Everyone Wants an MBA, They Just Don't Want to Leave Their J

Published: Nov 09, 2010

 Education       Grad School       

This month, GMAC reported that full-time MBA programs received fewer applications in 2009-2010 than the admissions year prior. When MBA applications soared in 2008-2009, many expected the surge to continue until the economy was "officially" out of the woods. But only two years later, the interest in a full-time MBA seems to already be waning--which is not to say that the MBA is no longer popular. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Executive MBA student juggling work and schoolFull-time MBA applications are down--but executive and part-time MBA apps are up

Unlike their full-time counterpart, executive and part-time MBA programs experienced a strong increase in applications last year--enough to keep the overall number of MBA applications pretty even. So, the MBA is still considered an important addition to a resume. There's just little faith that you'll be able to get a job after graduation. Nobody seems to want to leave their job to pursue an MBA, even if they plan to change careers.

Since time immemorial, part-time and executive MBA student bodies have been full of students whose was sponsoring their MBA (paying full tuition and other costs) in return for a promise to stay at the company for a set number of years. Thus, their main (or simply short-term) reason for getting an EMBA was a promotion. But today, even though fewer companies can afford to sponsor their employees of the recession, those employees are stepping up to pay for themselves. Almost 40 percent of incoming EMBA students are paying their own way in 2010, a number that EMBA admissions directors and deans say was unheard of a few years ago. But because their funding has changed, so has their reasons for earning an MBA.

Executive and part-time MBAs want something more

In The Wall Street Journal's 2010 Top 25 EMBA survey, 35 percent of EMBA students said their biggest reason for getting an MBA was a career change, whereas only 29 percent said they're getting an MBA for a promotion. In a recent survey at the University of Texas at Dallas, 67 percent of part-time MBAs said they plan to get a new job after graduation regardless of whether their employer is paying for their degree. Traditionally, because of sponsorships, part-time and executive MBAs were for students who wanted to be promoted within their own company. These days, students are looking at those MBAs as full-time MBAs: a chance to advance in a current career or switch to a new career. Because the job market is still dismal, prospective students don't want to risk not being able to get a job after graduation. They figure it's better to stay at their current job while they're in school.

However, with all these students looking to change jobs at graduation, part-time and executive MBA programs are being pressured to add career services resources. But how can they do so without angering the companies that are still sponsoring EMBAs? The recession has created a sandstorm of reasons why the executive MBA has to change: companies aren't sponsoring their employees; students who would normally pursue a full-time MBA want an EMBA and are willing to pay for themselves but expect career services; the companies that are still sponsoring students don't want those career services available.

So what's a business school to do?