GMAC’s report, based on responses from 6,500 MBA and business master’s candidates, examines how the pandemic has impacted candidates’ decisions and perceptions of a business school education.
The overwhelming majority of survey respondents said they viewed graduate management education as a path to achieving their goals, which is consistent with pre-pandemic levels. Four out of five said a graduate business education allows them to stand out in work.
Among US candidates, the Great Resignation has seen 42% choose to switch career paths by pursuing a business degree, a 10% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
“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,” says Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC.
Fewer MBA and master’s students plan to study internationally
According to GMAC, the full-time MBA continues to be the most sought-after management degree—one in four candidates prefer the two-year program, and one in five prefer the one-year format.
Yet, since the pandemic started, a larger number of candidates from traditionally mobile markets are choosing to study closer to home.
Asia saw a significant decrease in candidates wanting to study abroad, significantly impacted by China’s zero-covid strategy and restrictions on international travel for Chinese students.
In Central and South Asia, interest in studying internationally declined from 89% to 73% between 2019 and 2021, and in East and Southeast Asia, interest declined from 92% to 87% between 2020 and 2021.
Candidates from the US and Western Europe continue to be as interested in studying internationally as they were pre-pandemic.
The US holds strong, leading the list of top countries for business school candidates, with half of MBA candidates globally calling the US their preferred study destination.
Business school candidates prefer in-person and hybrid learning to 100% online
Meanwhile, despite the emphasis on online education throughout the pandemic, candidates are unsure of its effectiveness.
The majority of candidates, 73%, don’t believe an online education has the same value as on-campus programs. Four in five disagree that networking opportunities are equivalent and two in three disagree that the career opportunities are the same.
Despite the reservations about online-only learning, prospective students are embracing the emergence of hybrid models. Globally, 20% of candidates prefer a hybrid model from 14% pre-pandemic, according to GMAC.
This was particularly true with those who want to study Executive, Part-time and Flexible MBA programs, where interest in hybrid learning increased to 44% from 30% pre-pandemic. Interest in hybrid learning for full-time business master’s went to 20% from 13%, and MBAs to 13% from 7%.
GMAT and other admission tests valued by business school candidates
Despite test waivers at some schools, prospective students still strongly believe in admissions tests.
Globally, most candidates believe admissions exams aid fairness and transparency in business school admissions and see them as a tool to improve reliability in a school’s evaluation of students.
International students view tests particularly favorably. About half use the admissions test to indicate the program’s quality.
In fact, prospective students are apprehensive about test waivers, with a third of candidates globally saying waivers benefit candidates who are less prepared for a graduate business degree program.
Business schools too continue to favor the GMAT as a way to assess a candidate’s readiness for an MBA or business master’s program.
MBA & business master’s candidates want jobs in tech!
In terms of career ambitions, while consulting remains the top industry both men and women considering business school aspire to, the technology industry has seen a rise in interest.
Half of the career switchers and non-business undergraduates who answered GMAC’s survey expressed an interest in tech.
A significant takeaway was the rise of interest in tech among women, 29% to 34% from 2019 to 2021.
“As people perceive work differently after the pandemic, many become more open-minded to the variety of possible career paths they could pursue,” says Joy Jones, chief product officer and general manager of assessments at GMAC.