Accepted.com turned recently to Nunzio Quacquarelli, Managing Director, QS World MBA Tour for his perspective on the MBA scene. In addition to organizing the QS World MBA Tour, Nunzio, who earned his MBA from Wharton, authors TopMBA Jobs & Salary Trends Report and QS Global 200 Business Schools: The MBA Employer’s Choice. He writes and speaks extensively on trends in graduate business education. He has generously shared his thoughts in response to a few questions below:
In terms of MBA employment opportunities, the high growth has taken place the emerging markets over the past decade. I think that we’ll see the overall volume of MBA opportunities in Asia out-stripping the US quite soon. Some employers in China and India are literally employing thousands of MBAs every year. There are also multinationals operating, or planning to grow, in emerging markets that are looking to take MBAs from the west and employ them in those economies. So, there is more and more mobility of MBAs – not necessarily candidates from emerging markets coming to the west, but actually candidates from the west going to the emerging markets. What is happening now is quite a fundamental change in the flow of talent and, I think over the next decade, it will accelerate a lot.
Over the decade there has been a sharp increase in demand for MBAs with over six years of work experience, spawning a huge growth in the number of executive MBA programs on offer around the world and yielding far higher average salaries. MBAs are no longer viewed as a homogenous group. As business schools produce ever more pre-experience masters students, employers are increasingly paying premium salaries for more experienced MBA candidates with strength in the ‘soft’ skills, such as leadership, communication, interpersonal and strategic thinking. These skills are often considered a more important outcome of an MBA qualification by employers than say accounting or other traditional ‘hard’ MBA skills, according to QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2011/12, which surveyed over 12,000 employers worldwide. Local employers will settle for MBAs with less than two years of experience, but they won’t pay much more than a pre-experience graduate. Multinational employers paying $100,000 salaries continue to prioritise MBAs with three to five years of experience, but executive MBA salaries can often be double this level.
Socially responsible careers and social entrepreneurship, in particular, have become a much more important and attractive career priorities for MBAs. The shock of the credit crunch and a loss of confidence amongst young people in the banking sector in particular, has inspired a new generation of MBA candidates to prioritise socially responsible careers, both within the corporate sector and as start ups. In QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey 2011, 33% of applicants specified an interest in starting their own business, compared to 23% a decade ago, whilst the numbers of applicants reporting a desire to specialise in finance is at an all time low. The Aspen Institute publishes ‘Beyond Grey Pinstripes’ ranking of business schools, based on the extent of their socially responsible course content.
Do you feel that the rise of European and Asian business schools could dethrone U.S. schools as leaders in graduate business education? What are they doing right?
Demand for MBA programs in Western Europe and several emerging markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and China continue to rise, as an inevitable result of the burgeoning demand for MBA graduates amongst local, regional and multinational employers.
The US remains the most popular MBA study destination worldwide with over 60% of MBA applicants considering an US MBA, though this is down from over 80% a decade ago, according to the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey. The QS survey also found 30% of full-time MBA applicants from the US are specifying an interest in taking an MBA outside the US, with Europe and Asia the most popular regions.
Attitudes to MBA study are definitely changing. People are placing greater emphasis on access to local alumni and employer networks, ahead of the long established global reputation of many US business schools. Australian and European business schools have been particularly successful in building international recognition and reputation to compete with US institutions over the last decade, as well as creating strong alumni networks. Shorter courses, more international classes and ‘live’ consulting assignments are all part of the offerings of these upstart MBA programs. Asian business schools are perhaps a decade further behind in building the faculty and infrastructure required to maintain an international reputation, but few would bet against several Asian business schools developing world class status within the next ten years.
Do you feel that experiential learning is going to replace cases? Or do you feel that case study schools will still use primarily case study in the classroom, but also add experiential elements to their curricula?
MBA curricula are undergoing changes at business schools around the world. The majority of European business schools and many US business schools now include consulting assignments and experiential learning as part of their curricula, whilst retaining some case study delivery.
Where do you see graduate business education going in terms of geography and methodology in the next 5-10 years?
I would identify three trends: 1) Online delivery opens up many innovative opportunities for schools. 2) Recent market failures have placed greater emphasis on delivery of corporate social responsibility and business ethics at the heart of MBA programs. 3) Globalisation is placing greater emphasis on cross cultural learning, languages and leadership.
Business schools seem to be selecting combinations of these three trends when they revise their curricula. For example, recent curricula reform at The Wharton School has included:
- Strengthened teaching of the analytics
- An integrated focus on ethical and legal responsibility in business
- An increased focus on oral and written communication
- New methods of leadership development emphasizing self-analysis
How have MBA fairs changed in the last ten years? Are there any lessons for applicants?
Attending an MBA fair like our QS World MBA Tour in a nearby city is a way for a candidate to meet Admissions officers and alumni face-to-face. The format of the Tour has changed little over the last decade. We have typically 70 to 130 of the top business schools from around the world attending, with seminars on MBA admissions, GMAT, MBA Careers and other pertinent topics. The application process starts here, because strong candidates will develop a personal link to the Admissions officer who may ultimately be the person making the decision to admit, or not. Talking to alumni will make sure the cultural fit is right and confirm your school selection.(www.topmba.com/qs-world-mba-tour )
QS has innovated with our TopMBA Connect 121 events which are designed for candidates in the final stages of their MBA selection process. These events are open only to pre-selected qualifying candidates who have taken their required tests and are looking to complete applications and start their MBA in the near future. One-to-one interviews are arranged with admission officers to finally determine the suitability of the candidate and to fast track their application. (www.topmba.com/connect)
Lessons for MBA applicants would include:
- Lesson one: Consider your career goals from the start – think about why you want to take an MBA and how it can benefit your career? Are you seeking a career change, or career progression? Which industry and function interests you most? Do you want to stay and work in your home country or move overseas? How do you aspirations match up with market trends and opportunities? Even if you are unsure and feel you want to consider your options during your MBA, having clear career goals will help you put together a better application.
- Lesson two: Conduct an honest self-assessment – Also consider your strengths and the weaknesses you want to develop as a result of your MBA. An honest self-assessment will save you a great deal of time and energy and help you make a more focused selection of schools.
- Lesson three: Budget and feasibility – Do you have enough savings to be able to give up work and study full-time, or do you need an Executive part-time MBA or distance MBA, so you can carry on working?
- Lesson four: Research and Selection – undertake a systematic, rational research exercise to narrow down your choice of schools – create your personalised ranking (see www.topmba.com/scorecard for example). Then pick no more than six schools you would seriously consider applying to: perhaps two elite schools which may be difficult to gain entry to but would be your dream, two highly rated schools which are perhaps just a bit more in reach, two high quality schools with lower entry criteria (to make sure you are accepted somewhere decent).
- Lesson five: Don’t skip the opportunity to meet the Admissions Officers and Alumni face-to face at a fair. An MBA is a huge investment and you really do want to make sure there is a cultural fit and that your assumptions about the school are correct before you make your final decision.
The QS World MBA Tour will be in over 60 cities across North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, India and the Middle East. Participate in an event near you to benefit from $1,200,000 of exclusive scholarships available for attendees, admissions strategy workshops, careers panel with MBA recruiters and alumni and more. Visit QS World MBA Tour in a city near you.
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