas Industry Executives offered by Thunderbird and an AMP in Media and Entertainment delivered jointly by UCLA and IESE. Overall, there are several dozen AMP programs offered annually by leading providers all over the world.

Executive MBA programs are a great choice for thousands of people, however, it is important to remember that it is not the only choice. There are thousands of great course options in the executive education universe and the only way to find them is to search for them.