Before the COVID-19 pandemic unsettled the global economy, 92% of worldwide corporate recruiters responding to an early 2020 survey said they expected to hire MBAs from the upcoming graduating classes.
But in a follow-up survey during the COVID-19 crisis, the MBA hiring projection dropped to 78%, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council's (GMAC) 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey, released on September 21, 2020.
Despite the pandemic's wave of uncertainty in the spring of 2020, 88% of recruiters in that follow-up sampling said they plan to hire MBAs in 2021.
Many universities offer an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, like that at St. Thomas University.
Companies Adjust MBA Hiring to Pandemic
As the pandemic began to affect businesses, some companies adjusted MBA hiring plans by freezing hiring. Some companies that had made offers to prospective spring graduates delayed start dates and rescinded job offers.
However, while 2020 was a difficult year for employment prospects in many industries, MBA graduates can look forward to 2021's hiring potential.
MBA Grads' Essential Skills Appeal to Employers
One source of employer optimism for hiring MBAs may be that the skills students cultivate in business school are essential during a crisis. Respondents also indicated they're confident in business schools' ability to prepare graduates for success in the workforce.
Some 68% of respondents from the GMAC survey said the most important skill during the pandemic is the ability to navigate the challenges of technological disruption. The next most important is strong communication skills, 61% of respondents said.
MBA Enrollment Surges
Several months into the pandemic, reports predicted that applications to MBA programs would continue to decline as in several previous years. In early May 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported that "M.B.A. Programs Across the Globe Anticipate Drop in Fall Enrollment." In late June, a Forbes contributor wrote that in 2020 "an MBA degree is not just a questionable investment — it's a risk that's simply not worth it."
Nevertheless, even as the reports were being published, applications to top MBA programs in the U.S. and other respected schools surged for fall enrollment, reversing a year-long decline in applications at many institutions.
In September, The Wall Street Journal reported, "Applicants Flock to Elite Business Schools to Ride Out the Coronavirus Pandemic," which discussed the application surge.
Several factors contributed to the surge, the report said, including schools' extended application deadlines and waivers for standardized tests. The pandemic's economic effects also figured into the spike of MBA applications.
The report explained, "Students typically flock to B-schools and graduate programs during economic downturns, as advance degrees are seen as a way to help further careers even as the job market languishes."
In a November news release announcing GMAC's 2020 annual Application Trends Survey Report, President and CEO Sangeet Chowfla called this phenomenon "the countercyclical nature of demand for an advanced business degree. The opportunity cost of leaving a job to pursue an MBA or business master's lessens as economies begin to regress. As a result, we are now seeing more people thinking about B-school to grow or improve their career prospects."
Other reports show an uptick in MBA program applications, too. The Application Trends Survey Report said, "Nearly three in four full-time two-year MBA programs report relative growth in applications," indicating that many prospective graduates consider earning an advanced business degree as viable and valuable, even during a crisis.
Strengthen Your Employability and Income With an MBA
Over the years, GMAC has documented that as the economy contracts, many business professionals take advantage of the lower opportunity cost to earn an MBA, which can produce many valuable career gains.
Here are a few benefits of an advanced business degree, from MBA.com:
- Stand out among other candidates: Employers are confident that business schools prepare MBA students to be successful employees.
- Update your skill set: In addition to technical business skills, MBA programs will also help you learn problem-solving and collaboration abilities that employers value.
- Learn how to lead in a crisis: Throughout the program, you'll learn techniques for making decisions quickly, adapting to circumstances, delivering reliably and engaging your team during times of crisis.
- Explore career alternatives: You'll be exposed to many contexts and environments to utilize your transferable skills.
- Expect a salary bump: GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey determined that the median salary range of newly hired MBA graduates is $105,000 to $115,000, which is 75% more than the average for graduates with bachelor's degrees.
An advanced business degree could be the key to propelling your professional career — as a master's degree will help refine your entrepreneurial skills, open up career opportunities and pave the way for salary bumps.
Learn more about St. Thomas University's online Master of Business Administration program.
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