If it is time to take your education to the next level or to tackle that MBA, adult learners will find a variety of programs tailored to working professionals and non-traditional students.

"We are constantly evaluating curriculum, systems and processes to ensure that 'we stay nimble and responsive to the changing needs of our community and the higher education landscape," says Bridget Aitchison, vice president of Indiana Wesleyan University's College of Adult and Professional Studies.

"The student has been at the heart of what we do since our beginning adult programs 26 years ago and will continue to be at the heart of what we do into the future."

When comparing educational institutions, important considerations include time commitments, financial obligations and availability of degrees or certificates.

Today's business professionals often turn to colleagues, family and friends for advice.

"Even though our program offers information sessions twice a month, we find our largest source of recruitment is through personal referral," says Ann Marie Whelan, assistant director of MBA Programs at Xavier University.

According to Xavier University, 94 percent of graduates from the Executive MBA program are extremely likely to recommend the program to a friend or colleague.

The EMBA program is designed for experienced professionals on track for top leadership positions. Coursework includes an international business trip and integrative projects that bring the business world into the classroom.

The University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business also offers an EMBA through on off-site location in Blue Ash. Using real-time, interactive video technology, students participate with faculty teaching at the university's South Bend, Ind. campus. Three " full immersion" weeks and occasional travel to South Bend allow participants to get connected with other business leaders in the program.

MAKING A CHANGE

Regular full-time MBA programs are a favorite for professionals looking to significantly alter their career paths.

"The (full-time) program is for people who are wanting to make a change and are investing in themselves," says Brad Bays, director of MBA Programs at Miami University. "It is a new platform to launch their careers."

For students who want to keep working while going to school, Xavier also offers flexible MBA options through weekend, evening, off-site and working professional programs.

The working professional program features rolling admission dates on April 1, Aug.1 and Dec. 1 to allow students to begin studies at different times.

Off-site MBA programs are located in Ohio at Deerfield and West Chester and at a newly-opened site in Fort Mitchell, Ky. The proximity does make a difference for prospective students, Whelan says.

"We find students do not have the time to drive to our main campus every week for class," Whelan says. "The off-site programs are more of a convenience to people who work, have a family or other commitments."

Xavier is not the only institution tapping the growing working professionals market: Indiana Wesleyan University, Miami University and University of Cincinnati all offer flexible schedules, online coursework or satellite classroom locations, often nestled in the heart of suburbia.

VARIETY OF FORMATS

"Our advanced business degree programs are available in a variety of formats to suit the learning style and schedule of the learner," Aitchison says.

Indiana Wesleyan University's business programs allow students to attend class one night a week at any of their 16 education centers throughout Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana; or students can study exclusively online. The university boasts an innovative Virtual MBA, conducted online in a virtual reality simulation, according to Aitchison.

For those who want a classroom experience closer to home, Miami University instituted a part-time MBA program located in West Chester at the Voice of America Learning Center.

The location, accelerated format and flexible hours are all part of a trend to tailor the educational experience to students' needs.

Miami University goes as far as providing books, offering easy payment options and removing the hassle of registration by having the Registrar input the course registrations for all students.

"We kind of take all those headaches of going back to school off the plate and provide those," Bays says.

OTHER OPTIONS

For those seeking alternatives and advanced training, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Workforce Development Center offers classes and certificates in four areas: (1) Industrial Training, (2) HAZMAT, Rescue and Safety, (3) Health Business, and (4) Professional, Managerial, Leadership and Law Enforcement.

Classes are offered in a traditional, interactive, self-paced, online or blended setting.

"About 70 percent of our classes are done at the client's site and serve about 80 organizations," says Dennis Ulrich, executive director of the Workforce Development Center.

The center works for companies such as General Electric, but also accommodates companies that approach them for customized programs that are built based on company recommendations and requests.

There are also options available for individuals through open enrollment. Increasingly, the center caters to the newly unemployed, one of their largest targeted groups.

"Our job is to go out to companies like Jim Beam that laid off workers and we talk to them about their options post employment," Ulrich says. "We want them to know they can go back (to school) and receive certificates in a specialized area."

GREEN IS GROWING

Within the last year, certificates pertaining to green technology have been the most requested among clients. "Companies want their employees to have the proper training and receive correct information about areas such as sustainability," Ulrich says.

The center received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for a bioscience manufacturing technology program. The program will train students for positions such as development operators, manufacturing technicians, CNC operators, and lab and research assistants.

"The goal is to have an individual acquire new skills and re-enter the workplace," Ulrich says.