Analyzing the MBA Boom

Contrary to expectations and, some might say, logic, the recession hasn’t made a dent in the number of people pursuing an MBA. In fact, yield numbers are higher than ever, as we pointed out last week.  That leaves Peter Brown of The Independent asking, Can the MBA Boom Last?

The UK-based newspaper looks at the issue from a “one year versus two” perspective, since many of the top programs across the pond are of shorter duration. The two exceptions remain London Business School, where the course is between 15 and 21 months, and Manchester Business School, where the course is 18 months. Full-time MBA candidates have had to double-guess the recession in deciding what kind of course to take, and where to take it, Brown writes.

For an American destined for Wall Street though, a two-year program in the US makes sense, says Conrad Chua, head of MBA recruitment at the Cambridge Judge Business School, where 160 students have just started their one-year course. “The internship fits recruitment schedules, and keeps the candidate close to Wall Street networks.”

Speaking of which, the article points out that risk management and other finance courses are being reassessed at B-schools near and far. Reflecting the privatization of banks, new courses analyzing the relationship between government and business have cropped up; the Analytics of Financial Crises is one of several new courses offered this year to MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which has a big branch in London.

Employers say new recruits are sometimes lacking softer skills, which are getting increased attention at business schools everywhere. Asked what were the top three transferable skills their MBAs had taught them, Amba (the Association of MBAs) alumni cited the ability to manage change, communication skills and an understanding of leadership. These were followed by the ability to deal with ambiguity and team-working.

Brown concludes that the MBA remains robust and popular even in the face of turmoil caused by the economic downturn. That’s the result of a survey of surveys that Amba prepared for employers this year. The 2,000 international MBA graduates polled by Amba’s research and consultancy center have seen salary increases of 46 percent immediately on graduation, 129 percent three to five years later, and 208 percent six to 10 years after graduation.

The silver lining to this picture? Despite the odds, MBA salaries are at least holding steady during the economic downturn.

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