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The Year's Top 5 Business School Trends

Are you thinking about applying to business school? Have you ever wondered who you'll meet, what focus they will be taking, or even what the job market after business school will be like?

Research from the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, answers various business school questions. The GMAC administers the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, required for business school admission, and collects data from test takers. The GMAC also conducts a variety of surveys throughout the year. Test-taker data and survey findings allow the organization to come up with annual business school trends. A GMAC representative recently highlighted significant trends the organization has noticed in the 2011-2012 academic year.

"There's a growing interest in business education," Michelle Sparkman-Renz, director of research communications at GMAC, said. "Companies want the skills business graduates bring."

GMAC researchers expect more international students and women to attend business school. They also expect schools to welcome younger students. They anticipate a business school education to lead to more jobs, as well, as companies recuperate from the financial and economic crises.

GMAC's business school trends

1. Business school will likely become more international

In 2011, more than half of GMAT test takers, or 55 percent, were not U.S. citizens. The number of U.S. citizens taking the exam decreased by 10,515, while the number of Chinese citizens taking the test increased by 9,805. Between 2007 and 2011, for example, Saudi Arabia experienced noticeable growth, 201 percent, in GMAT exams taken by citizens, as well as Iran, 145 percent; Kuwait, 129 percent; Egypt, 92 percent; and South Africa, 92 percent.


"More students from outside the United States may be your future classmates," Sparkman-Renz said, adding that a multicultural environment allows students to build global fluency.

2. Younger business students could increase, especially in Asia and Europe

In 2011, 44 percent of exams were taken by people younger than 25 years old, while 39 percent of exams were taken by individuals 25 to 30 years old. In the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe more than half of test takers, 52 percent and 51 percent, respectively, were younger than 25 years old. In China, 77 percent of test takers were younger than 25 years old.

"Master's degrees help students stand out in a competitive environment," Sparkman-Renz said, adding that in China, for example, they allow students to opt for one of an increasing number of managerial positions.

While an increasing number of Chinese test takers are sending test scores to schools in the U.S, the top global study destination, European test takers prefer to stay local, requesting that scores be forwarded to regional schools.

3. Women business students, especially from Asia, could also grow

In 2011, women took 41 percent of GMAT exams, a new global record. In the Asia-Pacific region, in 2007, women took 38 percent of exams. By 2011, women took 47 percent of exams. And in China, 64 percent of GMAT examinees were women.

"Most [of the Chinese women test takers] are in the younger age group," Sparkman-Renz said. "There's less of a gender gap between the younger examinees worldwide."

4. Business school will likely serve two distinct groups: specialty degree and MBA students

Only 30 percent of full-time MBA programs reported an increase in application volume in 2011. Meanwhile, 51 percent of master of accounting, 69 percent of master in management, and 83 percent of master of finance programs reported increases in global application volume. The majority of applicants to specialty degree programs, some 55 percent, are between 22 and 25 years old and have less than one year of experience. Meanwhile, most MBA applicants are older than 26 years old and have three or more years of experience.

Master programs are most popular with younger test takers, who sometimes use them as stepping stones to MBA programs, Sparkman-Renz said, adding that MBA programs remain most popular overall. Recent graduates of MBA programs also remain among the highest paid when compared to those with specialty and bachelor's degrees.

5. Business school should lead to jobs

Hiring should be up for all business school graduates in 2012, according to the GMAC's 2011 Year-End Poll of Employers. Nearly three-quarters of employers, or 74 percent, plan to hire MBA graduates in 2012, up from 58 percent in 2011. Nearly 60 percent of employers, or 59 percent, plan to hire graduates of specialized master's degree programs, up from 38 percent in 2011. And more than half of employers, or 51 percent, plan to hire graduates of master in management programs, up from 36 percent in 2011.

"Not only are more companies hiring, but they're also hiring for more positions," Sparkman-Renz said, adding that 22 percent of companies are likely to hire more MBA graduates in 2012, almost four times as many than in 2011.

Now may be the right time for business school

Based on the GMAC findings, the current year could be a good time to enroll in business school. After interacting with a more diverse group of classmates, and completing specialty and MBA programs, you should be better prepared to make a difference in the global marketplace. Due to an expected increase in the number of job openings, you could also land a coveted position in less time.

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