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One-Year MBA Overtakes Two-Year MBA In Popularity Among Those Considering B-School

A new study from the Graduate Management Admission Council found one-year MBA programs are now more popular among b-school candidates than two-year degrees

Fri Apr 14 2023

The one-year MBA has surpassed the two-year MBA in popularity among business school candidates, according to the 2023 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Prospective Students Survey.

Since 2019, the two-year MBA has been the top option for those considering business school, but the one-year format narrowly overtook it this year. Among the potential students taking part in the survey, 22% cited a one-year degree versus 20% for two-years. 

While there was a contest between the one-year and two-year format, the full-time MBA of any duration remained the most popular degree program to study, beating out interest in more...

le or executive MBAs, as well as business master's programs.

Program preferences differ between generations

Generation is a notable differentiator between those who preferred the one-year and two-year MBA format.

The GMAC study found Gen Z candidates were more likely to prefer the two-year MBA option while Millennials were opting for the one-year MBA. 

When given a choice between broad, industry, or functional focused degrees, 30% of Gen Z—the generation that is increasingly entering b-school—chose an industry focus compared with 23% of millennials. 

Industry-focused degrees prepare students for different variations of work in a particular sector, while a functional focus gives students a specific skillset that they can use across various industries. 

These focuses offer a more explicit path for MBA students after graduation than a more generalist MBA and demonstrate the younger generations' preference for stability and practicality. 

Regional differences in program preference

Alongside generational differences, the survey also revealed that a candidate's home region influences their study choices.

Globally, prospective students preferred 13-18 month programs. However, in North and Latin America, candidates opted for a longer duration of 19 months or more. 

Also, respondents interested in studying abroad were more likely to opt for shorter programs than those who wanted to study domestically. 

The internationally-minded candidates' preference was 13-18 months (37%), 19 months (26%), and 12 months or less (22%). Among those interested in studying domestically, their preference was 19 months (35%), 13-18 months (31%), and 12 months or less (18%).

In European markets, candidates' interest in business masters continues to surpass MBAs, an ongoing trend since 2018. 

As many as 59% of European respondents prefer business master's degrees, much higher than the 18% of North Americans, while interest in the Middle East and Africa has been on the rise over the past five years, growing from 26% to 42%.

Preferences differ depending on undergraduate degrees 

The study also revealed that candidates with business or undergraduate economic majors were more likely to be attracted to any business school degrees, with business master's degrees much more likely to be preferred by those candidates (70%).

Those with undergraduate engineering or computer science majors were the most likely to seek out full-time MBA programs (38%) over other options available at business school, and respondents with arts and humanities backgrounds were more likely to seek out professional MBAs, such as flexible or executive MBAs (13%).

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