Starting a Business is Now One of the Top Reasons to Take an MBA

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Tomorrows MBA 2016Starting a business has become one of the top five motivations to study an MBA, reveals the 2016 edition of the Tomorrow’s MBA study by CarringtonCrisp, supported by EFMD.

The study, conducted amongst 1,000 MBA applicants worldwide, found that almost one in five (20%) were considering an MBA in order to start their own business. Entrepreneurship was rated as the fifth most valuable piece of content in an MBA degree, up from 10th in the previous year’s study.

Amongst those considering a specialist MBA, entrepreneurship is now in the top four most popular choices (10%), along with IT (10%), international management (11%) and finance (15%).

The study’s other key findings include:

·       More women (42%) responded to the survey than ever before – an indication in line with other industry studies that efforts by business schools to attract more female students are working.

·       However, male and female applicants differed on a number of elements when considering an MBA. For MBA course content, ‘leadership’ is more popular with men (40%) than women (29%). Conversely, 16% of women value ‘ethics’ as important course content compared to only 5% of men.

·       26% of respondents prefer a blended or online MBA.

·       Career planning and job searching is vital, with almost three quarters (72%) wanting to know that it is integrated into the student experience.

·       Some elements of MBA programmes seen by many schools as important were not highly valued by MBA applicants – including varied electives (8%), small class sizes (9%) and international study tours (11%).  For course content, corporate social responsibility was seen as most valuable by only 6% of respondents.

·       Google (38%) and LinkedIn (24%) were seen as the most important digital channels for deciding when to study. The Financial Times was comfortably the most important ranking (37%), followed by Forbes (27%) and Business Week (25%).

Entrepreneurship has been a growing trend for a number of years and is now firmly a key motivation for a lot of people to embark on an MBA. It presents an opportunity to those schools that are able to market their entrepreneurial expertise, but it also poses some interesting challenges.

Andrew Crisp, author of the report comments: “Schools need to consider if entrepreneurship is taught in its own right or integrated throughout a degree programme. They also should look at the sometimes differing needs of entrepreneurs and those students looking for more corporate roles. From an external perspective, it will be interesting to see what impact an increased number of graduates starting their own businesses will have on MBA rankings, where increases in post graduate salaries play an important part.”

The good news from the study is the indication that more women are interested in an MBA. Women represented 42% of respondents – since the study started in 2009 the percentage of female respondents had not risen above 38% until this year and has been as low as 26%. As with an increased focus on entrepreneurship, the successful schools are going to be the ones that are smart about marketing to both male and female applicants and then meeting their study needs where they do differ.

Google and LinkedIn were by far and away the most popular digital tools for applicants and their increased prominence provides a wonderful opportunity to business schools to segment and carefully target their marketing and recruitment efforts. Despite the advances in technology however, human contact remains key in deciding if the applicant and school are compatible. The most impactful marketing for schools is to combine human contact and technology – with one to one meetings with school staff (37%) and school website (39%) seen as having the biggest impact.

As well as a number of newer trends, the study reinforces certain factors that are ever present for MBA applicants when choosing a business school. A school’s academic reputation is the most important factor for both men (39%) and women (40%). Along with teaching quality, this has consistently been one of the most important elements since the study began.

Andrew Crisp concludes: “Since the financial crisis in 2009, there have been reports of the demise of the MBA. Our study shows that it is certainly not dead, but undergoing significant change. Competition is growing around the world, there are demands for different styles of delivery and importantly, students are ever more focused on their future career when judging value for money, with a growing number thinking that career may mean starting their own business.”

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