MBA still the king of business degrees

131014 alumni graduates cap and gown 324x308A worldwide survey of prospective graduate-level business students finds that although the MBA is still the most sought-after degree, close to half the candidates are considering non-MBA master’s programs in business, and one in five isn’t thinking about an MBA at all.

The latest report from the annual GMAC Prospective Students Survey of more than 12,000 global candidates finds that in the past five years, those focusing exclusively on specialized master’s degrees increased from 13 percent to 20 percent, as candidates exclusively considering MBAs declined from 55 percent to 53 percent. Meanwhile, crossover demand — prospects considering both MBA and non-MBA specialized master’s programs in business — declined from about a third to a quarter.

The Graduate Management Admission Council conducted the survey of prospective business students who registered on, the web portal for those interested in graduate business education and the official website of the GMAT exam.

“Business schools are drawing more diverse students overall, but they are finding the applicant pools becoming more distinct,” said Gregg Schoenfeld, GMAC director of survey research. Candidate interest in program types vary:

  • Men are more likely than women to focus on MBA programs. Sixty percent of the men and 45 percent of the women considered pursuing only MBA programs.
  • Women are more likely than men to focus on specialized master’s in business programs. Twenty-seven percent of women and 15 percent of men considered these specialty degrees.
  • Candidates 24 and younger of both genders (31 percent of the women and 29 percent of the men) are more likely than older candidates (26 percent of women and 19 percent of men) to think about both types of programs. Overall, women (29 percent) are more likely than men (24 percent) to keep study options open.

Wide regional variations in prospective student demographics, motivations, and intentions are seen, as students pursue graduate management degrees to further careers in a variety of fields, from finance/accounting to healthcare to government/non-profit and entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, there are some persistent commonalities among prospective students worldwide:

  • Primary motivations for pursuing a graduate management degree include increasing job opportunities, developing business knowledge, and increasing salary potential.
  • No matter where students preferred to study, the quality of the educational system in that country or location was a key factor.

“Despite the diversity of candidates, demographically, geographically, and in their program orientation, prospects tend to seek quality education to improve their career prospects,” Schoenfeld said.


Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (