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Interest in MBAs Declines as Students Opt for Masters Programmes

Increasing numbers of students are considering other business Masters over the MBA qualification, according to the latest edition of the Tomorrow’s Masters Study by CarringtonCrisp, in association with EFMD.


In the study of over 1,000 prospective students from more than 100 countries, two-thirds (67%) agreed that they are considering a Masters rather than an MBA in a few years’ time. This is an increase from the last study in 2016, when just under half (48%) were looking at a Masters rather than an MBA. However, 31% of the sample still plan to take an MBA in a few years’ time.

Amongst the biggest national groups represented in the study, Chinese students were the most likely to be considering a Masters (74%), with Canadian students the least likely (57%). Results for the USA and UK were 66% and 64% respectively.

The increasing interest in a Masters is due to its perceived recognition amongst employers. Just under half (47%) of the respondents believe that a Masters will be just as valuable to an employer as an MBA, a rise from only 36% in the last study. There were marked differences between countries,  with 67% of Pakistani students believing Masters have the same value with employers as an MBA, compared to just 14% of respondents in Canada, 39% China and 44% UK.

“We are seeing a pivotal shift in the market,” says Andrew Crisp, author of the study. There are more Masters programmes being offered by business schools and students are turning to them in increasing numbers. Employers are seeking pre-experience Masters students, as they have additional learning compared to undergraduates and can be cheaper to recruit than MBAs.”

The study analysed students’ motivations for studying with the top three being to improve employability (31%), earning potential (23%) and has always planned to study as part of personal development (21%).  An MBA as a route to entrepreneurial success seems secure, with only 11% of those considering a Masters, motivated to start a business compared to a quarter (25%) of MBA students.

Amongst specialist Masters, the most popular subjects are Finance, Management, Marketing, Accounting, International Business, Human Resources, Big data/ Business analytics, and Economics.  Big data/Business analytics showed the biggest increase in interest, being only the 13th most popular subject in the last study. It is the most popular subject in the US, second most popular in India and fourth in China. However, it was only ranked 10th in the UK and does not feature in the top 10 for Canada.

“The market for Masters will grow in the next few years. While there will be a core of programmes on subjects such as management and finance, it is likely there will be a wide variety of specialisms allowing individual institutions to carve out a focus and increasing the choices available to students,” Andrew Crisp concludes.

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To be part of the next round of the Tomorrow’s Masters study, please contact info@carringtoncrisp.com.

To find out more about some of the key findings in this year’s report, contact Andrew Crisp or Toby Roe for press.