“Z” is for Generation Z. As in, Generation Z is coming. A new report from the Graduate Management Admission Council offers a peek into the future pipeline of business school candidates: Gen Z: A First Look at the Next Generation of Graduate Business School Candidates includes responses from more than 1,300 Gen Zers — defined as those born between 1996 and 2012 — showing that business schools would be wise to pay attention to this growing demographic, if they aren’t already. That’s because the preferences and aspirations of these prospective students are likely game changers in management education.
GMAC’s report is the outcome of a survey distributed to mba.com registrants. The report shares responses of 1,317 Gen Z prospects from 10 different global regions and 7,466 in the same regions who are millennials. Input from both groups offers noteworthy comparisons between the current generation and the one that’s to come.
GEN Z QUICKER TO CONSIDER A BUSINESS MASTER’S, SLOWER TO ACT
An initial look into the crystal ball shows the next generation of business school candidates are considering graduate management education much sooner than their millennial counterparts. According to the survey, Gen Z candidates currently in the pipeline first considered pursuing graduate management education nearly two years before completing their undergraduate degrees.
The same look at median number of months for millennials? Not until eight months after graduation did they pre-contemplate.
However, after the initial thought, Gen Z prospects are much slower to act. They take longer to complete an application and enroll, and even longer to formulate an initial list of target programs.
STRONG PREFERENCES FOR PROGRAM TYPE AND LENGTH
Speaking of business programs to consider, here’s where a major shift could occur. While most of the Gen Z and millennial respondents shared that they are considering business for their graduate education (not surprising given that they are registrants of the mba.com website), more of the Z generation say they are exclusively looking at a business master’s of some kind rather than the long-coveted MBA. What’s more, almost 65% flat out say a business master’s is what they prefer.
Meanwhile, the opposite rings true for Gen Z’s predecessor, the millennials, who prefer the MBA at a rate of 64%.
In addition to program type, B-schools should consider the length of their offerings if they’re looking to act based on GMAC’s findings. While the overwhelming majority (91%) of Gen Z respondents prefer full-time programs, nearly half of the Z crowd say they’d like a program that’s somewhere between 13 and 18 months in duration. In other words, a good four to six months shorter than a typical two-year full-time MBA option. Not only this, but another 30% say they’d prefer their master’s program to be condensed even more than 13-18 months.
THE STATUS OF THE MBA
Much of the report’s findings support others that point to a decline in interest for the MBA and students’ desire for more flexible, more convenient options. From the closure of prominent MBA programs to the growing preference for more specialized choices, the question has been raised: Are MBA programs dying?
Not only this, but another report earlier this year found that the digital era could stand to disrupt things completely as nontraditional programs and digital badges — think online workshops and courses, MOOCS, Coursera, and the like — grow in popularity.
Still, all hope is not lost for B-Schools and their MBA programs. Survey data from Poets&Quants has revealed healthy increases in MBA applications during the 2016-17 application cycle. At least 16 of the top 25 U.S. schools reported application increases, four of which showed double-digit increases in the number of candidates.