Specialized Master’s Degrees in Business Gain Popularity

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23% of applicants who are undecided about where to apply turn to admissions consultants to help them make that decision.

GMAC’s recent mba.com Prospective Students Survey reveals that even though MBA degrees still come in first as the most sought-after graduate business degree, close to half of prospective business graduate students are considering non-MBA business master’s programs, and one in five prospective students isn’t considering an MBA at all.

Here are some additional findings from the survey:

  • Candidates focusing exclusively on specialized master’s degrees increased from 13% to 20%.
  • Candidates focusing exclusively on MBAs decreased from 55% to 53%.
  • Those interested in both non-MBA and MBA business degrees decreased from about 33% to about 25%.
  • 60% of men considered pursuing only MBA programs, while for women, that percentage was at 45%.
  • On the other hand, women were more likely than men to pursue specialized master’s in business programs – at 27% of women compared to 15% of men.
  • Younger candidates (aged 24 and younger) are more likely to consider both non-MBA and MBA business degrees than are older candidates.

My thoughts

On an egocentric note, I find the growing appeal of the specialized masters programs to be somewhat gratifying. Based on salary data in GMAC‘s 2012 Year-end Poll of Employers, I urged college grads then to consider specialized masters programs. (See “Grad Degrees that Lead to Jobs” for the details.) Now not all grads may have heard the word from me, but clearly the news that specialized masters’ grads have professional opportunity and jobs has contributed to increased applicant interest.

I took note of other data in the survey, specifically the fact that 23% of applicants who are undecided about where to apply turn to admissions consultants to help them make that decision. That’s still not in the top 10 of resources (family and friends are #1), but admissions consultants weren’t even mention in the 2011 Prospective Students Survey as sources of information. Clearly more and more applicants are turning to consultants.

The true value of this report is for schools much more than applicants. You know what you want, but the schools, and companies like Accepted, need to understand better what you value. So thanks for sharing your thoughts.

In a few weeks I’ll attend the annual AIGAC conference. A highlight of that event is the release of AIGAC’s applicant survey results. I look forward to hearing those results and sharing them with you then. Many of you participated in that survey too. Thank you!

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Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

What I Wish I Knew Before Entering the Duke MBA

Guest post by Seven Ma, MBA Student at Duke Fuqua in its Health Sector Management Program.

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The MBA flies by fast. I’m currently a first year student and about one-third into my MBA. While only spanning 7 months, so much has happened. I’ve finished all of my core MBA courses, learned a lot about health care, started and finished recruiting for the summer internship, and got to know many of my classmates and faculty. However, just last year I was an anxious prospective MBA student and was unsure of what to expect. Here are some things that I wish I knew last year prior to the MBA.

Understanding the short term benefits of the MBA

The MBA has both short term and long term benefits. The one I’ve mainly focused on thus far has been long term ones – building strong relationships with classmates, focusing on leadership development, and getting hands on experience in biotech startups. However, I would’ve benefited from understanding the exact functions companies recruit MBAs for – earlier. For corporate positions, these would be marketing, operations, finance, and strategy. I would suggest new MBA recruits or applicants to understand what these roles are and which ones to explore further. By clarifying this early on, it will make informational interviews with alumni, company visits, and recruiting events much more effective.

Start early on long term development

As mentioned earlier, the MBA has significant long term benefits. One would also not want to focus solely on short term goals and ignore long term career development. The tip I got early on was to picture the role you want to have much later (for example, the CEO of a public company) – then determine the best opportunities to pursue that can get you there. There are so many events to get involved with during the MBA so choosing the right ones requires this clarity. More specifically, this will help with class choices, club leadership decisions and so on. My tip would be to start working toward long term goals even before starting the MBA. Leadership development is life long and I would suggest doing some reading, attending conferences/seminars and getting involved through volunteer or internship opportunities while still working. I review books on my blog and you can find the list here (more relevant for health care folks).

Learn to read efficiently

A critical skill for business leaders is to extract the most relevant information from a variety of sources quickly. This is especially important for MBA students as time is extremely limited and is split among three aspects – academic, recruiting, and leadership. One thing I learned to do during the fall terms at Duke was how to effectively focus on the most important things in class. It’s a totally different mindset from undergraduate studies when one had time to fully learn everything. In the MBA, it’s important to understand the 20-80 rule and focus 20% of your energy on getting 80% of the result. Learning to read quickly would help. I recommend taking a look at some books on speed reading. In addition, I would urge prospective students to practice reading their news stories or journal articles at a higher pace and try to summarize key take-aways in the end. This is something I’m currently doing with my outside reading on business and health care, but is something I could’ve taught myself before beginning the program.

Learn to listen

The MBA can feel competitive, especially since you will be surrounded by very intelligent and high performing individuals. In class and on teams, I found that it can be easy to get stuck in trying to contribute and not doing that great of a job on listening. One thing I now do well is to focus my energy on listening to fully comprehend others. It’s not easy to do, and we are taught to avoid this – for example by not falling in the trap of thinking of responses when others are speaking. I would suggest practicing this before the MBA. Learn to be mindful (Google “mindfulness”) and learn how to listen. In conversations, reflect if you’re actively engaged and listening to the other person. This is an extremely important skill to have and is something that the most successfully leaders are known for. Having an extra few months to practice would help a lot.

Did you miss our webinar, Career Strategy for MBA Applicants?

Steven_MaSteven Ma is an MBA student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (’15). He has a background in the life sciences and is passionate about innovation in health care. The Duke MBA and its Health Sector Management Program has been a critical part in Steven’s transition into business and he enjoys sharing his experiences. Visit his blog, From Bench to Board.

How to Create an Effective Post-MBA Career Strategy NOW

Did you know that much of the foundation for securing a job post-MBA is laid even before you step foot into business school?

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Learn how to jumpstart your career search when you view Career Strategy for MBA Applicants: What You Need to Know…and Do…Before You Arrive on Campus, a recording of a recent webinar that we hosted, presented by Ivan Kerbel, CEO of Practice MBA Forum. In the webinar, Ivan discusses concrete things applicants can do now to maximize their chances of a successful post-MBA career search later.

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