1.0 Introduction                                                   

Education equates to intrinsic growth and development of a person. In the modern, competitive system, it denotes economic prosperity within families and amongst individuals. In present almost entirely capitalistic world market, nobody has a guarantee of a job in the future, a fact that leaves questions in the academic circles unanswered: is abandoning further learning an option and is higher education a solution? (Mujtaba & Williams 2008).

The pursuance of an MBA has diverse benefits to a student; apart from the professional angle it adds, it prepares students for personal and professional development. It is highly rich in imparting knowledge on fields of business such as understanding of strategies in both theoretical and practical form. The internships in major companies would suggest one of pursues an MBA offers as a reality sharpness in a daily business routine. Additionally, the benefits in terms of take-home pay are hefty, and starting salaries are huge. However, these may be the factors that encourage students to pursue MBA programs, but certainly not all the reasons.

The questions on factors motivating students to pursue MBA programs continue to gain prominence due to the many facets that higher education presents. Outstanding in these divergent factors is an indication that gender could be an influencing factor; women seem to pursue MBA at lower numbers than men. The United States Department of Education, for instance, shows from 2003 research that women undergraduates have risen over time, however, number of women pursuing postgraduate courses remains almost stagnant, at 30% for over 30 years. Scharf and Mujtaba (2007) refer to education as the only path to success that has the consistency over time. These categories include career improvement, environmental factors, personal development and ease of career switching.

Previous studies on the barriers and motivating aspects of pursuing an MBA underscore a strong need to understand the encouragement since the decision is critical. Bruce and Edingto (2003, p.78) state that the basic issues, which MBA prospective students consider before enrolling, are their perception on self fitness, readiness of financial resources and level of commitment. In their definition, fitness refers to the MBA’s ability to assist in attaining their career objectives.

Benefits of pursuing an MBA are diverse and keep on changing. In the recent past, MBA holders associated themselves with a class of top, cream achievers in the strenuous academic pursuits. There was exclusivity and prestige. Additionally, MBA holders anticipate higher start-up salaries on appointment. There is also the concept that it boasts confidence in solving problems. In contrast to the past, the exclusivity of MBA is no more apparent, there are over 100,000 MBA graduates annually from the UK and US business schools.Nevertheless, corporations still find the MBA qualification appealing though they do not match this appeal with the remuneration.

It is also worth noting that MBA qualifications are not limited to the graduates seeking appeal in a job interview. There is also a trend whereby almost all managers with bachelor’s degree are pursuing part time MBA programs. It internalizes mental processes and improves various dimension of an individual. For instance, MBA may make one time conscious, prompt in response to crisis and improve understanding on human processes at the work place. Some argue that its benefits may not double your salary or guarantee high profile jobs, but its personal benefits exceed any financial costs.

2.0 RESEARCH PROJECT: FACTORS ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO PURSUE MBA PROGRAMS.

The job market today continues to shrink, and uncertainty about the future looms; as such, many people are cushioning themselves by choosing to pursue an MBA. However, apart from the prestige that comes with it, an MBA denotes dedication and an aptitude of knowing and doing. In its turn, the decision requires dedication of time and finances. This paper seeks to find out the factors, which encourage students to pursue an MBA program, despite the decision being one that places them on an edge of the scary education bubble.

The implications of this study fall largely on both the student and the administrators. According to Tinto (2007), effective education predates student’s success in any learning institution. This indicates that the results of this study touch on various stakeholders since education is never in isolation from life activities. Following Tinto’s argument, it is clear that effective education is possible only when collaboration and focus of faculty pursue ensuring of conditions that support learning on a continuous basis. The conclusion of his postulation is the reality that student success does not happen by itself; it is made through structures and efforts. Tinto continues to state that involvement of students in active learning occurs where the educational setting is supportive. This means that high expectations regarding students’ success, a continuous feedback system on their progress are in place, including a responsibility to share their learning with others. The logic is that there may be non-personal incentives that make life processes easier, but in summation, efforts and commitment are crucial factors that matter. This study intends to provide evidence that administrators, faculty members, students and staff can use in deciding their commitment to a successful MBA program accomplishment, by finding out the factors motivating pursuance of MBA programs.

