MBA Applications and Aspirations Report 2018: An Overview |

MBA Applications and Aspirations Report 2018: An Overview

By Phil Cottrell

Updated February 22, 2018 Updated February 22, 2018

Since the early 90s, QS has published findings from the Applicant Survey. In the latest MBA Applications and Aspirations Report 2018, we take an in-depth look at the demographics of MBA applicants, what’s important to them and what business schools must do to attract today’s prospective students.

You can download the full report free of charge, but you can see some highlights from this year below:


Who is the MBA applicant?

  • The average age of the MBA applicant is 28.0, with men (28.2) slightly older than women (27.8). The oldest applicants come from US & Canada (29.6) while the youngest are found in Asia Pacific (26.2). Women make up 41.9% of the total applicants responding to the survey.
  • Although half of global MBA applicants (55.8%) have at least four years’ work experience, 16.9% reported having less than a year. 
  • The most selected reason for pursuing an MBA is to take up a leadership/general management position (46.5%), but the top reason for applicants in Africa & Middle East (49.7%) and Eastern Europe (54.6%) is to gain international experience.
  • The largest expected funding source for MBA applicants is scholarships, which was selected by more than half (52.9%) of respondents. Private loans and personal savings are the next most selected sources. 
  • The average MBA applicant expects to fund 33.3% of their total education costs with either their own funds or those from their family. 41.0% of MBA applicants across the world would no longer consider an MBA if they were to receive no form of scholarship.
  • The most useful information sources used by MBA applicants in their decision-making process are discussions with admissions staff and alumni, as well as the official business school webpage.


What do MBA applicants want from a business school?

  • Although the United States (58.7% of respondents) and the United Kingdom (36.9%) are the most commonly considered study destinations, a total of 11 countries were individually selected by at least 10% of respondents. 
  • International recognition of qualifications (36.7%) and the desire to work in the country afterwards (36.6%) are the leading reasons for destination choice by global MBA applicants.
  • In terms of school selection, scholarships and financial aid availability are top drivers for residents of Africa & Middle East (62.8%) and Asia Pacific (55.7%). For all other regions, the reputation of a specific business school is the most selected criteria. 
  • Entrepreneurship/innovation is the leading intended specialization for MBA applicants, selected by 35.6% of respondents, followed by international management (34.6%), and strategy (32.6%). Only residents of Eastern Europe did not report entrepreneurship/innovation as a top three intended specialization.
  • The full-time MBA is still the favored method of delivery, considered by 83.4% of applicants, when compared with part-time (28.6%) and online (15.8%). Online interest is more common in Western Europe (22.1% of respondents) and US & Canada (18.0%) and less common in Asia Pacific (7.3%).


Where do MBA applicants see themselves after earning an MBA?

  • Consulting (40.2%), finance (34.4%), and technology (26.5%) remain the top three industry considerations for MBA applicants. There are many gender differences, however, with women twice as likely as men to consider careers in media/advertising (12.8% vs. 6.4%), HR/recruiting/training (12.5% vs. 6.3%), and non-profit/charity (10.8% vs. 4.8%). 
  • MBA applicants believe ‘leadership’ is the skill that recruiters most seek in MBA hires, selected by 54.2% of respondents this year and followed by problem solving (46.1%) and business acumen/commercial awareness (38.5%).
  • Career progression is the most important factor for MBA applicants when choosing an employer (41.2%), followed by salary and benefits (37.0%) and international opportunities (32.5%).
  • An ambitious 60.5% of MBA applicants can see themselves running their own business in 10 years’ time. Not limited to selecting only one response, 49.4% of respondents also reported the desire to become CEO of a company. 

To learn more, download the full report for free.

This article was originally published in February 2018 .

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