Demand for MBAs remains high

The majority of employers still regard the MBA as a high-value degree and are eager to hire MBAs, according to a new survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

The January poll of global employers projected a healthy demand for recent graduates of master’s level in business management programmes – especially MBAs. According to the survey, which polled 179 recruiters across 159 companies of varying sizes and industry sectors in 31 regions worldwide, 96 percent of the respondents said that hiring business school graduates created value for their companies.

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“An MBA is an expensive investment but one that is expected to pay big dividends,” said Segran Nair, director of Open Programmes at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB). “It is for this reason that demand for the degree remains high.”

GMAC conducts the Graduate Management Admissions Test or GMAT, a pre-MBA exam that assesses analytical writing and problem-solving abilities and is used by most leading business schools across the world as an essential element of the admissions process.

The UCT GSB is one of the few schools in the country that still insists on GMAT as part of its entrance criteria, partly because it helps them identify the best students in a competitive application process. But the test is more than a screening mechanism. Nair says it actually helps MBA students prepare for what lies ahead.


“Most MBA applicants have spent several years in the workplace, and are not fully prepared for the intellectual and personal demands that come with a return to university,” said Dr Ailsa Stewart Smith, who runs a short prep course to help students prepare for the GMAT.

“Preparing for and writing the GMAT is in itself a preparation for a return to academic study.”


Smith added that investing time and money in preparing for the GMAT is also a worthwhile investment and can pay off in terms of better scores, which will assist with getting applicants into the school of their choice. The GMAT prep course, which is run a few times a year by the GSB in Cape Town and Joburg, is designed to boost confidence by familiarising applicants with the test, covering content and layout as well as answering techniques and time management skills.

“The cost in money and time to write the GMAT is not inconsiderable, so the better the preparation and practice, the more likely that this investment will be of value. A prep course is arguably a worthwhile part of this pre-test work and speaks to an applicant’s commitment to the process,” said Smith.

She added that a good MBA is a high-end degree and commands respect in the workplace, as the recent GMAC survey attests to.

“And if you want a good MBA then it is worth investing in your application process.”

Around the world, MBA applicants are investing increasing amounts of time and effort in their application process to get into the top schools, as competition for limited spaces intensifies, observed Nair, while business schools are investing more time in selecting the most suitable candidates.

There is no formula, he said. The GSB considers a number of factors, including maturity, commitment and relevant work experience.