What is Executive Education?

What is Executive Education?

A brief overview of executive education and what it's for

What is executive education? Executive education usually refers to programs and courses targeted at professionals working in managerial and executive roles, or those who aspire to those positions. Most executive education courses offered by business schools last between two and six days, but some can take over a year to complete part-time.

Content-wise, executive education tends to focus on improving the business knowledge and skills needed to become an effective leader. Most executive programs - unlike management degrees such as an MBA, MSc, or Master in Management - focus on sharpening specific aspects of an executive's toolkit, such as accounting, finance, strategy, or negotiation. That's why executive courses tend to be much shorter than full-on degree programs, which tend to be broader and cover many aspects of business.

Often, executive education offerings may be designed for those managers who must deal with topics that the lack formal training in. For example, executive education courses in 'Finance for Non-Financial Managers' are increasingly popular.

Even though most executive courses are on the short side, some executive education offerings - like modular general management programs (GMPs) or Executive MBA programs - do provide broader training for current and future managers and executives.

Sometimes, specialized executive education courses are designed for professionals working in certain industries (like healthcare or IT), or those working in or transitioning to specific managerial or executive roles.

Why is executive education important?

In brief: executive education is important because it gives leaders an efficient way to improve their management skills and expertise. Managers lead busy lives and often don't have the time to commit to long periods of study, such as would be required in a business master's program or PhD. With executive education, managers can take a short amount of time (as short as even one week, or even a single day) to work on their skills, outside of the working environment.

This is important for a number of different reasons. In terms of day-to-day operations, executive education takeaways can help managers leverage insights from an external source outside of business. Many leaders find that a fresh perspective can add a lot of value to everyday business life. 

For managers who work in quickly-shifting industries or fields—such as operations management, business analytics, technology, or even parts of the financial industry—executive education can also be important in that it exposes participants to up-to-date ideas, which can be applied immediately.

And finally, those managers looking for promotions—to the next level, or to another firm, for example—might find that executive education is important because it gives them that extra 'oomph' they need on their CVs.

How do I pursue executive education?

Executive education is usually offered on the campuses of business schools, though they can sometimes take place at other venues like resorts, conference centers, or even in corporate offices. Some providers - particularly those offering global-oriented programs - take advantage of the short format and international partnerships to offer their programs in one or more different locations. Increasingly, though, especially with the covid-19 pandemic, many executive courses are now delivered online, meaning you can pursue executive education from the comfort of your home or office.

The executive education courses listed on this site are "open-enrollment" programs, meaning that anyone is eligible to apply. This is in contrast to "custom" programs typically offered to companies and organizations.

In most cases, executive education does not lead to a formal degree (except for an Executive MBA or a General Management Program (GMP). Some institutions, however, will offer professional certifications or "certificates of completion."

For a directory of MBA programs available worldwide, please visit our sister site, FIND MBA.

Is executive education worth it?

For many managers, executive education can be worth the investment. In fact, compared to other offerings—such as a full-on degree program—executive education courses, which are generally short, can be positively economical. Think of executive education like a surgical improvement in management skills: compared to pursuing a longer, more general program, executive courses are valuable because they target specific, more narrow skills and expertise that are important to business leaders.

However, the real value of executive education may in how it can improve your managerial toolkit. If pursuing an executive education offering can help lead to a promotion or pay raise, then it may be worth the investment. 

Today, some leaders are also leaning towards executive programs that are either completely online, or offered in a mix of online and in-class learning. All other things considered, these types of executive courses are generally cheaper than traditional offerings (not to mention the cost savings of traveling and lodging that might be included for some participants). 

Read more about how to put a value on executive education.