Among Would-Be Students, One-Year MBA Options Overtake Two-Year MBAs In Popularity
The 2021 Commencement and Graduation Ceremony for the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LLC
For what is likely the first time ever, prospective business school students say they prefer one-year MBA programs over the more traditional two-year options more popular in the U.S. That is the surprising finding in the 2023 Prospective Students Survey put out today (April 10) by the Graduate Management Admission Council.
Not surprisingly, the race between those two residential MBA program types was close. In fact, GMAC concedes the result is within the margin of error for the survey completed by 2,710 respondents in 131 countries. Nonetheless, 22% of the would-be students seeking a graduate management education said they would prefer the more accelerated MBA program that costs less and involves half the time away from a paycheck. Some 20% expressed a preference for the two-year, full-time residential MBA.
The survey results (see table below) underscores the now commonly accepted notion that full-time MBA programs in the U.S. particularly are a mature product, and the preference for one-year options tilts in favor of European schools where a one-year MBA is more popular than in the U.S.
THERE ARE 23 TOP ONE-YEAR MBAS IN THE U.S.
The survey confirms Poets&Quant‘s recent observation just last month that one-year programs are having a moment. Among the top 23 one-year MBAs in the U.S., eight are at elite schools whose two-year programs are ranked in the top 25, according to a recent survey by Poets&Quants. The highest-ranked U.S. schools with one-year options are Kellogg, Cornell, Duke, NYU Stern, Emory Goizueta, USC Marshall, Notre Dame Mendoza, and SMU Cox.
In its report, GMAC notes that the two-year MBA has been the preferred program among candidates globally. “This year, the one-year MBA surpassed it as the most popular program choice, though the difference remains within the margin of error,” according to the survey. “Across generations, Gen Z is most interested in the two-year MBA and millennials are most interested in the one-year MBA,” according to the survey. “Taken together, the full-time MBA of any duration continues to surpass interest in more flexible or executive MBAs and business master’s programs.”
Users of this data must take into account the limits of the survey. For one thing, U.S. respondents account for a mere 17% of the sample, even below the 20% from Africa. For another, as the GMAT test has lost significant marketshare to the rival GRE exam, fewer people register on GMAC’s site to get ready to take the GMAT test. The surveys are sent to registered users of that site one month after they sign up and then supplemented by respondents from GMAC Tours, BusinessBecause, and registered users in India of the NMAT exam acquired by GMAC. So the sample is also likely to miss many prospective students who apply to programs where a standardized test is not required.
Still, regional preferences continue to shape what candidates choose to study. Over the past five years, business master’s degrees have been most popular among European candidates, and the share has grown about 8 points since 2018. There has also been growth in business master’s interest over the past five years among Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American candidates. Interest in business master’s degrees continues to be smallest and largely stable in North America, where the MBA still reigns supreme.
DEMAND FOR FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS STILL EXCEEDS INTEREST IN OTHER PROGRAMS
Among the report’s other conclusions:
→ The full-time MBA of any duration continues to surpass interest in more flexible or executive MBAs as well as business master’s programs.
→ Gen Z, the newest cohort entering the GME pipeline, prefers in-person, full-time learning.
→ Candidates with math/science, social science/law, and arts/humanities backgrounds are more likely to seek out professional MBAs, such as flexible or executive MBAs.
→ Offered the choice of a broad, industry, or functional focus in their degree, 30% of Gen Z sought an industry focus compared to 23% of millennials, and 32% of underrepresented U .S . candidates wanted a functional focus compared to 25 percent of non-underrepresented populations.
THE ONE-YEAR MBA OVERTAKES THE TWO-YEAR IN POPULARITY AMONG WOULD-BE STUDENTS
Source: 2023 GMAC Prospective Students Survey
The GMAC survey found that candidates in North and Latin America prefer longer programs, whereas those in the Middle East and Africa, Europe, and Asia/Pacific Islands prefer programs that last 13-18 months. The most popular ten-month MBA program in Europe is at INSEAD which has campuses in both France and Singapore for MBA students. In no region do candidates most prefer programs lasting 12 months or less, GMAC said, though it is the second choice in Europe (see below table).
REGIONAL PREFERENCES FOR FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS
Candidates in North and Latin America prefer longer programs, whereas those in the Middle East and Africa, Europe, and Asia/Pacific Islands prefer programs that last 13-18 months.
In no region do candidates most prefer programs last 12 months or less, though it is the second choice in Europe.
DON’T MISS: THE TOP ONE-YEAR MBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S. or GEN Z SOURS ON TECH JOBS, NEW GMAC SURVEY FINDS
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