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Why the Pandemic Highlights the Value of a Graduate Business Degree

Posted May 06, 2020 by Toby McChesney and Monica Powell

Despite recent research and reporting that casts doubt on the value of an MBA degree, these turbulent times underscore the need for talented and skilled leadership—precisely the kind of vision taught in a business school classroom.


From a professional development standpoint, now is the time to upskill. As businesses of all sizes navigate the now-ubiquitous remote work conditions, the skills you will acquire during an MBA program will determine which businesses thrive and which fade away.

Running a business virtually requires strategic thinkers who can forecast how a shifting financial market or supply chain may need adjustment. This uncertain time requires professionals who understand the architecture of decision-making and can problem-solve in a new remote environment with limited information. The COVID-19 era also requires leadership where accountability, level-headedness, and agility will win the day and the business.

Acquiring an MBA gives you the tools you need to get ahead of the curve and understand how to predict a problem before it is a real problem, then develop solutions in accordance with those projections.

Personal and Professional Growth

With disruption comes an opportunity for growth—and a chance to move in a new direction. For those seeking to create change, the MBA program steps in to ignite that progress for them. Whether you have been furloughed or laid off, or are going through other personal difficulties, these challenges can lay the groundwork for a beneficial big-picture shift. Now could very well be the time to focus on developing a marketable MBA skill set of strategic, technical, quantitative, and behavioral skills that will spur greater success in the employment market.

Evolving Educational Options

A traditional, two-year MBA program is hardly the only option if you are interested in a graduate business degree. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has found that 47 percent of business school candidates are considering both an MBA and specialized business master’s programs, and 20 percent of candidates are only considering specialized business master’s programs.

Among specialized business master’s programs, candidates are most strongly considering a master of finance (24 percent) and master of data analytics (19 percent), with the latter degree representing an increasingly popular option in a world that grows more digital by the day.

Overall consideration of one-year MBA programs (47 percent) has surpassed two-year MBA programs (45 percent), according to GMAC. Business schools are adapting their offerings to nontraditional students and adult learners. Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, for instance, launched a several online programs (an MBA, MS in marketing, and MS in finance and analytics) to accommodate students who desired more flexibility in scheduling. Students at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Jindal School of Management are eagerly pursuing the MS/MBA double degree option, where they can acquire both leadership and strategic management skills and in-depth knowledge of a specific business discipline.

Business schools are also introducing more MBA programs that focus on social impact and collaborate with other academic disciplines, including the rise of the MD/MBA degree. Those seeking to solve this generation’s public health problems will come to understand that these challenges are as much business issues as they are medical issues, as is evident by the current pandemic’s strain on the healthcare system, for example. A business degree represents a crucial piece in the puzzle of a holistic approach to problem-solving.

Now is exactly the right time for you to pursue a graduate degree in business. MBA students will be at the forefront of sustaining their businesses and driving the decisions that will get society through the pandemic, generating prosperity in the brighter days that lie ahead.

Headshot of Shivendu Shivendu, associate professor, Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department, University of South Florida Muma College of Business Toby McChesney is senior assistant dean of graduate business programs for the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. McChesney is chair of Liaison International’s BusinessCAS Advisory Board.

Headshot of Kaushik Dutta, professor and chair, Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department, University of South Florida Muma College of Business  Monica Powell is senior associate dean and graduate dean for the Naveen Jindal School of Management at The University of Texas at Dallas. Powell is a member of Liaison International’s Business CAS Advisory Board.