Influencing Variables and Perceptions regarding MBA Degree Programs

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this paper is to provide understanding of the variables involved in a student's decision to enroll in an MBA program, which can assist universities in recruiting and retaining students. A questionnaire was designed and distributed to students in two regional state universities to identify factors playing a primary role in the graduate school decision as well as to examine students' perceptions of an MBA degree. Seven a priori hypotheses were evaluated using a myriad of analyses, including examination of response percentages, ANOVA procedures, independent sample t-tests, and Levene's test for equality of variances to appropriately examine each. Majority support was found for all seven hypotheses, with a few reasonable delineations. Overall, it seems that the value of an MBA degree along with the perceptions regarding the pursuit and significance of said degree is fairly uniform across several demographic differences. This study is only interested in capturing opinions of students currently enrolled in undergraduate studies relative to an MBA degree. It did not include individuals not attending college, those actively engaged in careers, and individuals seeking employment or a career change. Assessing students' perceptions of the value of an MBA degree can be useful in the design and promotion of MBA programs, which can lead to more effective, tailor-made curriculum and recruitment of students.

INTRODUCTION

Providing career planning and development opportunities are an integral and important function of any institution of higher education. Advising students in the selection of a college major, in choosing a career, and making decisions concerning graduate education are essential elements in the process of preparing students for a successful career. Many variables are involved in the career choice decision and the supporting decision of continuing education. Given the realities of a nationwide challenge to maintain and/or increase university enrollments, demographic changes leading to a significantly more diverse student body, and greater pressures and demands for accountability from ever-increasing groups of stakeholders, colleges face a tremendous challenge/opportunity in recruiting students and advising them in career decisions.

It would be helpful to any college to identify and understand the processes and underlying assumptions that accompany students* choices concerning graduate school education. In an effort to provide some insight from the student's perspective, a survey was conducted in two regional southeastern state universities. The primary purposes of this survey were to identify some important variables influencing students* choices to enroll in an MBA program and to assess undergraduate business students' perceived value of the degree. Results of this survey are presented in this article along with recommendations as to how the results can be useful in providing a better understanding of students' decision-making processes concerning graduate education and how faculty and supporting staff can recruit students more effectively and provide better guidance and assistance to students in this crucial area.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Career Decisions

Career planning and management on the part of students can range from the very haphazard to the very methodical. People (students) have varying expectations/aspirations concerning career opportunities and make decisions accordingly. The choice to pursue an advanced degree is an integral part of this process.

In a study involving MBA students, Simmering and Wilcox (1995) identified five factors that largely influence the decision to pursue the MBA graduate degree. These factors center around the personal prestige associated with the MBA, career exploration opportunities, goals for developing and improving interpersonal skills, entrepreneurial aspirations, and increasing career mobility.

Other issues related to entering into an MBA degree program involve the decision to attend a full-time, part-time, or Executive MBA program (Bruce, 2010); whether a traditional "general" MBA or one offering "specialization" is preferred (Gupta, 2007); and whether to gain pre-MBA work experience or enroll immediately after achieving an undergraduate degree (Yeaple,2010). …