Are You A Status Seeker? A Career Revitalizer?

Courtesy GMAC

Courtesy GMAC

So you’re considering going to business school. What’s your motivation? Do you want to get ahead in your career, or perhaps give it a jump-start? Are you looking to change the world for the better, or do you just want to make more money?

No matter where in the world you live, depending on your answer you probably fall into one of seven categories identified in a recent study by the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Rather than learn more about who applies to which graduate management education (GME) programs — in other words, typical demographic information — GMAC sought information on why they do so, and found that motivations could be segmented by type.

Status Seekers are motivated by a desire to be a role model, to make their family proud, and to stand out from others. Global Strivers want to gain international exposure and access to employment opportunities in other countries. Balanced Careerists want more stability and advancement in their jobs. Career Revitalizers want to reinvent themselves.

Socioeconomic Climbers want to earn more money, improve their socioeconomic status, and give their children a better future. Skill Upgraders want to improve their skills in leadership and management. And Impactful Innovators want to improve specific skills so they can make a greater social impact.


GMAC President Sangeet Chowfla

GMAC President Sangeet Chowfla

The GMAC study, conducted with market research agency IPSOS, offers a detailed look not only into the mindsets and attitudes of GME candidates but also how many schools they apply to, when in their career timeline they apply, what matters most to them when they select schools to apply to, and many other questions.

Unlike studies that focus on demographic factors, studies on motivation that yield these kinds of segmentations are universal, says GMAC President and CEO Sangeet Chowfla, avoiding cultural bias and remaining stable over time. That makes them more valuable, but also more difficult to undertake. GMAC interviewed 5,900 candidates to business master’s programs in 15 countries, including the U.S., India, China, the UK, France, Germany, and Russia, employing 12 different languages to avoid the cultural bias that might arise from strictly using English. Moreover, only those who had applied to a graduate program in business — whether an MBA or specialized master’s degree in business — within the last 24 months were included in the study.

“We did not approach it from the lens of who had applied to a particular type of school or who had taken a GMAT exam,” Chowfla says. “We really got a sample which represented a population of who had applied to a different kind of degree, to any kind of graduate management degree.”


While each of the seven segments exists in all 15 countries in the study, Chowfla says, they exist to a different degree. In the U.S., for example — as in the whole study — the largest segment is the Status Seeker, “primarily defined as an individual to whom getting an MBA, the labeled fact that you’ve got an MBA, is perhaps the biggest driver.” In India, the most “over-represented” segment is Global Strivers; in Germany, Balanced Careerists; in China, Career Revitalizers. Regardless of the range to which they exist, “you find these psychographic profiles are available pretty much in any country that we have studied,” Chowfla says.

The study includes a rich amount of detail. Thirty-eight percent of Status Seekers applied to only one school; the average for the segment was 2.4 schools. Global Strivers’ biggest challenge is obtaining funds/financing; same for Socioeconomic Climbers, though for Skills Upgraders it’s taking admissions exams. The top school selection criterion for Balanced Careerists is that it be close to home to make for an easier commute; Impactful Innovators are more concerned with academic reputation, and Career Revitalizers with the quality of the faculty.

“We found that if for example you were to take a look at what we call the Global Striver, defined as somebody who is really trying to build a global or a multinational career, those people tend to gravitate towards full-time MBA programs and they research their journey extensively,” Chowfla says. “And if you compare that with what we call the Balanced Careerist, that is somebody who is looking for career development, but within the context of work-life balance … it is often a question of family, so he or she has a much higher propensity to look at part-time programs. So you start seeing pretty sharp differences in the kind of candidates and their journeys.”

Chowfla says the study will continue with a deep-dive into data on three countries, the U.S., China, and India, with results expected to be released in the next two months.

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