Business Majors and Nonbusiness Majors Take Different Paths to B-School

Survey research highlights key differences that may impact business school marketing and recruitment strategies.

Nov 14, 2016

Prospective Students

A nonbusiness major considers her path to graduate business school If you were to ask a random group of undergraduates, they may well agree that business majors and nonbusiness majors take different approaches to furthering their education. Though many behavioral stereotypes feed into this perception—both positive and negative—data from the 2016 Prospective Students Survey highlight some key differences between business majors and nonbusiness majors in their pursuit of a graduate business degree. 

Both groups of candidates exhibit distinct behaviors in relation to the timing of their first consideration of a graduate business degree, their reasons for pursuing such a degree, and in their level of interest for specific programs types. These differences offer useful insights for graduate business school admissions professionals as they think about how to best connect with these two distinctive groups of prospective students.

First Consideration of Graduate Management Education (GME)

Business majors first consider a graduate business degree earlier in their educational timeline than nonbusiness majors.  The survey data indicate that business majors are 75 percent more likely to begin considering a graduate business degree by the time they complete their undergraduate degree (59% of business majors) than nonbusiness majors (34%).  On the flip side, nonbusiness majors are twice as likely as nonbusiness majors to first consider business school more than four years after completing their undergraduate degree (36% of nonbusiness majors vs. 18% of business majors).

Likely consider

Reasons for Pursuing Graduate Management Education 

Business majors are more likely to pursue a graduate business degree to increase their chances of receiving a promotion (28% of business majors vs. 21% of nonbusiness majors), increase job opportunities (63% vs. 57%), remain marketable/competitive (47% vs. 41%), develop their technical expertise (30% vs. 25%) and increase personal satisfaction and achievement (50% vs. 45%).  

Nonbusiness majors are more likely than business majors to pursue business school to change career paths (47% of nonbusiness majors vs. 33% of business majors), develop leadership skills (56% vs. 49%), contribute to solving the world’s problems (30% vs. 23%), develop their general business KSAs (65% vs. 59%), and develop their managerial skills (55% vs. 49%).  

Program Types Considered 

These two candidate groups are also distinct in the types of graduate business program types they tend to consider. Business majors are more likely to pursue non-MBA business master’s programs (60% of business majors vs. 33% of nonbusiness majors), particularly Master of Finance, Master of Accounting, and Master in Management programs. Nonbusiness majors are more likely to consider MBA programs (82% of nonbusiness majors vs. 66% of business majors).

For more insights on business school candidates, download the 2016 Prospective Students Survey Report, available at