Is technology the new entrepreneurship for MBAs?

In recent years, entrepreneurship has become a popular component in MBA programmes, attracting a growing number of students interested in using their MBA to launch a business or support the growth of their start-up. Things may be changing.

The 2018 Tomorrow’s MBA report, published by CarringtonCrisp with support from EFMD, suggests technology may become the new entrepreneurship. The percentage of prospective students indicating they are motivated to study for an MBA to support a business start-up is down from 24.6% to 20.8%.

At the same time, technology management was selected as the second most valuable content in an MBA equal with strategy and just behind leadership. Entrepreneurship was only rated the eighth most valuable piece of content.  So what’s driving the change?

Starting a business hasn’t just disappeared as a career choice. However, prospective students see more technology-led companies recruiting MBAs such as Amazon and are seeking to maximise their career prospects. And it’s not only the technology-led companies that are seeking MBAs with technology management skills. With the growth in the fintech sector, the banks and financial companies that for so long were among the leading MBA recruiters are now seeking graduates with technology skills.

For the MBA graduate, success in their careers will not mean that they need to know technology inside out. Instead they need to be able to manage technology projects and involving technology specialists, delivering them successfully on time and on budget.

This year’s study also continues to highlight the value that prospective students put on project management skills with 1 in 6 respondents selecting it as valuable content in an MBA. Project management was placed fourth overall among the 32 content options offered to the survey respondents. It appears that prospective MBAs anticipate future careers likely to involve leading strategic projects that have an important technology component.

There are perhaps two other surprises in this year’s data when survey respondents are asked about valuable content in their MBA. Data Analytics and Decision Making which was ranked the ninth most valuable content last year has slipped to thirteenth in 2018. Despite continued strong demand for those with ‘big data’ skills, it may be that students are choosing to study this field in a specialised Masters, sensing that the return on their investment will be greater from a cheaper Masters compared to a more expensive MBA if they are focused on a particular data analysis career.

Some people viewing the survey results may also be surprised that Ethics is placed last of the 32 valued pieces of content. This does not mean that prospective MBAs are an ethics-free zone. Instead, it is simply a career-related view. In focus groups with prospective MBA students, one person explained the ethics content issue as follows, “There are very few jobs for ethicists, but lots for responsible managers”.  Prospective MBA students want to understand how ethics apply across all subjects, not to have ethics taught as a narrow standalone subject.