Graduate Management News
Data & Trends

A Distinct Pipeline for Specialized Master’s Programs

Specialized master’s degree programs in business are on the rise, and they’re attracting a different group of students to business schools.

For the fourth straight year, a majority of master in management, master of accounting, master of finance programs surveyed in GMAC’s Application Trends Survey have shown application increases. 

“As the global economy slowly stabilizes, many schools have seen applications to full-time MBA programs fall from the robust cycles of 2008 and 2009. This pattern typically emerges following recessions when job loss─often the immediate impetus for some to return to school─subsides. In contrast, specialized master’s programs have continued to attract more applicants during this period. These degrees are often shorter in duration and relatively less expensive than traditional MBA programs. They also tend to appeal to recent bachelor’s graduates not keen on navigating today’s stagnant job market,” says Alex Chisholm, GMAC senior manager of statistical analysis.

The Application Trends Survey report cited other reasons as to why master’s programs may be an attractive option for applicants.

“Several factors have influenced the continued overall growth among specialized master’s programs, including higher industry requirements for employees and worldwide demand for higher education,” the report noted. “In the past, a bachelor’s degree was sufficient education for employment, but increased job competition and stricter industry requirements have encouraged applicants to return to school.”
The 2011 survey report details how specialized programs draw distinctly different applicants than MBA programs. Large majorities of applicants to management (72%), accounting (75%) and finance (76%) programs are age 25 or younger, and they generally have less work experience. In addition, specialized programs tend to draw more women, and─except for accounting programs─more international students. 

The 2011 Application Trends Survey includes responses from 199 full-time MBA programs, 41 Master of Accounting, 29 Master in Management or International Management, and 30 Master of Finance programs. Schools that offer graduate management programs can sign up to participate in the 2012 study of application trends by registering their programs at

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