Even with Great Resignation and inflation, 80% of grad students value business degrees

MBA programs continue to be popular with those who are switching careers, and they like hybrid options.

Though costs can be steep and the temptation of a wide-open job market exists, prospective business students intent on seeing their careers soar are still very interested in pursuing degrees from graduate management schools. Across the world, four out of five candidates say the extra credentials will help them increase their opportunities in workplaces of the future.

“While the pandemic has altered aspects of the graduate management education landscape, the fundamental perceptions of the value of graduate management education generally and the MBA specifically continue to stay strong,” said Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which surveyed 6,500 students for its annual Prospective Students Survey. “While there continue to be evolutions in candidate’s preferred study destinations, delivery formats, career paths and perceptions of admissions testing policies, if there were ever any concerns that the pandemic and its effects would diminish business school aspirants’ perceptions of the value of a degree, the latest GMAC findings should help put them to rest.”

One positive report Monday came from Boston College, which said enrollment grew across its graduate schools in 2021-22, jumping by more than 23% for its full-time MBA program, while its yield rose 10%. “All of the schools worked very hard during a year when the pandemic dictated that only virtual recruitment was possible,” said Adam Poluzzi, assistant vice provost for graduate enrollment management. “It’s truly a remarkable achievement across the board, given what was essentially a two-year disruption.”

Not all schools saw the same kinds of increases. And a report from Quacquarelli Symonds in February noted that half of business schools administrators expected lower application numbers this year, with would-be students driven into the market by inflation and the glut of openings. “Potential MBA candidates in North America are currently thinking ‘job-first’ and not considering taking time out of their careers to study,” said Nunzio Quacquarelli, founder and CEO of QS. But Quacquarelli also didn’t deny the value of an MBA, calling it the “gold standard” for graduate students pursuing management education.

QS highlighted the multiple modality options available to prospective students, and surveyed students by GMAC agreed, saying they loved the idea of attending a hybrid program. In one year, that preference grew by 14% to 44% overall for all MBA program types. Still, about three-quarters of students want some form of in-person learning, with 80% saying that a fully online degree path is not as robust or valued as one that is face-to-face.

More from UB: Are business schools really providing good ROI?

Though the Great Resignation has created chaos for many employers—and produced more than 11 million openings—it has opened up some intriguing options for students, GMAC’s report highlights. More than 40% of those polled were career-switchers that are interested in enhancing their portfolios with business degrees, and half are interested in the tech sector.

“As people perceive work differently after the pandemic, many become more open-minded to the variety of possible career paths they could pursue. It is encouraging to see that more women are pursuing a business degree as a way to build careers in the tech industry,” said Joy Jones, chief product officer and general manager of assessments at GMAC. “Graduate business education opens the door to a wide array of industries and job functions, including areas that are less thought about or not previously considered by traditional candidates seeking to enter business schools.”

One of the areas of interest for higher education admissions leaders since the lifting of pandemic restrictions has been finding ways to reach more international students. Despite becoming more open for travel, even more mobile markets like Asia haven’t seen students returning to study in the U.S. at pre-pandemic levels, with some still down by 15%. The U.S. still remains the top choice of 50% of all MBA candidates, well ahead of Western Europe, which is chosen more for those pursuing business master’s degrees. It is unclear how the evolving situation in Ukraine might impact numbers further.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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