Slight Decline In MBA Program Interest

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by John A. Byrne on

A slight weakening in interest for MBA programs is occurring among prospective business school students, reported the Graduate Management Admission Council today (March 13). Two-year, one-year full-time MBA and part-time MBA programs saw the largest declines, according to a the organization’s annual survey of prospective students. There were also slight declines in the percentage of respondents considering flexible MBA and executive MBA programs, while consideration of online/distance learning programs remained stable. Master-level programs in accounting and finance, on the other hand, experienced increased student interest.

The percentage of prospective students considering two-year, full-time MBA programs this past year fell to 42%, down five percentage points from 47% in 2009 and 46% in 2010, said GMAC. And the decline wasn’t made up by those interested in pursuing full-time one-year programs. Consideration of those shorter MBA fell to 38% this past year, down four percentage points from the 42% figure in both 2009 and 2010 (see table below). The waning interest in the MBA degree follows reports by many business schools last year of declines in application volume.


Source: Graduate Management Admission Council 2011 Prospective Student Survey

Yet, when it comes to deciding whether to pursue a business school degree, the most important motivation almost always has to do with getting and keeping a better paying job. The study found that three of the top four reasons why most people apply to business school is for increased job opportunities, higher salary potential, and to accelerate their career paths. The chance to develop business knowledge, skills and abilities came in third (in the table below, GMAC uses the acronym KSAs to describe it). Men and women equally shared the top four motivations shown below. More men, however, cited the development of leadership skills as their fifth highest motivator; while women cited the desire to remain marketable and competitive as their fifth highest motivational factor, GMAC said.


Source: Graduate Management Admission Council 2011 Prospective Student Survey

GMAC said that respondents of all ages shared the top three motivations shown above. Prospective students aged 30 and younger were more likely than older respondents to be motivated by a desire to accelerate their career path and develop leadership skills, whereas older respondents wished to remain marketable and competitive and obtain the credentials afforded by a graduate business education.

Prospective students varied more widely when citing motivating factors by undergraduate degree, however (see table on next page). Would-be students with science backgrounds were highly motivated by a desire to  develop their skill base and increase their forward momentum in their careers. Business majors saw graduate business education as a means to compete more effectively in the job market. Humanities  and social science majors were similar in that they desired to expand their potential career prospects.

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  • kingfalcon

    This is potentially great news. The question is whether less qualified or highly qualified students are dropping out. I know there is no way to determine that at this point, but I’ll prepare for the former and hope for the latter. 

  • Jimmy

    Hello John. You’re incredible: freshly available and you already make an article about GMAC survey ! Thanks for your work. As far as I am concerned, I think it is not a stupid plan to go back to university during a massive slowdown of the economy. Just hope that the 2014 prospects will be good for those who enter an MBA class next september !

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