Prospective MBA students want to learn how to lead teams of coders and understand digital technologies — highly technical competencies that have replaced entrepreneurship in a list of most valued skills.
In a survey of 1,200 business school applicants, 18 per cent rated technology management as the skill they most wanted to acquire as part of their MBA. It was the most popular subject, alongside strategy lessons, after leadership, which was picked by 27 per cent of the respondents to the survey, which was commissioned by accreditation body EFMD and carried out by education research company Carrington Crisp.
By technology management, respondents meant the ability to lead teams of people developing new digital services for an employer, such as smartphone apps or online booking systems, according to Andrew Crisp, the study’s author.
“It is not about being able to code,” he said. “People expect to be placed in positions where they must deliver IT projects on time and to budget, and they realise that without an understanding of how the technology works they will be in trouble.”
Entrepreneurship, which was third in last year’s Carrington Crisp survey, fell to eighth place on the list, behind project management, international business, marketing and risk-management lessons.
The findings concur with the Financial Times’s annual survey of the most sought after MBA skills among employers, published this week. Big data analysis was one of the skills employers found difficult to recruit, according to this year’s poll.
The survey reflects demand in the business education market. Degree courses specialising in data science are booming.
In the US, where applications for the traditional two-year MBA course have been declining for the past four years, according to data compiled by entrance exam body the Graduate Management Admissions Council, masters degrees in data analytics are a growth market.
Last year 74 per cent of big data courses in the US reported increased demand last year, compared with 32 per cent of two-year, full-time MBA programmes, GMAC found.
Being able to manage projects is not as important a skill as mastering statistics and predictive analytics, according to Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded, a digital training business that recently won a contract to teach data science skills to more than 1,000 staff at UK retailer Marks & Spencer.
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning are fundamentally changing business models and creating entirely new businesses,” Ms Parsons said.
“They are 100 per cent data driven and therefore require leadership that can translate their business challenges into data challenges and skilled practioners internally to implement these.”