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Get International Experience With a Global EMBA

Students can take classes on multiple continents through a global executive MBA program.

Scheduling a group meeting takes extra planning when classmates live around the world.
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In 2009, Duncan Rasor was a rising employee at a Bermuda-based insurance company, but wanted to learn how to excel as a business professional – especially in a global market. That year the senior business analyst moved from London to New York, all while working for the same company.

He began to see the value in an education that would prepare him for business deals around the world.

"I'd never had a formal business education," says Rasor, who once served in the British army. "If you want to really progress, you need to have that basis of knowledge."

Rasor enrolled in the executive MBA Global Americas and Europe program at the Columbia Business School. By the time he graduated in 2012, he had been promoted to senior vice president, an accomplishment that may have been a result of his degree, he says.

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Global programs take their cues from the executive MBA model, which usually meets on weekends and caters to students who are mid-career professionals. A global EMBA targets students with 10 to 15 years of experience and allows students to learn while immersed in other cultures.

These programs have more global exposure, says Baizhu Chen, the academic director of the global EMBA program at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. "This is what our students are looking for."

In global EMBA programs, U.S. institutions typically partner with schools abroad to help students learn about finance, global economics and similar topics. At Marshall, students fly between Los Angeles and Shanghai through a partnership with China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Columbia has a similar arrangement with the London Business School.

Although programs vary, it's not uncommon for students to fly each month – on their own dime – to spend a week in a single country. GEMBA degrees usually take just under two years to complete.

Executive MBA programs have been around since the 1940s, but top-ranked business schools have recently started to offer the global option.

The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia graduated its first global executive MBA class in May.

USC's program launched in 2004, almost 20 years after its EMBA program. The Anderson School of Management at University of California—Los Angeles also started a global EMBA in 2004, focused on Asia, and more recently graduated its first global executive MBA class from a program focused on Latin America in January 2013.

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As global EMBA programs become more prevalent, prospective students choosing between this degree and the more traditional EMBA should consider a number of factors before enrolling in a program. Business experts suggest students weigh three things when deciding.

1. Time: Chen, who also teaches global economics at Marshall, encourages prospective students to think about time management when entering a global EMBA program. "It is very important and very challenging," he says.

A typical student at Marshall, for example, is 38 years old and has 15 years of work experience, he says. Students must juggle a career, family obligations and working with classmates who are in a different time zone.

"Your classmate is around anytime you want to talk to them," says Chen of EMBA students. For global students, something like meeting at a local coffee shop to finish a group project can be much harder to do.

"Those things that seem very normal become a luxury," he says.

To make group work easier, students can use Google Docs or Dropbox, Web-based programs that allow multiple users to access the same file, says Rasor of Columbia.

At Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, global EMBA students can have 20 hours of reading, course work and assignments some weeks, says Liz Riley Hargrove, the associate dean for admissions.

"We encourage our students to speak with alumni and current students in the program to get a sense for how they'll need to arrange their lives to make this happen," she says.

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Corrected 7/29/2013: A previous version of this article misidentified when the Anderson School at UCLA graduated its first global executive MBA class.