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Examining MBA Trends: A Conversation with Michael Trick of Carnegie Mellon

Michael Trick from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon UniversityMBA programs are constantly evolving to reflect changes in business and technology. We spoke with Michael Trick, senior associate dean for education and the Harry B. and James H. Higgins Professor of Operations Research at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business, about current trends in the field.

What trends do you see in the MBA landscape today that weren't present five years ago?

The emergence of MOOCs and SPOCs has ushered in a growing movement for greater utilization of new technologies in the delivery of both individual business courses and whole programs. This is opening new avenues for MBA education toward reaching new, diverse and often geographically challenged students while also impacting the way courses are taught in traditional formats. Another trend that has emerged, specific to the MBA degree, is the recruiting market's push in moving the job cycle earlier. Interviews and internship decisions are now taking place when students have barely arrived for their formal MBA study, which has prompted changes in what schools need to cover during orientation and how they prepare students, especially those pursuing an MBA to change careers, to be competitive for interviews at an earlier time in the education cycle.

What do you make of the questions currently being brought up in regards to the MBA's bubble bursting?

At our school, we continue to see good but not giddy demand for our graduates from recruiters and a high level of interest among perspective students in our programs. So, a bubble is not something that we have experienced, nor do we expect any "bursting".

What types of shifts do you think will take place in the landscape over the course of the next few years?

I see an increasing flexibility in delivery format and the increased utilization of new technologies in business education. This will provide expanded access for students to individual classes and programs and will broaden resources for all MBA students, including those studying in traditional MBA formats. I also see this trend expanding to offer some aspects of the MBA as self-learning, prior to the formal start of the program. For example, students could complete one of their fundamental classes as self-paced learning, prior to arriving for their formal study. This would create time for new possibilities during their MBA study for experiential learning and additional specialized coursework, including interdisciplinary study.

What advice would you give an employee and prospective student about pursuing an MBA?

Research programs well! Find a school that fits with your personal interests and career aspirations. Not all MBA programs are created equal and no specific MBA program is for everyone. The better fit between you and the MBA program you choose, the greater your chances of success- and happiness.

Along with possible salary benefits, what benefits do you think that an MBA provides for a student/professional?

An MBA opens opportunities for interesting and challenging career assignments that would otherwise be unlikely. This can provide experiences such as traveling the world or working on meaningful projects that benefit humanity, all culminating in a deeply rewarding career.

What is one misconception about MBAs that you would like to dispel?

"MBAs" are not all alike. An MBA education is a broadening experience, building personal skills while fostering an understanding of business as a whole. Students arrive with a variety backgrounds and interests and graduates utilize their expertise in solving a great variety of challenges that benefit businesses, economies and humankind.