The Three Types of Business School Students
You’re probably aware of the typecasting ascribed to MBA students. Some label them as partiers who haven’t quite gotten college (or high school) out of their system. Others dismiss them as the lost souls who confront their quarter life crisis by retreating back to campus to figure out who they are and what they want to do. Of course, you’ll always have the ambitious set – the ones who’ve already checked all the boxes and view their two-year stint as finishing school.
Are such stereotypes on target? Admit it: You probably know someone who loosely fits one of those descriptions. In the end, people tend to defy labels. But they still share some common traits. According to the latest GMAC survey, 65% of prospective graduate business students are looking to enhance their job opportunities. Others want to boost their skills to prepare them for a transition – either to leadership or a different specialty or industry. And some carry a grand vision that they hope the curriculum and connections can help them realize.
Based on GMAC’s new research, derived surveys conducted with nearly 12,000 potential graduate business students globally in 2014, there are actually three types of business students – and none of them involve power drinkers, daydream believers, or prissy preppies.
The first category is comprised of Career Enhancers (34% of survey). As their name suggests, they are looking to earn a promotion through increasing their technical expertise and effectiveness. According to GMAC, they are more likely to be “female, younger than 24 years of age, and reside in AsiaPacific, Europe, and the United States. They also tend to have undergraduate degrees in a business discipline.” Career enhancers are most concerned with the cost-to-benefit ratio. “They are hesitant about the prospects of an uncertain job market,” writes GMAC, “and feel they may miss out on job opportunities if they return to school.”
Career Switchers encompass 38% of the sample. Looking to move into new job functions or industries, this group is in decline, falling eight points from their 46% high in 2010. GMAC describes the group as “more likely to be 24 years of age and older and reside in Canada and the United States. They typically have earned an undergraduate degree in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, and engineering.” For this group, GMAC reports, a graduate business degree is more transactional, giving them a professional credential, greater freedom, and more challenging and interesting work. Tuition costs tend to be their biggest worry.
Aspiring Entrepreneurs are the smallest (28%) yet fastest-growing group (19% in 2010). As you’d expect, they plan to use their degree to launch a business. Nearly a third are out of work, with the majority residing in the “Middle East and Africa, Central and South Asia, and Latin America.” Ironically, they are the idealists of the group, with GMAC writing that their educational pursuits are also motivated by “helping to solve some of the world’s problems and increasing their impact on their communities.” At the same time, they see their education as a means towards leadership skills and a wider network.
Can you relate? If so, these groups often pursue different degrees to help them achieve their goals. Career enhancers, for example, are the biggest consumers of specialty master’s degrees, particularly in accounting, finance, and taxation. Not surprisingly, career switchers opt for MBA degrees (and joint MBA degree programs). Aspiring entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are open to both degrees, along with specialty Master’s degrees in areas like engineering, real estate, project, and international management.
Among the three groups, the full-time two-year and full-time one-year MBA was the most popular degree. 40% of prospective students were considering the two-year degree while 39% chose the one year option. They were followed by the Part-Time MBA (23%), Master’s of Finance (22%), and Flexible MBA (19%). The Executive MBA and Online MBA had far less appeal, with 13% and 12% of respondents considering it.
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