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A Look at the Stats on Different Graduate Business Degrees

For those on their way to business school, an MBA is the classic option, and for many it’s still the best option. But it’s not the only one.

Top business schools also offer a variety of master’s degrees. Some, like the Master in Management, are general management degrees while others, like the Master in Finance, target specific skills.

Recently, business master’s degrees have been on the uptrend. Many of these programs are shorter, cost less, require less work experience, and can provide a concentrated boost early in graduates’ careers. As the statistics show, different graduate business degrees tend to attract different types of students.

Overall, the MBA remains the most popular graduate business degree. GMAC’s Prospective Students Survey, which collects data from students registering on the GMAT website, shows that 40 and 39 percent of B-school applicants considered two- and one-year full-time MBA programs respectively.

Globally, other types of MBA programs brought in smaller numbers of applicants. For example, 17 percent were considering part-time MBA programs, 12 percent Executive MBA (EMBA) programs, and 10 percent online MBA programs.

Despite the MBA’s popularity, the portion of applicants considering MBA programs has declined slightly in recent years, from 52 percent in 2009 to 49 percent in 2016.

This flattening off in MBA applications has been especially noticeable in the United States, where 32 and 43 percent of full-time two-year and one-year MBA programs reported application growth, according to GMAC’s Application Trends Survey.

By contrast, three-quarters of European one-year MBA programs reported an increase in applications.

The cooling off of growth in MBA applications corresponds to a steady rise in the number of applicants interested in non-MBA business master’s programs.

While 15 percent of applicants globally were interested in master’s programs in 2009, that number was up to 23 percent in 2016, according to the Prospective Students Survey.

The most popular business master’s degree is the Master in Finance, catching the interest of 23 percent of applications. Next up are the Master in Management and Master in Accounting, each at 14 percent.

From 2009 to 2016, demand for business master’s degrees has risen on every continent although there are still substantial differences in overall popularity from one continent to the next.

In Western Europe, for instance, the number of applicants considering non-MBA master’s degrees has spiked from 25 to 41 percent. In the United States, the figure has risen more modestly, from 9 to 16 percent.

One of the hottest business master’s degrees is the Master of Data Analytics. This relatively recent degree is considered by 11 percent of applicants, but that figure appears to be on the upswing.

The Application Trends Survey reveals that 74 percent of Master of Data Analytics programs in the United States reported increases in the number of applications received last year, far more than for any other type of graduate business degree in the country.

The statistics on these different degrees reveal that while there’s a diverse array of graduate business degrees available, the degrees are far from interchangeable. They tend to attract students with different profiles.

One area where these degree programs differ significantly is in how much work experience students tend to have.

This is true even among MBA programs. In EMBA and online MBA programs, two-thirds and one-third of applicants had at least ten years of work experience, according to the Application Trends Survey. In two- and one-year full-time MBA programs, that figure was 7 and 10 percent respectively.

Comparing MBA and non-MBA master’s degrees, the differences are even more pronounced.

Eighty-eight percent of Master in Management applicants had less than three years of work experience versus 40 and 37 percent of two-year and one-year full-time MBA applicants. And 38 percent of Master in Management applicants had no work experience at all.

Focusing on the four most popular business master’s degrees, the Master of Data Analytics appears to attract the candidates with the most work experience, with 30 percent having more than three years of experience. Still, these applicants remain less experienced than MBA applicants on average.

Another difference between MBA and non-MBA master’s applicants is in what skills they hope to acquire.

According to the Prospective Students Survey, applicants to quantitative master’s programs like the Master in Finance are more interested to gaining technical skills than applicants to MBA programs. MBA applicants, meanwhile, are especially interested in developing managerial and leadership skills.

These differences highlight the importance of finding a degree program, and a school, that is aligned with your professional goals. We can help you figure out not only what programs are a good fit for you, but how you can put together an application that will stand out – contact us for a free assessment!