There is a myriad of factors that come into play when a graduate wants to pursue higher education; an MBA contributes to an individual personal and career wise development. In addition, an MBA fosters confidence, appeals to potential employers and fosters marketability. However, recent economic turns in the global markets imply that an MBA may not be as prestigious as it was before, and neither are scholarships, which are plenty, at present. Therefore, this research question is seen as appropriate in seeking to determine which among these factors appeal most in encouraging the students. Pursuance of higher education such as an MBA has an association to a diverse scope of factors; however, understanding the group of factors that appeal highly in encouraging graduates to pursue an MBA will assist universities in recruiting and retaining postgraduate students. Administrators will effectively choose their targets correctly, market their programs well and articulate the postgraduate students’ needs with precision.

In the light of the extent to which the results of this study hedges on personal orientation, there is a need to capture the encouraging/ motivating reasons for MBA studies accurately. Consequently, this pilot study is a prelude to a forthcoming complete thesis. In the thesis study, this research will seek to establish the motivating factor or group of factor that rank highest in influencing pursuance of an MBA degree.

The study also offers ideas programs to administrators of MBA that can reinforce their motivation for excellence. By understanding the basics that drew them to the programs, administrators can aid students in keeping focus on why they started the program. Consequently, an environment of encouragement can be harnessed and sustained throughout an MBA program. The results are better retention, more graduates and lower dropout rate.

Additionally, this study intends to give results on motives that MBA students can always review whenever they contemplate dropping out. Indeed, the mental input of an MBA is enormous and so are other demands; nevertheless, if students can review the results and relate with their initial reasons, they would be motivated to overcome the difficulties. These obstacles and inescapable bumps will challenge every student in terms of difficult projects; this study intends to offer a resource to which such students can refer. An administrator can refer a student to her/his initial reasons as a motivational aspect. This reference to one’s purpose can offer that powerful motivation and impetus to complete the journey.

3.0 RESEARCH PLAN

The research plan below provides the outline of the framework used in evaluating the factors that encourage students to pursue MBA programs. The plan will contain a draft of the perceived research questions, which can be used to answer the question under inquiry. In the plan a set of hypothesis will be stated, which will be essential in predicting the outcome of this inquiry. In addition, the research plan will contain the conceptual framework and the operationalization of the concepts composed in the conceptual framework.

3.1 Research Questions 

The purpose of this inquiry is to perform a pilot study using quantitative research method to establish the factors that encourage students to enroll and pursue MBA program. Therefore, the research questions will aim at explaining these salient factors influencing students to pursue MBA in the competing global economies. Most of the people pursuing MBA programs are people seeking to develop their skills in business management, enable them to switch to more fulfilling careers or develop the existing careers. In the current global economies a person holding an MBA is perceived better for managerial positions, and people aiming for top programs in the job market pursue MBA. These factors will assist in the formulation of the research questions and formulation of the hypothesis that will be used in this inquiry.   Which is the most is the most appropriate time for a person to enroll for MBA? This depends on a person interest since some start the program immediately after finishing their undergraduate degree. However, others perceive attainment of experience as an important factor in obtaining employment. Other factors affecting the time when a person enrolls for an MBA are the cost involved and the duration of study, which determines whether the person will enroll for part time program or full time program.  

What is the gender and age bracket of the people seeking to pursue MBA programs? This inquiry will try to establish the age bracket of the people seeking to pursue MBA. This will help the researcher establish whether majority of the people seeking to pursue MBA are fresh graduates or working people seeking to improve their careers.

Do the people seeking to enroll for MBA prefer part time, full time or online programs?  This depends on the person preference and some other job market factors.  There has been a perception that employers prefer full time MBA graduates to part time graduates.

Does studying MBA create better chances for graduates on completion?

Which are the most pertinent factors encouraging students to pursue MBA programs?

Hypothesis 1. Studying MBA that suite a person mode of study facilitates career growth, personal development, career switching   

Hypothesis 2. Studying MBA is influenced by the institutions programs such as part time, full time and online programs depending on a person interests and duration of the program.    

3.2 Conceptual Framework

This pilot study intends to find out the most influential factor that motivates a student to pursue an MBA degree. The conceptual framework outlines the factors encouraging people to seek for MBA.

3.3 Operationalization

The operationalization of this conceptual framework involves determination of the independent variables and the independent variables. Independent variables are factors that are exogenously determined and the influence the dependent factor. The factors encouraging people to enroll for MBA programs in this case are the independent variable since they are exogenously determined. The conceptual framework is multidimensional and has ensured separation of the concept into two perspectives, which are the MBA program attended and the duration of the program and the benefits of having completed the program.

