Is the MBA still the most desired business degree in the world? Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
Is the MBA still the most desired business degree in the world?
The answer seems to be yes and no. It all depends on where you are heading with your career.

The answer seems to be yes and no. It all depends on where you are heading with your career.

For those on a straight-line career path in, say, financial analysis, the MBA is indeed not the only option. If you want to qualify as a chartered financial analyst (CFA), it might be better to choose a discipline-specific programme that is usually more cost-effective than an MBA. An article on the Forbes website put it this way, “One way to explain the differences in the programs is to say that the MBA program is a mile wide and a foot deep, while the CFA program is a foot wide and a mile deep”.

Is the MBA still the most desired business degree in the world?

However, for those who want to prepare themselves for career growth – specifically for senior management positions – the MBA is still the gold standard in management education. The MBA programme will equip you with a broad set of skills to apply in any industry and any type of business – start-up, entrepreneurial, mature or corporate. The value of an MBA as a postgraduate qualification is recognised by employers all over the world. This makes the MBA ideal for career switchers on a growth curve.

The shift towards personal growth

Martin Butler, head of the MBA at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, says the reasons why people opt for an MBA have changed over time. In the past, people acquired an MBA for professional reasons. Now there has been a shift towards personal development as well. So MBA programmes are being reinvented to include the cultivation of leadership competencies, critical thinking skills and other soft skills over and above the skills needed to run the functional areas of the business.


The growth in 12-month MBAs

According to the 2016 GMAC Application Trends Survey the majority of full-time one-year MBA programmes (57%) reported growing application volumes in 2016, continuing the momentum begun in 2015 when 51% of programmes reported volume growth. The survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®) analysed the data submitted by 335 business schools and faculties in 49 countries. (GMAC is the owner and administrator of the GMAT® assessment that top business schools use as part of their admission requirements for the MBA.)According to Financial Times, the 12-month MBA is growing while enrolments for the two-year MBA are dropping. For example, applications are up by more than a quarter for 2016’s one-year MBA at INSEAD in France.The one-year MBA is aimed at those who want to immerse themselves in their studies without the demands of a full-time job. It is also aimed at those who want to take a break and prepare themselves for a career change. The experience of full-time MBA students is fundamentally different from that of students studying part-time or online. They typically experience much bigger cohesion within the class set-up, network more, and make the most of speaker events and other opportunities in class and on campus. Their cohort typically becomes their “place to belong” during the year and their “network of resources” once they have graduated.

Is the MBA still the most desired business degree in the world?

The MBA as an experience

Guy Kawasaki, the American marketing specialist, author and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, gave the following answer when asked whether one needs an MBA: “If by education you mean book learning and class attending, then the answer is no. If by education, you mean the totality of experiences in your life, then the answer is yes.

The European MastersPortal website cites seven reasons why an MBA is a good investment in one’s future. This includes the development of priceless managerial skills, free access to a large business network, better chances to earn a higher salary, the skills to start your own company from scratch, higher chances of obtaining and holding a high-level management position, and the opportunity to experience a new place and culture during your studies.

Preparing yourself for recognition and promotion
According to Financial Times, the MBA is still one of the most sought-after business degrees, as evidenced by the 11.7 million applications to business schools each year.

If you have been putting your MBA aspirations on the back burner, now is a good time of the year to take action. If you see yourself maturing into a respected leader and role model, start investigating MBA degrees.​​

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