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Business schools still offer bang for your buck post-pandemic, says survey

SOURCE: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
Recruiters' confidence in business school graduates remains strong.


By U2B Staff 

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Are business schools up-to-date and equipping management graduates with relevant skills that organisations value? According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) report, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Hiring of Business School Graduates Corporate Recruiters Survey 2020, the answer points to a “yes”.

When asking corporate recruiters’ perspectives about the value of graduate management education, some of the responses included, “Candidates with graduate management education tend to have greater ability to analyse problems, define strategies and communicate with peers and superiors.”

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Another respondent said, “Breadth of business knowledge and a mindset that emphasises delivering results coupled with personal attributes like ambition and desire to learn/grow.”

But a key finding was that despite disruption to the global economy and future of work due to the pandemic, the confidence of corporate recruiters in the skills and abilities of graduate management talent remains strong. 

Companies are confident that business schools prepare students to be successful

GMAC ran two rounds of data collection for the 2020 CRS report — Wave I (February 17-March 17, 2020) of the survey received 712 responses when COVID-19 was unfolding; Wave II (June 17 – July 17, 2020) saw them gathering 232 responses to provide more relevant insights about the impact of COVID-19. 

During Wave I, 90% of respondents indicated they were highly confident or confident about the ability of graduate business schools to prepare students to be successful in their organisation; in Wave II, this dropped slightly to 87%. 

Even before the pandemic, concerns were emerging about the strength of the global economy, which only deepened subsequently, said GMAC.

“In Wave I, only 33% of respondents described the state of the global economy as very strong or strong as compared to just seven percent in Wave II. This suggests that even in a weak global economy, confidence in a business school’s ability to prepare future managerial talent remains steady,” said the report.

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Hiring and salary projections 

In terms of hiring projections, 61% of recruiters planned to keep their headcount stable in 2020, compared to 17% who will decrease headcounts and 22% who plan to increase it. 

When looking into the hiring projections for 2021, they found that in Wave II, the proportion of recruiters reporting plans to hire MBAs in 2021 (89%) is at a similar level to Wave I (92%).

Promisingly, for the class of 2020, most recruiters are indicating plans to honour their compensation promises, and only a few are resorting to a reduction in salaries, benefits, or bonuses.

The compensation premium commanded by business management graduates is also holding steady. 

“At US$115,000, the median salary of MBAs is 75% more than those with a bachelor’s degree in Wave I, which slightly decreased to us$105,000 in Wave II. The compensation premium is even more apparent for Fortune 100 companies or the big-three industries that hire the most MBAs — consulting, finance and technology,” it said.

“For example, at US$145,000, the median salary of MBAs in the consulting industry is twice that of bachelor’s degree holders in Wave I. In sum, the responses of the corporate recruiters suggest that salaries for graduate management talent are relatively less likely to soften during the pandemic.”

Ultimately, while MBA and business master’s graduates are not immune to the disruptions brought upon by the pandemic, the survey suggests that employers remain confident about the value of graduate management talent, based on their relatively steady hiring projections and salary trends. 

The GMAC’s annual CRS provides vital data for employers and business schools in understanding trends and insights on hiring, salaries and skills of MBA and business master’s graduates.