While the MBA continues to be the degree of choice for potential business students, its popularity is waning as it faces increasing competition from specialised masters programmes.

A report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which surveyed more than 12,000 prospective students worldwide, has found that although 53 per cent of prospective students say they would only consider studying for an MBA this figure is down on the 55 per cent of five years ago. In comparison, 20 per cent of prospective candidates now say they are focused solely on business masters programmes. In 2009 that figure was 13 per cent.

The 2014 mba.com Prospective Students Survey looked at the motivations, behaviour, programme choices and intended careers of more than 12,000 individuals who registered on mba.com the GMAC website.

The survey reveals that regardless of age, women are more interested in pursuing a specialised business masters programme than men – 27 per cent, compared with 15 per cent. The MBA appears more popular with men, with 60 per cent of male respondents saying that they would consider looking at MBA programmes compared with 45 per cent of women. As for length of programme, a full-time MBA continues to be the favourite, with 40 per cent of all prospective students saying they prefer that format. Part-time MBA programmes appear to be losing ground, appealing to 33 per cent of prospective students, compared with 39 per cent in 2009.

Reservations about the cost of the programmes is a common theme, with students worried not only about how they will finance their education but also the size of their potential debt. Both MBA and business masters candidates anticipate greater parental support with 15 per cent of MBA students relying on their parents’ wallets, up from 12 per cent in 2009. For masters candidates this figure is even higher with 29 per cent looking to their parents for financial help in 2013, compared with 18 per cent in 2009.

But whether looking at an MBA or a business masters programme, for all prospective students what counts is the quality and reputation of the business school programme. Reasons for going to business school are also consistent, with prospective students citing increased job opportunities, developing knowledge skills and increasing salary potential. As for preferred destination the US tops the bill, with the UK second.

As far as jobs are concerned the most sought after sectors are finance (37 per cent) consulting (34 per cent) and products and services (33 per cent). When broken down by gender, the top industry for men post-degree is investment banking (18 per cent), with management consulting and consulting services second (17 per cent). For women the top sector is accounting (16 per cent) with banking and consulting services second (15 per cent). Entrepreneurship is gaining ground however. Although only 4 per cent of prospective students in 2013 identified themselves as entrepreneurs, 26 per cent of all prospective students expect to pursue entrepreneurial activities after graduation, up from 20 per cent in 2009.

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