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Pursuing Executive Education: To EMBA, Or Not To EMBA? A constantly changing world with countless new educational options begs the question if an EMBA is still relevant and beneficial.

By Maryke Luijendijk

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) has been around for a long time, but a constantly changing world with countless new educational options begs the question if an EMBA is still relevant and beneficial. Well, I may be biased, but I am of the opinion that it most certainly is- and here's why:

1. An EMBA diversifies your skillset

An EMBA diversifies your skillset, which, in turn, diversifies your opportunities. Mid-to senior level professionals very often get to a stage in their careers where they feel they have reached a plateau. They find themselves asking "Is this it?" and "What will I do for the next 30 years?" That's where the EMBA steps in. The program allows you to add to your skills and expertise, which in turn leads to adding to your options. This can be within different sectors and/or companies, but it can also be within your own sector or role– you might start getting involved in new projects, start leading new divisions, and so, you start mapping out a new career path or direction.

2. An EMBA gives you the academic grounding you need

An EMBA gives you the academic grounding to know what you have been making up as you went along. You get to a point where you are doing so much outside of the scope of what you were originally qualified for, which often causes a gap between your academic knowledge, and what you are currently doing– the EMBA fills that gap. You might sit in class and realize that you have been applying a certain academic model all along without knowing it. The EMBA also helps you to connect the dots between what you have done up until now, and how that fits into what you will be doing in future.

Related: Disrupting The Tightly Controlled Academic Sector

3. An EMBA helps build up your network

The word "network" has been used so often in speaking about the benefits of an EMBA that it feels quite cliché. Be that as it may, the network you will gain from an EMBA really is one of the biggest takeaways you will get. It is, however, very important that you look at the depth and the scope of the network your EMBA will bring. Make sure the EMBA network will give you more than what you already have or what you could gain in your own capacity. Find an EMBA where you will be surrounded by the "non-traditionals"- you will be amazed at the perspectives that someone who knows nothing about what you do can bring to you and your profession. Look for a program that has participants from the fields not directly associated with an EMBA (such as performing arts, NGOs, military), and see how your assumptions are challenged and perceptions change. In our AUD EMBA, we foster this by actively seeking individuals that will bring fresh ideas to the table.

4. An EMBA can broaden your outlook

EMBA content will, of course, teach you what you need to know about business; yet, how it is taught, and who it is taught by is crucial. Ensure that the EMBA you choose will give you so much more than what you can learn in your own capacity. Scrutinize the program content to make sure that it is relevant and real. If the curriculum has not been redesigned in the last year or two, you might want to ask how it reflects the latest trends that affects the world. For the AUD EMBA, this means that we cannot, for example, teach supply chain without looking at drones and 3D-printing, we cannot teach marketing without looking at R-programming, we cannot teach finance without looking at fintech and all it entails, etc. If the professors teaching you has never worked in the industry and/or are not consulting in their fields, you need to ask how they will ensure that what they teach you is applicable. The content you take away from your EMBA will be the solutions you implement at work every day.

5. An EMBA builds you

Arguably the greatest value of an EMBA comes not from the content but from the journey. This sounds philosophical, and in a sense, it is: the growth you experience while on the program will change you as a person, change the way you lead, and change the impact you have. To make the most of this process, seek out the programs that actively support your journey- programs that offer coaching, that work on your soft skills, and that challenge your assumptions. At the AUD EMBA, for example, we are all about making you comfortable with being uncomfortable. We do this through an integrated skills trajectory where we create situations in which you need to push your boundaries and feel out of depth, because we believe this is where the greatest growth happens.

6. An EMBA teaches you to be more mindful

In a world where resources are getting scarcer and populations are growing, you would be well served by looking for EMBA programs that pay attention to aspects of ethics, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility. Programs that value more than just the bottom line are most likely the ones that will be best equipped to ensure you and those around you can still benefit from your business decisions for generations to come. For the AUD EMBA, this notion is translated into the program by ensuring that all faculty members, regardless of the subject, dedicates a portion of their teaching to aspects of ethics, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility. For us, it is not merely about "going green," or "doing good," it is about instilling these topics as key business principles in all fields of business.

The worst reason possible to do an EMBA is to do it only for the title. You need to first and foremost ensure that what you want to gain fits with the content, culture, and approach of the EMBA program you choose. However, there is no denying that often the EMBA title is the differentiating factor when it comes to next steps in your career. At a certain stage, you will be amongst peers that have very similar potential and experience to you– if you wish to set yourself apart, more often than not, an EMBA is what makes all the difference.

Related: Taking Charge Of Your Career Success: Start By Defining What Being Successful Means To You

Maryke Luijendijk

Program Director, EMBA at American University in Dubai (AUD)

Maryke Luijendijk is the Program Director for the Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) at American University in Dubai (AUD). She joined AUD from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) where she was the Director of Marketing and Admissions for the globally top-ranked MBA portfolio. She served on the Strategic Platform of RSM, where she was involved in internationalization and new business development, including setting up various cross-national collaborations and joint degrees. Prior to that, she worked in the UK, and before that, she held various roles at educational institutions in her native South Africa. She has served on several advisory boards in the graduate management education sphere, including the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), TheMBATour and MBATube/MasterTube.

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