With the significant, growing interest in a MBA education since 2006, it is important to sketch a profile of these new candidates. It proves helpful to understand who these candidates are, what they are looking for, and what can they anticipate upon graduation.
Who are today's MBA candidates?
Even though there has been a marked increase in MBA applicants over the past several years, there has been an inverse relationship with the quality of candidates. A study by GMAC reports that almost 60% of MBA programs report that "their applicants are of better quality than those seen last year (1)."
The average age of candidates consistently shows some variance based on the region of the world. In Asia, Central Asia, and the Pacific Islands, 53% of the applicants are 24 and younger. In Europe, the largest group falls in the 25 to 30 year range at 44%. When accounting for 30 and younger, this age group represents 71% of future MBA students. The average age for Western European participants is 29, while the Eastern European age is slightly younger at 28 years old. Also of interest in profiling the MBA candidate is that Eastern European respondents to the GMAC survey were evenly split in participation by both genders. The U.S. and Canada also displayed a high level of participation by both male and female MBA applicants. The least balanced in male and female MBA pursuit is India with 85% male candidates and 15% female (2).
The MBA candidate often has work experience, especially in key fast-emerging markets. When grouping candidates that have at least one year of work experience, the four regions with the greatest amount of experienced individuals are: Central and South America with 82%; India with 87%; Eastern Europe and Africa both with 84%. In the U.S., 81% has one yearmore of work experience (3).
What is today's MBA candidate looking for in an education?
Internationally, a main shared motivating factor for pursuit of an MBA is for applicants to improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA). Women maintain human capital development as the primary driver in their MBA pursuit. Human capital includes: further developing their KSAs, pursuing opportunities for more interesting and challenging work assignments, and to increase their learning opportunities. Showing consistent variance from female trends, men place personal career development as their top priority with KSA acquisition generally being second in the ranking of motivating factors (4). In Russia, 82% of respondents state that the key objective for candidates is "to acquire new knowledge (5)." This is consistent with the global pursuit of improved KSAs.
Many MBA candidates are looking to develop their ability to understand their local business context and how it fits into the overall global business environment. This is important due to future expected shortages of experienced knowledge-workers in the next 10 to 20 years. Employers will be looking to hire candidates that possess "local knowledge with global scope (6)." In the Russian market this position is a recently developing view that is becoming more common. Some would make the case that it is better for students to study in-country so that they can deal with the complexities and realities that exist in Russian business. This is healthy when the in-country study integrates into how the specific culture and practices fit into the international context.
There is a significant focus on the importance of business and social entrepreneurships in some developing regions. This category ranked very high for Africa, India and Central Asia. In the highly developed economies of Canada, Western Europe, and the United States, this aspect ranked lower than any other category (7). While these are generalizations, there are a number of candidates in every region that are seeking to make a difference. One MBA student, Alessandro Lala, hopes to positively impact business practices in his home country of Italy. In referring to the corporate scandal in 2003 at Parmalat, Lala states that he wants to "use [his] MBA to help influence good governance within [his] future employers (8)."
The largest concernlimiting factor for potential candidates considering an MBA is the financial aspect. This includes: the cost of the program; the anticipated debt that may be necessary; and the delay of other key personal events such as marriage, the birth of a child, etc. The financial issues outlined proved to be a concern shared by 85% of applicants from all regions of the world (9). Some examples of the percentage of applicants expecting to secure a loan for their MBA education are France at 35%, Russia at 29%, and Turkey at 8% (10).
What can a MBA student anticipate after graduation?
A MBA graduate that performs well can anticipate opportunities. These opportunities usually involve job offers and/or advancement. In turn, this leads to increased compensation. According to a 2007 survey with almost 500 multi-national employers in the U.S. and Asia, a graduate degree like a MBA can allow for significant increases in salary. In some cases, as much as a 71% salary premium over those who have only an undergraduate degree is possible (11).
For graduates of executive MBA programs, salary increases are also common. According to the 2007 Executive MBA Council Survey, 2007 graduates saw an average of 21% salary increase with 41% of them receiving a promotion (12).
(1) "Application Trends Survey" of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 2007.
(2) "mba.com Registrants Survey: 2008 Comprehensive Data Report", GMAC, 2008.
(4) "mba.com Registrants Survey: 2008 Survey Report", GMAC, 2008.
(5) "Work and Study (translated title)" magazine.
(6) "TopMBA Careers - the war for talent", topmba.com, 2006.
(7) "mba.com Registrants Survey: 2008 Survey Report", GMAC, 2008.
(8) "Corporate social responsibility - a mandate for MBAs", QS TopMBA.com
(9) "mba.com Registrants Survey: 2008 Comprehensive Data Report", GMAC, 2008.
(10) "TopMBA.com Applicants Survey 2007", quoted in jobfair.ru.
(11) "Making graduate degrees pay: salary benefits for Masters and PhD candidates", QS TopGradSchool, 2007.
(12) "2007 Executive MBA Council Survey Results Offer Industry Insights", Executive MBA Council, 2007.
Brit Boone is the president of GHP in Russia. A professional development firm, GHP develops organizations and leaders. With programs ranging from career development [http://ghprussia.ru] to International and Executive MBA offerings [http://ghprussia.ru/mba.html], GHP serves a range of current and future leaders.
More information on MBA trends and development resources are available at the GHP website and blog (ghprussia.ru).
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