No other Business Degree can replace MBA

Three in four prospective graduate business school candidates who hold a prior Master's degree are considering enrolling in MBA programmes, according to a new research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Findings from the Council's 2017 Prospective Students Survey Report released shows that the MBA remains the predominant programme format considered by candidates with both prior business master's degrees (61 per cent) and non-business Master's degrees (86 per cent).

Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC  said that these findings demonstrate that a business master's degree is not necessarily the end of graduates' business education. For many, their business master's degree is a stepping stone to continued professional development that may include an MBA down the road, in either a full-time or part-time format.

According to the survey report, globally, 22 per cent of prospective business school candidates have a prior Master's degree, with considerable regional variation. While 2 in 5 European candidates have a prior Master's-level credential, the same is true of just 14 per cent of US candidates.

Globally, the percentage of candidates considering only business Master's degrees such as Master of Finance, Master of Accounting, and Master in Management has increased from 15 per cent in 2009 to 23 per cent in 2016.

This rise in interest has been particularly strong among candidates from East and Southeast Asia and Western Europe, where now more than 2 in 5 candidates report considering only these programme types. Also, Non-MBA and MBA programmes attract distinct candidate pools seeking different outcomes. Candidates considering non-MBA business master's programmes skew younger and the majority have little to no prior work experience.

Compared with MBA candidates, individuals preferring business master's programs are more interested in developing their technical skills. MBA candidates are typically older, have more years of work experience, and are more interested in developing their managerial and leadership skills.

Nearly 3 in 5 prospective business school students (59 per cent) intend to apply to programmes outside their country of residence, up from 44 per cent in 2009.

Most candidates seek study opportunities outside their country of citizenship to receive a higher-quality education (63 per cent of respondents), to increase their chance of securing international employment (58 per cent), and to expand their international connections (51 per cent). One-third (34 per cent) of candidates who prefer to study outside their country of citizenship intend to seek employment in the country where they prefer to attend school.

Consistent with past research, more than 9 in 10 US candidates prefer to study domestically (96 per cent). Globally, among full-time MBA candidates looking to study outside their country of citizenship, 58 per cent prefer to study in the US, down from 61 per cent in 2009. Since 2009, there has been an increase in MBA candidates preferring to study in Canada (4 per cent in 2009 vs. 7 per cent in 2016).

There has been a similar shift in preferred study destinations among non-U.S. candidates interested in business Master's programs. In 2016, 47 per cent of non-US prospective students interested in business Master's programmes expressed a preference for study in the U S down from 57per cent in 2009.

Anticipated changes in US immigration policies and last year's Brexit vote in the United Kingdom may make it more difficult for non-citizens to obtain student visas to study in those countries or to obtain work visas after graduation to seek employment, one of the main reasons for studying in those countries.

Since November 2016, a growing share of international candidates say they are now less likely to pursue a graduate business degree in the US due to the presidential election results.

Approximately half of surveyed candidates indicate that not having enough money available to pay for their education (52 percent of respondents) and potentially having to take on large debts (47 per cent) may prevent them from pursuing a graduate business degree

The two most important financial aspects that candidates evaluate when deciding where to apply are total tuition costs and scholarship availability.

Compared with 2009, candidates, on average, expect to cover a greater share of the cost of their education with grants, fellowships, and scholarships and a smaller share with parental support, loans, and employer assistance.

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