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The MBA Degree Is Now Seen As A Route Into Entrepreneurship—QS Application Trends Report

The most common 10-year goal among MBA applicants is to start their own business, while scholarships are increasingly important, according to latest research from QS

By  Phil Cottrell

Tue Mar 13 2018

The annual QS Applications and Aspirations Report 2018 has been released, discussing the opinions of 3,850 MBA applicants who responded to the QS Applicant Survey during the 2016-to-17 academic year.

The report shares diverse insights from these prospective students, who reside in 127 different countries. The report highlights the aspirations, study preferences, and demographic trends of a global pool of future business leaders.

Running their own business is the most common goal for applicants in 10 years’ time, showing that a spirit of entrepreneurship among applicants is strong. Applicants clearly look to business schools to fulfil a promise of transformation to help them reach ambitious goals.

Alongside running their own business (chosen as an option by 60.5% of applicants), respondents also aspired to be a director in a large company (51.7%), or CEO of a company (49.4%).

What sources are applicants using to decide which institution is right for them?

Nine in 10 MBA candidates apply to more than one business school, while nearly three in 10 (27.9%) are likely to apply to six or more.

The report shows that business schools are largely in control of the most useful sources of information used in the decision-making process. Applicants start by making general online searches and exploring various rankings publications. 98.8% of applicants visit official websites, with 95.9% finding them useful or very useful.

Discussions with admissions staff (96.5% of those who had discussions found them useful or very useful) and alumni (95.8%) can be particularly important too, and were rated as some of the most useful sources of information by applicants.  

Business schools should see these findings as an opportunity to ensure they are maximizing their efforts in attracting top MBA talent.

The US (chosen as a potential study destination by 58.7% of respondents) and the UK (36.9%) remain the world’s most popular study destinations, but their dominance could be weakening as applicants increasingly consider other destinations.

Canada (34.5%) is close behind the UK as a possible destination choice, while Australia (25.2%), Germany (22.4%), and France (19.3%) also appear more frequently on the radars of applicants. The decisive factor for most candidates is where they plan to work after completing their MBA, chosen by 36.6% of applicants. This was only marginally behind the most selected reason for destination choice, international recognition of qualifications (selected by 36.7%).

Asian destinations are also popular, with Singapore making the top-10 most popular destinations this year in 8th place (considered by 14.3% of respondents), and India not far behind in 11th place (considered by 10.1% of respondents).

The Scholarship Expectation

Obtaining an MBA can be very expensive, in terms of both time and money. Few embark upon an MBA without carefully considering the return on investment to be had, as well as the long-term benefits of the degree.

The Applications and Aspirations Report 2018 highlights just how significantly financial considerations are on the minds of prospective MBA students.

The number one reason for MBA applicants to select a specific institution is the availability of scholarships and financial aid, selected by 49.3% of this year’s respondents. The third most selected response is affordability (35.7%).

Given the rising education costs in much of the world, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is the case. The average MBA applicant expects to fund 33.3% of his or her degree with personal or family savings. Incredibly, 41% of respondents said they would no longer consider pursuing a graduate degree if they did not receive some form of scholarship.

Is Entrepreneurship displacing traditional specializations?

In terms of the most popular MBA specializations, respondents to the Applicant Survey chose entrepreneurship and innovation (considered by 35.6% of respondents) as the number one choice.

Traditional MBA specializations such as international management (34.6%), general business (24.9%), strategy (32.6%), and finance (29.1%) are still prominently featured on the list of the most considered study options. Entrepreneurial skills, however, are being sought by MBA applicants as much, if not more, than they ever have been, and it isn’t just applicants that desire these skills.

The QS Jobs & Salary Report 2018 reflects that employers of MBAs are increasingly looking for hires with entrepreneurial skills—companies now seek those who can think beyond traditional management techniques.

The full Applications and Aspirations Report 2018 discusses these and other global, and regional trends, in greater detail.