3.3.1 First Dimension: Type of Program and Its Duration

The first evaluation involves determination of benefits of enrolling into any of the MBA programs whether part time or full time and their shortcomings. In this study a questionnaire was used to inquire the preference of mode of study from various prospective students. Majority of the universities offering MBA programs offer both the part time mode and the full time mode. This was developed to facilitate the students who were working to retain their jobs as they studied. However, students opting for part time mode of study will have to take long period before the completion of the program. In addition, not all institution offer part time mode of study. If the institutions offered only the full time mode of studies the student would have to quit their job. However, full time studies would facilitate speedy completion of the course since the students will be able to concentrate on their studies. The shortcoming associated with full time mode of study is that the student will have difficult time with payment of fees since they will not be earning. Full time student will also have limited time with their parents and relatives since they are expected to be in school most of the time.

3.3.2 Second Dimension: Benefits Associated With Achievement of an MBA      

This dimension evaluates the benefits associated with achievement of an MBA. MBA provides students with skills, which can be used in the current global economies to develop new concepts of business. It also facilitates leaders with skills, which enables them to rise into positions of authority and influence decision making at the organization level. The program also facilitates development of interpersonal and communication skills, which are essential in the current business environment. The developed skills learned through the MBA programs enable a person to switch to more fulfilling careers or achieve promotions at the working place.  

3.3.2.1 Personal Development

On the question of personal development as a motivator, various researchers outline personal reasons that prompt pursuance of higher education. The 1943, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ by Abraham Maslow proposes aspects of self-esteem and social perception, as desires encouraging graduates to pursue higher education. This theory is logical as it postulates that needs have a pre-potency consideration in which higher needs are desired after satisfying lower hierarchy ones. This logic oozes sense in that a graduate, upon acquiring a Bachelor’s degree will desire to satisfy an MBA program, since man’s desire crave for perpetual fulfilling (Maslow 1943). Other researchers, such as Gawel, support Maslow’s argument by contending that drives and desires do not crave for satisfaction in isolation but have links to satisfaction states of other drives. Gawel also proposes Herzberg’s Two Factor theory. In this theory, encouragement is either due to hygiene factors such as financial gains or motivator factors such as growth, recognition and achievement (Gawel 2008).

As an addition to the backbone of Maslow’s study, other experts, including Murgai and Scrarff, Mujtaba (2008) and others have made reference to his theories to expound on the human need for knowledge and understanding. They argue that, in order to express the self-actualization, learner must acquire academic knowledge that would help in analyzing the world systematically. As an extension of this, students desire be understood from their argument logically as the driver of the need to understand; it is in the search for understanding that graduates pursue higher education levels. This experts line of thought indicate that the encouraging factor in this case is educational goal achievement, where graduates want to improve their workforce appeal, acquire skills and be useful (Yorke 2004, p.10).

3.3.2.2 Career Enhancement

Since desires do not entirely constitute a motivation factor, experts, such as Marks and Edington (2006), propose career enhancement as the other, encouraging factor. In higher education, additional credentials form the core interests of a majority, the graduates hope for expansion of opportunities, increase in work interest and ability expansion in handling future occupational challenges (Edington and Marks 2006). The rationale in the experts’ arguments seems logical given that higher education equates to economic stability and higher income potential. Garry Schinasi (2004) and other experts underscore the importance of financial stability in improving economic processes and absorbing the now eminent job shocks. They also add that graduates are constantly searching for more challenging work, which is only possible through pursuance of higher education. As such, graduates want higher challenges and they understand that, in order to boast their confidence and push their boarders, higher education such as an MBA is most appropriate. The understanding of the motivation factor is that graduates realize that MBAs lead to job promotions; such promotions come with better working environment, more benefits and higher standards of living. In general, pursuing an MBA appeals to a graduate due to the benefits that accrue such as higher salaries, better benefits (housing, transportation and health insurance among others), expansion of further training opportunities and higher work responsibilities (hence more subordinates and higher supervisory position).

3.3.2.3 Career Switching

Edington and Marks (2006) extend their argument on encouraging factors to cover career-switching category. In this theory, graduates express a need to transition from their present career to prospectively attractive occupations. However, disparities exist in Marks and Edington research in comparison to other studies. In their attempt to correlate barriers and motivating factors, they found out that women and men have the same motivators in pursuing higher education. However, their works suggest that women do not pursue higher education for personal development or switch of careers. On the other hand, they also suggest that there are no men seeking to further personal development and enhance careers. Rather, their data indicates that a quarter of both genders are motivated by all the factors of personal development, career enhancement and occupational switching. Thus, their studies indicate that a Master’s program in a new area is the only conclusive evidence that one seeks to pursue a new occupation.

