Tech, Business Ethics Are Key to Potential Master’s Students: Report

Business forecasting and modeling, business ethics, digital marketing, and artificial intelligence topped potential majors for prospective master's students in a new survey by CarringtonCrisp.
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Published on June 13, 2023
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  • Prospective master's degree students highlighted business ethics, digital marketing, and artificial intelligence as important topics in a new study by the United Kingdom-based consulting firm CarringtonCrisp.
  • Prospective students also increasingly preferred in-person, full-time degree programs compared to last year, marking a shift from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Cost of living and program fees were potential barriers to potential master's students.
  • Prospective students indicated that self-confidence is a key skill they want to learn during their master's program.

Prospective master's degree students selected business forecasting and modeling, business ethics, artificial intelligence, and digital marketing as their top interests in a new survey, reflecting a tech- and business-focused landscape in graduate education.

Business forecasting and modeling took the top spot for subjects that prospecting master's students would be interested in studying in the new Tomorrow's Masters survey by the United Kingdom-based consulting firm CarringtonCrisp, with 36% of respondents selecting the outlook-based subject.

Other top subjects for the 1,755 respondents from more than 26 countries included:

  • Business ethics, 35%
  • Digital marketing, 35%
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and business, 34%
  • E-commerce, 33%
  • Data analytics, 31%

The report notes that other popular topics in the top 10 include "traditional" master's degree subjects like business law, investment, banking, finance, and economics.

"With the growth of AI and digital, it's no surprise that technology subjects are in demand," study author and CarringtonCrisp co-founder Andrew Crisp said in an emailed statement. "However, it is a reminder of students' desire to develop a strong ethical foundation and understanding for a business landscape that has several grey areas, not least because of technological advancements."

The focus on tech reflects a wider trend among business students. CarringtonCrisp's Tomorrow's MBA report earlier this year found that AI took the top spot for topics that prospective master of business administration (MBA) students wanted to see in their degree programs. While climate change entered the top 10 most important topics for the first time.

Business schools have increasingly incorporated sustainability and tech-heavy topics into their curriculum: BestColleges previously reported that Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business will incorporate data and tech into its MBA curriculum starting this fall.

"Undoubtedly, student choice is in part determined by employer demand, with students seeking degrees that can help them get particular jobs, although there remains strong interest in more general subjects that can lead to a variety of careers," the report reads.

Prospective students most often highlighted "value for money" as being their top consideration when deciding which program to pursue, with teaching quality and strong employment opportunities for school alumni also being top priorities.

The study also indicated the growing importance of in-person learning to prospective students after the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of prospective students who preferred blended or online education dropped to 29% for this year's iteration of the Tomorrow's Masters study, down from 38% last year, according to the report. And 47% said they preferred full-time, on-campus study options.

"The shift in students' confidence and the renewed preference for on-campus learning are two key post pandemic trends," Crisp said in the statement. "Students are looking to business schools to help them specifically prepare for the workplace and are craving the more personal learning experience of face to face study."

Living Costs a Concern

Financial barriers are a major roadblock for prospective master's degree students: 47% of respondents said the cost of living while studying was a major concern, and 40% worried that they wouldn't be able to afford program fees.

Moving to a new location, program length, language requirements, and "the response to the pandemic in certain countries" were also major concerns for students, although none were selected by more than 30% of respondents.

Prospective students' expectations varied widely based on expected costs for their degree. The largest share of prospective students, 18%, said they expect to pay between £25,001 and £30,000 (roughly $31,400-$37,700) for their degree. More than half of respondents, however, said that they expected to pay less than that.

"While domestic students in some countries can access a Master's degree for free or at a very limited cost, international students often pay a premium fee for their studies," the report reads.

How students intend to pay for their degree varies widely. Roughly 32% of prospective students said they would ask their family for financial help. Another 28% said they would apply for a loan, and 27% indicated that they were dependent on a scholarship.

Career Skills Are Key

Career development workshops, coaching, mentoring, and working with real-world companies were all key aspects that potential master's degree students wanted to see in their programs — but the single most important skill that respondents wanted to develop was self-confidence.

Roughly 31% of respondents singled out self-confidence as the most important skill to develop, a rise from 25% in last year's Tomorrow's Masters study. Critical thinking, an "entrepreneurial mindset" and traditional skills like leadership and communication also scored highly among prospective students.