Two-Year MBA Programs Roar Back Into Demand

Applications to two-year MBA programs have risen sharply, despite the increase in provision of online and distance learning.

Many business schools have been fretting about the surge in interest for part-time and online MBA programs, but new data show that the traditional face-to-face version of the degree is gaining ground once more.

The rise of distance learning powered by new technology has done little to quell demand for two-year MBA programs which are preferred in the US, according to the latest data from GMAC, administrators of the GMAT entry exam.

For the third consecutive year applications for full-time two-year MBA programs have reported increased demand in GMAC’s annual Application Trends Survey, released last week.

In 2014, 61% of these MBA programs reported increases in applications, up from 50% in 2013 and an increase of more than 40% since 2011.

In comparison, 60% of full-time one-year MBA programs reported a decrease in applications in 2014.

The survey reported a flattening or decrease in applications to other business school programs including some specialized master’s degrees, despite the fact that a record number of these programs are included in GMAC’s survey.

“For schools, the rise over the last three years in two-year applications is welcome,” said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO. “This echoes other research that tells us how highly students value their two-year MBA degrees for the personal, professional and financial advantages it conveys.”

Despite the increase in provision of online MBA degrees, 50% of online programs in the US reported decreases in 2014, a further fall from the 43% that reported declines last year.

However applications to part-time MBA programs have increased, but 54% are still reporting declining volume. In 2014, 44% of programs reported increases, compared with 2013 when less than a third did so.

Flexible MBA programs are also on the up, with 47% reporting increases in applications in 2014, up from 33% last year.

Executive MBA programs are still popular, with 54% of programs globally reporting increased or stable application levels. But in the US, 58% reported declining application volumes.

Most specialized master’s degrees also saw an increase in applications in 2014, as well as master of management degrees which are generalist qualifications. However, master of finance programs reported a second consecutive decrease in applications – 59% in 2014, a drop from 53% in 2013.

Increased interest in full-time two-year MBA programs in the US may be in response to recruiter demand. In May, GMAC's  Corporate Recruiters Survey revealed that four out of five companies said they planned to hire MBA graduates in 2014.

“For students, GMAC’s Corporate Recruiters Survey may very well signal a change in hiring from a cost-driven, recession-driven organizational focus, to a growth-driven focus utilizing the skills that MBA programs are designed to develop,” said Sangeet. 

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