Graduate schools report decline in full-time MBA applications

MBA application volume typically runs counter to economic conditions, GMAC says

Returning to graduate school to earn a master's of business administration (MBA) is no easy decision for IT pros.

Staffing experts say technical experience combined with knowledge of corporate finance is an appealing package, particularly for senior IT management roles such as CIO and IT director. But earning an MBA is no golden ticket. Relevant tech experience is typically more important to hiring managers, and having an MBA may not help a candidate secure more money for a new IT position.

CAREER PLANS: Should tech pros get an MBA?

In today's economy, prospective MBA students from all backgrounds are weighing whether to apply to graduate school -- and many are deciding against it. For the second year running, overall applications for MBA programs are on the decline at many schools, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

MBA application volume typically runs counter to economic conditions, GMAC says. When the economy slows and jobs are tight, applications to business schools tend to climb -- as they did in 2008, peaking in 2009. When the economy begins to improve, applications tend to decline since potential students are reluctant to leave their jobs to attend a full-time program.

BACK TO SCHOOL: 10 tech-centric MBA programs

In GMAC's 2011 survey, 67% of two-year, full-time MBA programs reported a decline in application volume compared with 2010. At part-time MBA programs (which appeal to students who want to continue to work while completing their coursework), application volume held fairly steady: 46% of part-time programs reported a decline in applications, and 54% said the number of applications received was the same or greater in 2011.

"The caution in this year's survey for full-time MBA programs is unsurprising in the current economy as students weigh the financial and time commitments required to pursue a graduate business degree," said Dave Wilson, GMAC president and CEO, in a statement.

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