The MBA market, being vast and dynamic, is marked by a multitude of regional differences and ongoing trends. Business professionals truly have an embarrassment of riches to choose from: the abiding reputation of US business education, the up-and-coming B-schools in Asia – Pacific, or the distinctly international European programmes.
To gain an advantage in an increasingly global business world, MBA aspirants often look around the world in search of the management programmes that suit them best. To guide you, here is our overview of the outstanding features and the latest developments and trends in the most established MBA markets.
The rise of Asian B-schools
The MBA landscape in Asia-Pacific, much as the region itself, is incredibly versatile. The majority of full-time MBA programmes last between 16 and 18 months, but many business schools offer customisable courses. In terms of internationalisation, it is difficult to generalise for the whole region. The share of international students at HKUST Business School (China) and National University of Singapore Business School typically exceeds 90%. However, the degree of internationalisation varies greatly, even among universities in the same country.
Once considered a minnow in the global business education market, business schools in Asia have come a long way over the last 20 years, establishing themselves as reputable institutions capable of holding their own against their Western counterparts. The progress is clearly visible from the Financial Times MBA ranking. The first ranking, published in 1999, did not include any Asian schools. In 2017, however, the ranking listed 12 Asian schools, with CEIBS (China) being the most highly ranked at #11. The fact that business education in the region has advanced immensely is evidenced by the growing number of Asian schools with triple accreditation from the biggest accreditation agencies: AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS.
One of the reasons for this development is the transformation of this part of the world into the fastest growing economic region globally. This growth benefits not only the job market, but also the MBA graduates pursuing a career in the region. It comes as no surprise then that business professionals are flocking to full-time MBA programmes there. The majority of programmes in East and Southeast Asia reported growth in application volumes, according to the 2017 Application Trends Survey Report by GMAC. In India, the numbers were even more impressive.
Strong employer demand for MBA graduates
One major reason for the huge interest in MBA programmes is that employers in the region hold graduates in high esteem. Nine in ten employers in the region planned to hire MBA graduates in 2017, according to GMAC’s 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report. In addition, the poll showed that employers in Asia-Pacific are more likely than employers in other regions to hire recent business school graduates to fill senior positions. And the good news for MBA degree holders does not stop here, because nearly 60% of employers in Asia-Pacific said they plan to increase MBA salaries either in line with or above the rate of inflation.
Business Development, Human Resources, and Marketing are among the most popular sectors for MBA graduates. In fact, a large portion of employers in Asia-Pacific appreciate specialised knowledge and are inclined to seek recent MBA graduates with specialised MBA degrees, and even to pay a premium salary for those skills.
The US: fewer applications, but robust demand for MBA graduates
While year-long programmes do exist in the US, top MBA programmes generally last two years. The US is the birthplace of the MBA and it is therefore not surprising that in 2015 a Kaplan Test Prep survey found that American business schools consider their programmes the best in the world in preparing graduates for today’s marketplace.
Despite the quality and the allure of business education in the United States, international enrolments in local business programmes have been slipping since 2014. Only one third of programmes reported increased application volumes in 2017, while 64% saw a decline, according to GMAC. There are several reasons for that. One is the strengthening of the US economy, which reduces the incentive among business professionals to spend money on education to boost their careers. Another reason, highlighted by Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s president, is the political climate in the US, which overseas applicants currently consider unwelcoming. The decline could also be attributed to the tendency among business professionals to pick shorter and cheaper courses.
Employer demand for MBA graduates remains buoyant
Luckily for MBA graduates, US employers remain unperturbed by the latest reports on business school recruitment: nine in ten respondents in the 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey announced plans to hire MBA graduates last year. And despite the political uncertainty about the future changes to immigration and work visa programmes, a quarter of those polled reported plans to hire graduates who require visas.
Increased interest from employers naturally translates into higher remuneration for MBA graduates. The projected median base starting salary for recent MBA graduates in the United States stood at USD 110,000 in 2017, up USD 5,000 year-on-year. MBA starting salaries vary by industry, with Finance and Accounting topping the list at USD 120,000.
The European MBA shows resilience
Unlike business schools in the US, where two-year MBA programmes are the norm, business schools in Europe feature predominantly shorter programmes, typically ranging from 10 to 18 months. European MBAs usually offer the opportunity to study another language and are also known for their various business specialisations such as Fashion, Luxury Goods, or even Wine Trading or Football.
European business schools pull most of their students from far away. It is exactly those international applicants who have been fuelling the growth in full-time one-year MBA programmes in Europe. The 2017 Application Trends Report showed that international applicants made up a whopping 90% of the applicant pool.
Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, local business schools have expressed worries that international applicants would look elsewhere for quality business education. With international candidates typically accounting for 94% of applicants, the damage looked all too real. However, the UK has underscored its status as one of the most desirable MBA markets in the world, with the majority of full-time one-year MBA programmes in the country reporting increased application volume to their programmes.
Sangeet Chowfla, the GMAC CEO, noted that the Brexit vote had not had the same negative impact as the election of Donald Trump: “Demand for graduate business education remains strong, especially among the largest programmes, which also tend to be the most well-known programmes with brand recognition.”
MBA graduates sought-after in Europe too
Much like their Asian and US counterparts, the majority of European companies (68%) planned to hire MBAs in 2017, compared with 66% a year earlier. On the remuneration front the prospects look bright as well, with 43% of European companies planning to increase base salaries for recent MBA hires. Having an MBA degree in your pocket increases your chances of landing a job anywhere in Europe – two thirds of recruiters in Europe have plans to hire or are willing to hire international candidates.
The MBA field is as vibrant as ever. Barring the difficulties perceived by part of the American market, application levels are healthy. Career prospects also look bright, with employers generally holding MBA graduates in high esteem. The degree has shown remarkable resilience in the face of political headwinds which many predicted would deal a heavy blow to a large part of the business education market. Luckily, these fears did not materialise and it turns out, once again, that reports of the MBA’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2018-2019 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Think Globally, Act Locally”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.