3.3.2.4 Environmental Factors

Hofstede’s Uncertainty Avoidance, the Social Learning Theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Value of Higher Education, have all explained environmental factors. Under these motivating factors are aspects of affection, love, esteem from other individuals and a sense of belonging. One can understand from the Maslow’s theory that after satisfying of physiological and safety needs, an individual pursues on satisfying his or her social needs. The graduate purposes are to establish a self-position or self-identity within the social grouping, with which he or she desires to relate. To achieve this, we can understand that higher educational achievement is a tenable option as associating with others and receiving recognition becomes a priority desire. As Mutjaba et al (2008) notes regarding the social setting of Thai people, they are closely knit units and, as such, a graduate might pursue higher education to satisfy the esteem need of his/her family. In contrast to the environmental factors insisting on pursuance of higher education for personal reasons, experts such as Murgai (1999) offer the Social Learning Theory as an explanation. They state that individuals will not always pursue higher education for personal reasons, but rather to master social expectations and conform to the acceptable practices. The environment in this case is seen as exerting pressure on an individual, who has to acquire techniques of coping with the environmental demands, in this case through higher education such as an MBA (Osipow 1983, p.10).

In view of the modern changes that redefine human perceptions on education, theorists of the Value of Higher Education find relevance. According to this environmental concept, the social norms and cultures define value of something through assumptions. For instance, in Thailand, the difference between an MBA and a Bachelors degree value is over 15% while, in the United States, it is between 30-50%. In the same manner, societies attach high value to higher education and thus, the value of an MBA from a social perspective being high encourages graduates to advance.

Uncertainty avoidance is another environmental cause of pursuing higher education (Murgai 1999). We can understand uncertainties as aspects beyond the control of rules, order or technology. In the modern Global Village, indirect factors that cause uncertainties such as economic meltdowns, political upheavals, terrorism, demographics and legislations create an immense need of cushioning. Arab-American business notes that the world has become more competitive and uncertain; it is only through higher education that graduates will secure positions in the intensely competitive economies of the world. The most tenable protection within reach is an MBA; this is evident through competition for graduates from Ivy League business schools, offering MBAs by multinationals such as IBM, Charles Schwab, Hewlett Packard and Bank of America. Their starting salaries in the USA neighbors $75,000 (Arab-American Business 2007).

4.0 DESIGN

Despite the use of short discussion and relevant interview with the chosen graduate respondents, this pilot study mainly used a close-ended survey instrument in a collection of descriptive statistics and data on attitudinal orientation of the graduates using a Likert scale.

The close-ended survey instrument helped identify the most encouraging factors in taking an MBA course. In doing this, the pilot study relied on administration of easy to understand questions, straightforward statements and accurate research structures. The four motivation factors were posed to the respondents who intern gave their responses by expressing their levels of agreement with each encouraging factor. The question had the structure of a multiple choice, ranging from strong agreement to strong disagreement in five points as per Linkert scale type. This pilot study involved thorough reviewing the statements for relevance. The respondents and the researcher also held intense discussions on the instruments for the purposes of the future thesis. Despite the study being a pilot study, considerations of validity and reliability were brought in the review stage. Validity referring to the extent to which the set of evidence agrees that the interpretations given is accurate and the interpretations applied appropriate as certified by the American Educational Research Association, as well as the National Council on Measurement in Education or American Psychological Association, among other credible organizations. The validity question is whether the applied instrument, indeed, fulfils the intention of measuring what the research purposed to measure. This pilot study allowed the testing of the validity with the 20 respondents; thus, ensuring that the pilot study and the full research attained validity through correct questionnaires.

For the purpose of reliability and consistency, the full thesis study was to apply the popular Cronbach’s alpha. Cronbach’s alpha is an estimate for internal reliability. It may be interpreted to be the variance percentage that the observed scale can explain in a hypothesized scale for all universal items possible. Alternatively, it may be seen as correlating to the observed scale with all possible other scales measuring the same aspect with the same number items in usage.

