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Changing Trends in Modern MBA Programs

Adam Hardie, with fellow MBA supply chain students at NC State's Hunt Library
Adam Hardie, with fellow MBA supply chain students at NC State's Hunt Library

The landscape around MBA programs is changing quickly. As the business world shifts to more specialized, digital and global trends, universities are trying to adjust and keep up.

As the rest of society goes online, MBA programs have tried to keep pace with the number of universities offering online courses increasing by 44 percent between 2011 and 2016. With about six in 10 prospective students indicating they want the opportunity to study abroad during their MBA studies, this is trend schools are needing to take notice of.

Trends towards focused, practical programs makes concentrations like supply chain important for universities. But, balancing that with emerging more humanitarian-focused areas like benefit corporations (often called B Corps) attracts students, too.

A focused variety

It’s up to universities to make sense of all of these trends as they design attractive business degree programs in this competitive environment.

While having one specialty can get an MBA program noticed by a niche segment of business students, Jen Arthur, director of admissions for NC State’s Jenkins MBA Program, said for a world-class program, a school really needs to excel in many areas.

“The way that the Jenkins MBA has been able to separate itself from the pack is by offering students multiple concentrations that reflect today’s business world – and the opportunity to think and do within those concentrations,” explained Arthur.

Think and Do

Some present and former students say NC State has done a lot to make that phrase more than just the school’s motto. NC State Jenkins MBA alumna Janelle Tracy worked with companies through the college’s Consumer Innovation Collaborative, assisting them with marketing and consumer behavior projects as part of her marketing concentration.

 This hands-on approach had a strong bearing as she was evaluating graduate programs. “The prospect of helping a Fortune 500 business with a consumer-related challenge bumped NC State to the top of my list,” Tracy said.

Now looking back, Tracy says her time in the program didn’t disappoint.

“I had the opportunity to work on projects for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, AmerisourceBergen, Burt’s Bees and Cotton Incorporated during my time in the MBA Program,” Tracy said. “Those experiences were challenging, but I was beyond pleased with what I learned. I was also uniquely positioned for roles upon graduation.”

Similarly, Adam Hardie, a second-year MBA student in the supply chain management concentration, works on company projects through the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC), based in Poole College. He was one of this past year’s MBA students selected for the SCRC Scholars program. 

“I’ve worked with Lenovo during my time as an SCRC Scholar,” Hardie said. “In this role I’ve gained experience in data analytics and procurement, which makes me more valuable to employers. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. We get to develop valuable skills and the partner companies get access to early supply chain talent.”

The increasing value of an MBA

Statistics from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) show strong interest among companies for hiring talent coming out of MBA programs. It found a quickly rising trend of interest in MBA graduates in hiring decisions. While 68 percent of companies in 2016 said they expected to hire an MBA graduate that year, that number has risen to 79 percent only one year later.

In order to continue attracting this talent, 58 percent of employers in GMAC’s 2016 Year-End Poll of Employers Report said they planned on raising the starting salary for MBA graduates newly hired to their companies.

MBA success in the face of modern trends

“We think we’ve found that perfect recipe for our MBA program to succeed as global business keeps changing,” said Jen Arthur. “We focus on providing a wide-array of relevant specialties and then connecting students with businesses working in those areas.”

This article was written by WRAL for the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University as part of WRAL’s sponsored Spotlight series.