While some customized courses are part of certificate or nondegree programs, credits can also be applied toward an MBA or Executive MBA (EMBA) degree. Although EMBAs specifically cater to the needs of mid- to senior-level executives, entrepreneurs are sure to benefit. The programs are more condensed, and most classes meet at night or on weekends. Last year, close to 8,000 executives enrolled in EMBA programs worldwide, according to the EMBA council.
Class size is usually limited to 45 to 60 students, and in larger cities, classes fill up quickly with employees from large corporations, making it difficult for executives from smaller companies to get into certain classes. Unlike MBA programs, experience and responsibility, not GMAT scores, are the primary criteria for entry into EMBA courses.
The price for most 18- to 24-month EMBA programs ranges from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on the sophistication of the program, and financial aid is available.
Many schools, like the University of Phoenix and CyberU, offer online programs that allow executives to earn their EMBA degrees without setting foot in a classroom. Students "attend" CD-ROM lectures and use interactive study aids, such as message boards and live chats. Supplemental video and audio programs are also available. Next year, more than 2 million people are expected to take online classes, and over 720 institutions now offer online graduate and professional degrees, according to US News & World Report.
Online classes are usually more expensive than their classroom counterparts. Duke University's Fuqua School of Business is generally considered to have one of the best online programs in the country, but it costs $82,500, compared to $60,300 for the school's regular EMBA program. Another drawback is that while online courses are more convenient, they lack the vital interaction students get in the classroom.
"In executive classes, a lot of the value revolves around debate and discussion," says Scheurer. "Typically, in one of our classrooms, we have 35 to 45 high-potential executives, and the classes are very interactive. You don't have a lecturer reading from the pulpit. It's action learning-debate, discussion. You can't do that online."
With the unprecedented number of educational opportunities now available to owners and their executives, it's clear that hands-on learning is no longer confined to the School of Hard Knocks. Today's uncertain economic climate means that now is the time to invest in something solid. There's no risk involved: Education is the one thing no one can take away from you.