Demand for MBA graduates to rebound in post-pandemic era: Survey

According to survey respondents, demand for MBA graduates by the technology industry is anticipated to increase by 10 per cent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2020. As many as 9 in 10 corporate recruiters are determined on MBA hiring and salary premium fueled by technology sector growth.

Corporate recruiters project a robust demand for business school graduates with nine in 10 of them expecting it to increase or remain stable in the next five years. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) today released its annual 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey. In addition, a higher proportion of recruiters in 2021 (37 per cent) expect the demand to increase than that in the previous year (30 per cent), with more than half of the European recruiters (54 per cent) sharing such a view compared to their Asian (32 per cent) and American (34  per cent) counterparts.

The salary and hiring of MBA graduates are expected to return to the pre-pandemic level. In 2020, the projected MBA median salary reached an all-time high of $115,000 before COVID-19 severely disrupted the global economy and caused it to drop down to $105,000 three months into the pandemic.

However, the median MBA salary for 2021 is projected to recover to its pre-pandemic 2020 level of $115,000. At this rate, the median salary of MBA graduates is 77 per cent more than those with a bachelor’s degree ($65,000) and 53 per cent higher as compared to those hired directly from industry ($75,000).

This salary premium shows that investing in an MBA credential continues to pay off over time, helping an MBA graduate earn $3 million more in his or her lifetime than someone holding only a bachelor’s degree.

Before the pandemic, 92 per cent of recruiters indicated they were planning to hire MBA graduates in 2020. However, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 adversely affected those plans, and hence the actual hiring of MBA graduates (80 per cent) was lower than 2020 projections. Looking ahead, the proportion of recruiters planning to hire MBAs in 2021 (91 per cent) returns to the same level as pre-pandemic 2020 (92 per cent).

The MBA hiring projections exhibit strength across key regions and industries. Specifically, 95 per cent of the recruiters in the consulting sector, an industry in most demand by MBA graduates, are projecting to hire them — a reversal from the 2020 actual hiring of 76 per cent.

According to survey respondents, demand for MBA graduates by the technology industry is anticipated to increase by 10 per cent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2020. In fact, with 96 per cent of tech recruiters projecting to hire MBA graduates in 2021, the demand for management talents tops the previous three years. The data also show that two in three (68 per cent) recruiters in the technology sector agree that leaders in their organisations tend to have a graduate business school education—an increase of 11 percentage points from 2020 (57 per cent).

“Technology companies are placing a high value on leaders who are not just technically skilled, but also have strong strategic, interpersonal, communication and decision-making skills, as well as an understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion and sustainability in their organisations — these will be critical to driving organisational growth and innovation,” said Peter Johnson, Assistant Dean of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Online programmes have been gaining traction in recent years. According to GMAC data, 50 more online MBA programs accepted GMAT scores in the testing year (TY) 2020 as compared to five years earlier in TY 2016. In addition, 84 per cent of online MBA programs reported an increase in applications in GMAC’s 2020 Application Trends Survey.

However, when corporate recruiters were asked about their level of agreement with the statement “My organisation values graduates of online and in-person programs equally,” only one-third (34 per cent) of them agreed. In terms of industries, recruiters from the finance and accounting industry (41 per cent) are more likely to view graduates of online programs as equal to their on-campus peers, compared to their recruiting counterparts in consulting (25 per cent) or technology (28 per cent).

“As corporations recover from the pandemic and rebuild their workforces, it is no surprise that business school graduates ― with their leadership and managerial skills in high demand ― are specially strengthened in their value proposition as an employee and uniquely positioned to meet today’s economic challenges,” said Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC.

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