“Business” is a broad term that consists of many smaller functions, disciplines and focuses. Rising professionals who want to pursue an executive certificate program have to decide which area of study will benefit them, and their organization, the most.
The task can be daunting, but those certificate-seekers who can divide executive education programs into a few general areas of concentration have a better chance at selecting the track with the best return on investment.
So, what are the general areas of concentration? And how will a prospective student know which one is right?
Management is about outcomes. It’s for those professionals interested in the development of plans and strategies designed to achieve organizational goals. Many of the executive certificate programs built around business management will provide students curriculum on budgeting, hiring, human resources and other principles of management.
It’s typically a great way to develop problem solving, critical thinking and project management skills, and depending on the level of degree and certificate, it can qualify students for careers ranging from office managers to CEOs.
Kevin Kruse, in a Forbes article about leadership, defines the attribute as, “… a process of social influence, which maximizes the effort of others, towards the achievement of a goal,” and though it’s succinct, even Kruse concedes that his definition might not be perfect. Still, businesses tend to know the aspects of leadership that they covet, and those are the elements that most leadership training focuses on.
Strong leadership programs develop decision-making ability and conflict-resolution skills. They provide instruction on giving and receiving constructive feedback, and assessing the needs of workers at all levels of any organization. Additionally, top programs provide students with self-assessment tools that can help them create their own unique style of leadership.
Professionals who complete a leadership certificate and truly master the knowledge it can provide are agile, resilient and focused. They demonstrate delegation ability and know how to optimize the potential of the workforce they direct.
Administration is a process-focused discipline, emphasizing the functional aspects of an organization and its people. Depending on the level of proficiency, students who pursue an executive certificate in business administration tend to study topics like accounting, finance, marketing, operations, analysis, strategy, communication and decision-making.
Simply stated, a business administrator oversees the business and its operations. An executive certificate will prepare students for that role, and teach them how to manage and regulate business processes.
Negotiation can be classified as a combination of both leadership and management. Depending on the program, it can teach teambuilding, dispute resolution, business acquisitions, sales, contract obligations and the creativity of deal-making.
It’s a softer skill than some of the other areas of concentration. A negotiation curriculum might also include tips on tempering over-confidence, creating value where no value previously existed, identifying unfavorable deals and constructing win-win situations for all parties involved in a negotiation.
There are, of course, subsets within these subsets. Some of these programs have an incredibly narrow focus, designed to certify professionals with specific titles who operate in specific industries. Many students, however, seek a more generalized path to their executive education, and the four areas of concentration detailed here are a great starting point.