Tech is where it’s at. Employer demand for digital skills has created a significant rise in the number of students choosing technology-related business master’s degrees. That’s the top takeaway from the newly released 2022 Tomorrow’s Masters study, by UK-based consulting firm CarringtonCrisp and management development network EFMD, which reveals that four of the top seven business master’s subjects are technology-related, including generic business IT, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, and big data/business analytics.
The polling data also contained a warning for business schools: Nearly two-thirds of prospective students in the poll said they are open to other ways to advance their careers besides a master’s degree. Meanwhile, the demographics of those interested in graduate business education is shifting.
“With almost all organizations having to embrace digital as part of their day-to-day operations, there is high demand for people who can bridge technology and management,” says Andrew Crisp, author of the study. “These results compound data from our latest study of prospective MBA students, who chose artificial intelligence as the second most valuable MBA subject.
“At the same time, we are discovering that the audience for master’s degrees is changing — broadening beyond recent graduates to include more older workers who are looking to add or update their skills.”
37% LOOKING FOR PRACTICAL SKILLS FROM A MASTER’S PROGRAM
The 2022 Tomorrow’s Master’s study polled 1,668 respondents from 26 countries, with the largest group coming from India, and Brazil, China, France, Germany, Nigeria, Scandinavia, the UK and the United States each providing 5% or more of the sample. No single nation provided more than 8% of the respondents.
The study asked what and how prospective B-school students wanted to study, as well as their motivations for seeking additional qualifications. It found that while their main motivation for studying a business master’s degree was to increase earnings potential, over a third (37%) said their ideal master’s would provide practical skills to apply in their jobs and careers.
Technology-enabled teaching has also seen a big boom in popularity, with 38% saying that they would prefer to study for a wholly online or blended degree, up 18% from last year. However, in-person teaching remains the most popular route for students, at 42%.
STUDENTS SEEK ‘MORE FLEXIBLE & TAILORED FORMS OF LEARNING’
In a warning to B-schools, the study also found that while 62% of prospective students are more likely to study a master’s than a year ago, 62% are also considering other study options to support their career. The study found increased demand for shorter, flexible and personalized short programs. For example, a third were very interested in studying for so-called micromasters as and when they needed them in their career, rather than a traditional full-time master’s degree over one or two years.
The report also corroborated other recent surveys and reports on the rise of social impact as a major consideration for B-school students and applicants. Around 7 in 10 respondents wanted additional content in their degree covering ethical leadership, responsible management, diversity and equality, and global challenges.
“Undoubtedly, the fact that a growing number of established business schools are offering fully online master’s is attracting students,” Crisp says. “But with students telling us that the cost of studying is their second most important consideration, shorter, skills-based courses from online providers are extremely tempting. There is a challenge for business schools in addressing this competition through more flexible and tailored forms of learning.”
NEW FINDINGS COMPORT WITH OTHER RECENT STUDIES
The new figures come against a backdrop of increased interest in business master’s degrees. Application data from the Graduate Management Admission Council found 42% of programs noting an increase in master’s degree applications in 2021, rising to 52% in Europe and 68% in Asia.
The new findings are also in concert with a poll of more than 1,000 B-school students in 96 countries released by EFMD last week showing one-third lack confidence in their knowledge as they prepare to enter “Industry 4.0.” Among that report’s key findings:
- 30% fear that they lack the digital skills to prepare for employment
- Almost 9 in 10 believe that skills such as data analytics and search engine marketing are now considered “entry-level” requirements
- 71% believe that senior leaders have a poor understanding of digital skills and Industry 4.0
In that report, job seekers indicated that they believe they need more than their university studies to land their preferred role: 86% stated that their university degree alone would not be enough to get them a job in their preferred industry. When asked how universities/B-schools could improve to help them get a job, 65% said: “integration of employment skills into degree programs.”
Learn more about the top MBA programs in the United States that feed the tech industry here.
And see more on the new CarringtonCrisp/EFMD report on the next page