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Communication, data analysis, and strategy most important skills for MBA grads: Survey

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According to a survey of corporate recruiters recently released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), despite unfavorable macroeconomic conditions and looming uncertainties, employers remain confident in hiring graduates from business schools.

Employers say communication, data analysis, and strategy are currently among the most important skills for business school graduates – and most say their importance will continue to grow. Notably, U.S. employers interested in tech skills highly value their future importance but think business school graduates could be better prepared on specific technological capabilities. U.S. recruiters – along with their colleagues in the finance and accounting sectors – are also more critical of candidates’ preparedness to leverage some important communication skills compared to other regions and think business schools could better build their graduates’ intercultural skills.

“The outlook among most employers indicates that business schools are on the right track preparing their graduates with the skills of current and growing importance to successfully navigate an information loaded and AI-affected world,” said Joy Jones, CEO of GMAC. “It is our belief that business schools and their graduates will rise to the challenge in upgrading the critical skills of the future – be it cross-cultural competence, Web3 and Blockchain, or digital communication – to allow them to thrive in global, hybrid organizations and make meaningful impact in an ever-changing environment.”

Other Key Findings:

Overall, employers tend to believe business school can offer an advantage over talent without a graduate management education. Employers from Asia and Fortune 500 companies have a more optimistic view of the abilities and advancement potential of business school graduates, but also are more likely to recruit more heavily from “leading” business schools. And as in previous years, employers continue to value talent from in-person programs over those with online degrees or micro-credentials only.

“Graduates of online business degrees should talk about their credentials differently depending on the employer—employers in Asia are more likely to value the degree itself, while U.S. and consulting employers would rather hear about specific skills candidates attained,” suggested Andrew Walker, director of research analysis and communications at GMAC and the author of the report. “Micro-credentials in and of themselves are less likely to impress employers compared to graduate business degrees though the skills they bring are appreciated by some employers.”

The survey also examines how macroeconomic conditions are influencing hiring and salary decisions across industries and around the globe. Encouragingly, even after accounting for inflation, MBA salaries in 2023 in the United States are expected to be higher than 2022 projections, while industry and business master’s salaries may drop. Despite reported recession concerns, 2023 hiring plans remain optimistic, with some anticipated growth in hiring among business master’s compared to actual 2022 results.

About the Survey

GMAC, together with survey partners European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) and the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance (MBA CSEA), collected input from 1,028 respondents in 34 countries and representing 55% of Global Fortune 500 companies from January to March of 2023, in association with the career services offices at participating graduate business schools worldwide. GMAC Research also worked with a market research firm to recruit additional participants to make the overall sample more globally representative.

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