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One-year MBA Declines in Popularity while Two-Year Grows

MBA programs and application trends from GMAC

Full-time MBA programs reported contrasting fortunes in the number of applications they received this year in GMAC’s 2014 Application Trends Survey. A significant majority of two-year programs received more applications than last year. However, the majority of one-year MBA programs saw fewer applications this year.

There was no growth in the number of female applicants according to GMAC’s results. This year’s proportion of 38% remains at a level consistent with last year. However, students studying outside of their home country continue to assert their significance – registering above 50% in applicant pools for all full-time and specialized master’s programs.

GMAC sourced data from 748 programs in 32 countries around the world, of which 469 were MBA programs. The report’s main highlights, looking at specialized master’s degrees as well as full-time MBAs, are listed in the below overview.

Two-year vs. one-year MBA

  • A total of 61% of 129 full-time two-year MBA programs reported a rise in applications– a third consecutive year of growth, up from 50% in 2013.
  • But, 60% of 90 full-time one-year MBA programs saw a drop in the volume of applications received – reversing a two-year trend of slowly rising or steady application volume.
  • Just under half of two-year programs in the US (48%) saw a rise in applications from domestic students and 65% received more applications from international students – both improvements over last year. US programs accounted for 78% of two-year respondents.
  • Some 62% of European programs – representing 24% of one-year respondents - saw a decline in application volume.
  • Two-year programs in the report remain the more competitive – with a median acceptance rate of 45% compared to the one-year MBA’s 50%. Acceptance rates for other MBA formats are considerably higher and start at 70%.
  • Would-be international students make up 56% of applicants to one-year MBA programs, as opposed to 52% on two-year programs.

Further full-time MBA trends this year

  • The availability of financial aid among full-time MBA programs is higher than for other formats – 81% of responding programs said scholarships were available to this year’s class.
  • A third of all full-time MBA applicants worldwide had between three and six years of work experience.
  • Applicants to European programs were more experienced than the average – 47% had between three and six years work experience.
  • US programs attracted the highest number of applicants with no work experience – 19%, although for two-year programs this number is 14%, which is equal to the global average; 32% of applicants to one-year MBA programs in the US held no prior work experience.

Other MBA formats included in GMAC report

  • Fewer than 50% of part-time, flexible, online, and executive MBAs respectively saw improvements in application volumes compared to last year. Nonetheless, the figures compare favorably to those posted in 2013 in each case.
  • Globally, 16 online MBA, 60 EMBA and 173 part-time or flexible programs were surveyed.
  • EMBA and online MBA programs have the least financial aid available to prospective students.

Specialized master’s programs enjoy mixed fortunes

Non-MBA, specialized master’s programs had an inconsistent year. On the one hand, a majority of master’s in management programs saw more applications again this year and, as in 2012, posted a majority (54%) of female applicants. On the other hand, a majority of master’s in finance programs were again compelled to report drops in their application levels.

  • Master’s in management programs continue to be popular, but less so than this time last year. 58% of 33 responding programs noted a rise in applications, down from 61% in 2013.
  • Fewer master’s in finance programs reported rises in applications for the second year running, with 59% of 51 responding programs seeing falling applications, as opposed to 53% last year.
  • Master’s in management and finance programs have comfortably the largest levels of international student applications with 73% and 82% respectively. These programs also retain a high level of competition – a 40% median acceptance rate for MiM programs is beaten by finance’s meager 35%.
  • Significant growth was seen in applications to marketing and communication, as well as IT, master’s programs – although these rises are reported by fewer respondents.
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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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