MBAs Losing Appeal

Interest in MBAs is declining while interest in MScs are rising.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, applications for American business schools were down 7% in 2018 compared to 2017. Top schools are no exception, and Harvard Business School, for example, experienced a 4.5% decline in applications in 2018. Master of Science or related degrees have become increasingly popular.

Several factors are driving this change in the business-education market. The strong economies of the US and other developed countries, restrictive immigration policies globally and high personal-debt levels have all contributed to the decline in applications to US business schools. Already, 70% of full-time MBA programs in the US are seeing fewer applicants, calling into question the long-term viability of many of them.

In MBA programs, specialty degrees are on the rise, MBA in fintech or in financial engineering. A master’s in cybersecurity is another new one, where executives apply cyber knowledge across corporate functions, reflecting the exponential rise in its importance.

Master of Science (MSc) also appeals to global executives. While an MBA degree provides a broader view of business management, an MSc tends to focus on specific functional corporate areas such as accounting, information technology and human resources.

The rise of MScs and the decline of MBAs also reflect the shift in professional preferences. While historically, MBA students and executives pursued the degree in order to consider a career change in general management, executive leadership or entrepreneurship, today more and more executives want to use a master’s degree to continue their specialization and excellence in a specific area.

The recent developments in the executive-training market have led to opportunities in other global markets, such as Europe and Asia. One example is the rise of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, which started out as a joint venture between the governments of the EU and China, attracting global executives to pursue business education in Asia.