MBA degree, inspite of all ups and downs in public perception and acceptance from the time of its inception, have nevertheless managed to keep the status of a highly desirable and prestigious professional designation. The desirability of MBA has been mainly connected to the career and income growth opportunity. Those opportunities were mostly determined by relative scarcity of the resource, compared to the demand.
That was the case until recently. The turn of the century with the advent of online MBA degree providers has brought new momentum in the competition of traditional brick and mortar MBA programs too. That is one of the reasons why the traditional business schools has significantly re-tooled their educational offerings and started to offer part-time MBA programs on a considerably bigger scale in the last 8-10 years. Now in many business schools part-time students account for the bigger, often significantly, part of the total MBA program student body.
For example at George Washington University School of Business the full-time MBA enrollment is 202, whereas the part-time MBA program has 698 students. The similar dynamics can be observed in the University of Maryland Smith Business School: full-time MBA – 258, part-time MBA – 1,094. A picture is a bit different at American University Kogod School of Business: full-time MBA – 171, part-time MBA – 128. (There is some discrepency with the numbers published by the school itself in its Kogod MBA brochure. There the part-time MBA enrollment is marked at 55% of total average Kogod MBA enrollment). Another more notable deviation from this trend is the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business with full-time MBA – 502, and part-time MBA – 342 students. (All numbers are taken from Businessweek rankings of MBA programs) Nevertheless, the general picture shows the staggering proportion of part-time MBA students, and overall high number of MBA graduates being pumped in into the job market.
While the economy is booming, almost all those graduates are absorbed by the businesses who have tremendous growth prospects and enough spare money to be able to afford MBA graduates who usually command higher salaries for their qualifications. But when the economic growth slows down, or worse yet, slides into recession, the demand for MBA graduates is dramatically diminishing and the job market becomes oversaturated with MBA degree holders. That’s what we have been observing for the last almost two years.
This has been a cyclical process for decades and it has not raised major concerns among the MBA graduates. However, it is possible that today’ s situation is different from what it used to be in the past. One of the reasons is illustrated above concerning the overall number of the job seekers with MBA degree. The other reason is that the relevance of the MBA education in general is called into question. Some observers claim that the change that is going on in the business world now is making the very degree in its current form obsolete, and MBA graduates are vastly overrated.
I personally don’t subscribe to the latter point of view. It would be funny if I did, given my own status of a part-time MBA student I do believe that the knowledge and business tools I am going to acquire at my part-time MBA courses will help me to get ahead in my career, and I will get return on my investment of time and money. Still I believe that the situation is quite intriguing and does require close attention.
These are links to three articles that touch upon the issues discussed above. Two of them are recent and relate to the current situation, one is from 2005. I hope reading them will give you an opportunity to get a balanced view of the situation and help you form your own opinion:
- The end of the affair, Economist, November 2009
- B-Schools Confront the High Cost of Change, Business Week, January 2010
- Part-time MBA programs take off, Forbes, August 2005
If you want to express your opinion, please leave a comment below this post.