Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Influencing Variables and Perceptions regarding MBA Degree Programs

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Influencing Variables and Perceptions regarding MBA Degree Programs

Article excerpt


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.


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).

Among the internal and external factors cited in studies aimed at identifying the primary determinants of career decisions are salary, influence by parents and family, perceived ability/personality fit, high job demand, image/prestige, and interest in an area (Duffy & Dik, 2009). Duffy & Dik found that the common assumption of "free choice" in making career decisions can be limited significantly by "life experiences and circumstances." One would expect the recent recession, for example, to be a prominent factor in decisions related to job searches and enrollment in education programs (Bruce, Edgington, & Olkin, 2003).

Successful career management ideally results in a fulfilling and satisfying work life that contributes to a well-rounded life experience. Reported satisfaction with career choice varies, however. One poll indicates that only 50% of Americans would choose the same career again if given the choice ("Half Would Pick," 1992). Although reports vary from one profession/career to another, Sariento (1996) reported that a number of people do indeed dislike their current jobs and related career paths but feel "stuck. …

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