MBA Job Market Stays Robust
QS Recently released several reports based on its survey of 2,145 recruiters involved with MBA hiring in more than 50 countries. Quacquarelli recently shared the results of these reports and his thoughts on what recruiters are looking for in employees in a post-crisis economy, as well as the relevance of the MBA degree.MBA hiring improved around the world in 2010, and it has a good chance of continuing to grow, says Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS Quacquarelli Symonds.
Excerpts of their conversation: with Bloomberg Businessweek as enclosed.
Is the MBA still a relevant and viable degree?
There’s a real gap between journalistic perception of the crisis on the MBA market and the reality. The reality is [that] with globalization and companies looking to expand their businesses overseas, the MBA remains the natural qualification for management-level roles. More companies are looking to expand internationally than ever before. That’s fueling growth in MBA demand. The only thing I see that would fundamentally curtail MBA demand would be if we entered into any trade wars and global trade was severely curtailed. As long as borders are open and you have global trade in a buoyant state, I think companies are going to hire MBAs.
What was the most surprising result of the 2010 employer survey?
We found the MBA job market is actually quite robust and picking up substantially in most major OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] markets. Despite having had a pretty shocking credit crunch, the downward impact on MBA hiring was short-lived, with less than two years of cutbacks. Russia reported a 22 percent increase in MBA hiring year-over-year. And Latin America was also quite buoyant. This compares with the mature market in the U.S., which had a steep drop in MBA hiring in 2009 and showed a 9 percent increase in hiring in 2010. Hiring is still lagging compared with 2007 or 2008 levels. Still, we have seen a bounce back in the U.S., whereas Western Europe is showing just a 3 percent increase compared with 2009, which is quite an insignificant change.
MBA hiring is particularly picking up in the Asia Pacific region. We’re seeing more than 30 percent growth in MBA jobs year-over-year in the Asia Pacific region, particularly in markets such as India, China, Australia, and Singapore.
Why? What is it about emerging markets that has them flourishing?
Emerging markets have traditionally had few companies geared toward hiring MBAs. As they are expanding outside their home markets, they see MBAs as a human resource [employed by] American and European companies, and they’re following suit. The salaries in these markets are still less than at global employers, although a lot of [employers] are beginning to recruit MBA candidates for more international roles. The rapid GDP growth in many of these emerging markets means a lot of multinational companies are expanding their operations in these markets, and they are bringing MBAs in to do the job. When you have a critical mass of alumni in a country, and they rise to a position of seniority, they start to look for other MBAs to join their companies. That creates the network effect, and it starts to create momentum.
Which geographies are most promising for MBAs looking for work?
There’s no doubt that the Asia Pacific region is most dynamic in terms of the number of MBA jobs. Still, salaries are lower there. The U.S. market remains a huge market in terms of the total number of MBA job opportunities. Salaries have not dropped meaningfully during the credit crunch, and they are probably going to start to increase again as the economy recovers.
Will business schools in other countries surpass U.S. schools in the future?
There’s no doubt that U.S. business schools have amazing strength and depth in their faculty and resources, and that’s not going to change. The European business schools have been playing catch-up for the past 20 years. Asia Pacific and other regions are a long way behind, and it will take many years for those schools to catch up in overall strengths and depth. The point is that employers are becoming active in other regions, and they’re not just recruiting from top international schools. They’re also recruiting from local business schools.
What are recruiters looking for in employees, and has that changed at all in the years of the crisis?
Recruiters are looking for more years of work experience now. Before the crisis, the majority of recruiters were looking for three to five years of work experience, whereas now they’d like to see between five and eight years. We’re seeing less significance given to two-year vs. one-year MBA programs. Recruiters increasingly have just been looking at the candidate profile and not necessarily concerned by the lengths of the course.
Employers consistently say they are generally satisfied with the technical skills MBAs have when they graduate from business school. There’s an ongoing feeling that interpersonal and leadership skills of MBAs are not up to scratch. Employers have consistently said they’d like MBAs to have really good soft skills, but they’re not as satisfied with those skills in their hires.