There’s a fascinating chart in the most recent issue of The Economist which shows the incredible growth of the MBA, now the second most popular postgraduate degree in the U.S. after education. What makes the chart so compelling is how the degree has completely overtaken law and medicine.
Some four decades ago, U.S. colleges graduated near equal numbers of lawyers and MBAs. Today, MBA grads outnumber J.D. grads by nearly four to one. And with many law schools struggling to fill classes, that ratio is likely to tip further in favor of the MBA even though growth in recent years has slowed in full-time, two-year MBA programs and domestic applicants to those programs has essentially flatlined.
As The Economist explains, institutions offering the MBA in Asia have simply exploded. Many of these programs are weak, subpar imitations of the real thing so it’s a boom that is not going to last. India now boasts roughly 2,000 business schools, more than any other country. China has an estimated 250 MBA programs that now graduate about 30,000 students each year. The Economist points out that this is less than half the number it will need over the next decade, according to Hao Hongrui of DHD, a consultancy.
Of course, the big question is whether the U.S. is producing too many MBAs for the market. For students and alumni of the top 25 or top 50 programs that’s almost an irrelevant question because the value of the degree is holding strong. But it could very well become a bigger issue for schools that can’t get into the first- or second-tier.
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