Ethics, Big Data Are in Demand

A new survey also finds that more prospective master's students would consider alternative forms of training.

THE STUDY OF ETHICS is becoming a priority for students who are considering applying to master’s degree programs in business disciplines. Among 1,041 prospective business master’s students recently surveyed, the subject now ties for the fifth most popular, alongside business forecasting and modeling. The survey, 2019 Tomorrow’s Master’s, was conducted by CarringtonCrisp in the U.K., in association with the European Foundation for Management Development, based in Brussels, Belgium. That represents a big jump—ethics ranked only 18th in 2018.

“Studying business ethics as a standalone degree marks a significant change in tastes among prospective students,” says Andrew Crisp, the author of the study. “From our regular research among MBA students, ethics has rarely been rated higher than 20th in popularity.” The difference, he adds, is that today’s prospective master’s students are generally younger and represent “a new generation of business students with a growing interest in responsible management.”

The No. 1 most popular subject among prospective master’s students is now big data/business analytics—up from the No. 7 spot in 2018. Accounting (No. 2), finance (3), business law (4), and economics (7) round out the top seven subjects that respondents noted they most wished to pursue.

Forty-one percent of women surveyed indicate that the strength of a business school’s connections to industry is an important factor in their choice of programs. That’s compared to just 24 percent of men. This finding could suggest that women are “more focused on actions that will advance their career success,” says Crisp. This could be because they are aware that they could face hurdles such as gender bias in the workplace.

Finally, the study finds that many prospective master’s students are open to pursuing alternative forms of training over traditional master’s programs. Among those surveyed, 33 percent would consider enrolling in a MicroMasters program, 34 percent would consider pursuing digital badges, and 34 percent are open to taking short online courses. 

“While the market for alternative forms of study is growing, it has some way to go,” says Crisp. “Demand from prospective students will only increase substantially once employers make it clear that alternative forms of study will be considered in the same way as formal degrees.”