Applications to Full-Time M.B.A. Programs Drop Again

September 13, 2011

Applications to full-time M.B.A. programs in the United States and abroad declined this year for the third straight year, according to a report released today by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

At the same time, applications to part-time programs remained the same or rose slightly, a trend the council attributes to workers' reluctance to quit their jobs to attend school full-time.

"In this prolonged economic downturn, many people are making the economic decision not to leave the work force for two years, but to continue working and attending part-time programs," says Robert Ludwig, a spokesman for the council, which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test that most top M.B.A. programs require for entry.

Some 649 programs from 331 business schools in 45 countries responded to the council's annual survey.

Among the findings:

  • More than two-thirds of participating two-year, full-time M.B.A. programs reported application declines between 2010 and 2011.
  • More than half of one-year, full-time M.B.A. programs also reported that applications were down.
  • Specialized master's degrees were more popular this year, with 83 percent of master-of-finance programs seeing a rise in applications. Applications were up at 69 percent of master-of-management programs and 51 percent of master-of-accounting programs.

While M.B.A. programs usually cater to people who have worked for at least a few years, many specialized programs are filled by recent college graduates looking for an edge in a fiercely competitive job market.

Across all program types, foreign students made up a growing percentage of applicants for 46 percent of the programs this year, with applications from China and India leading the way.

Applications to executive M.B.A. programs held steady this year.