The questionnaire used in this study was in three parts. In the first section, the researcher explained the aims of the study, gave an assurance that the responses given were in confidence and that no action was to be taken on a respondent regarding the nature of his/her responses. The second section contained closed-ended statements on encouraging/motivating factors for pursuit of an MBA; they are grouped into the four categories and broken into specifics. The respondents are to either strongly agree or strongly disagree regarding what influenced their choices. The small number of respondents allows the researcher to set up meeting with each respondent and brief them of the exercise. He expresses appreciation for their participation in the study and their invaluable contribution. He then expounds aspects of the cover letter and the researcher’s commitment. Then, the researcher allows the respondent to proceed, after giving instructions on the questions design; he also lets a respondent express their thoughts/reservations or questions. Clarifications on the expected nature of results and the procedure of the exercise are made to each respondent. Next, a chance is given to raise any concern or query on the questionnaire. Finally, the researcher and the respondent agree on an average, appropriate time of 10 minutes before handing back the filled questionnaires. Then they proceed. Given the education level of the respondents and their small number, a high positive success of the response is expected.

This covers the initial stages of developing a research project. It stresses on the importance of clear thinking and a focused determination of outset direction. This echoes the problem solving focus, especially in applied research, and makes a suggestion for understanding the situation providing a significant advantage.

4.1 DATA GATHERING

To find out the factors that motivate students to pursue an MBA, we will use questionnaires as the key data instrument. Though discussion will be carried out in this pilot study as part of the review, questionnaires are the principal instrument that will capture the required information. The appropriateness of this instrument comes due to the nature of information being sourced and its ease of control. In this case, a chosen Linkert type scale makes the questionnaire an effective tool since the question of a motivating factor is highly preferential. To understand it, the Linkert scales helps by measuring attitudes and subjective reactions hence its appropriateness. As a control aspect, this pilot study considered experts recommendation that studies should be designed to obtain an alpha coefficient of at least 0.05. Therefore, for the thesis research, the population size chosen will require a sample size that allows a 95% significance level.

This research used a survey instrument that is close-ended to collect demographic data and motivational factors of respondents. All statements will be straightforward, easy to understand, and designed to explore a respondent’s level of agreement with motivation factors. Close ended items within this survey will be forced choice and will apply a five-point Likert type scale with answers, which strongly agree and strongly disagree. The questionnaires will then be administered to the MBA students after a slight discussion, clarifications and rapport building.

Despite the educational levels of the respondents and the small number involved in the pilot study, there were inherent limitations that were encountered; this was the ambiguity with which majority of respondents replied when interviewed or during the discussion. This rendered them almost valueless for the purposes of this research. Respondents were also reluctant to provide details such as financial preparedness before enrolling in the MBA program.

4.2 Data Analysis

This study will present data in the form of tables. The thesis study may use descriptive statistics, which offer a profound summery of the collected data. This can be in the form of graphs or numerals that give the sample description. In the case of numerical descriptors, the standard deviation and the mean are the basic examples. Inferences from these descriptors may be in answer to question or test of a hypothesis form. It could be as an estimation of numerical attributes, a description of relationship normally called correlation or other techniques of modeling such as ANOVA (Analysis of Variance).

Since the responses obtained are in a coded order, analyzing the data will be effectively handled. The Linkert scale ensured that the data is in a sequential order; the researcher will, therefore, use the descriptive statistic: mean value and a T-test for the four motivating categories and Analysis of Variance for the size of the responses. The T-test will help in finding out whether a notable difference exists in the encouraging or motivating factors potential, in influencing students’ decision of pursuing an MBA. The standard deviation can also be computed using a statistical package such as SPSS. To assess the impactful significance of the motivation factors and thus, compare the extent to which prospective MBA students are influenced by a factor, analysis of independent T-test samples has to be done using the SPSS package. This is done through evaluation of the difference in the mean value of the four categorized groups. A table below presents the motivating factors.

Table 1: Motivating/Encouraging Variables

Personal Improvement

1 To fulfill my desire for improving myself.

2. To acquire respect from peers and the society

3. To nurture a higher level of self-confidence.

4. to satisfy my goal in education

5. to improve my general skills

Variables on Career Enhancement

1 to merit higher wages.

2. To gain a qualification for more challenging work.

3. To qualify for promotion to higher levels.

4. To join a network of highly influential people.

5. To assert that one is still competitive despite new entrants and changes.

Variables on the Switch between Careers

  1. To transition between occupations.

  2. To move into new career paths.

Variables of the Environment

  1. To conform to expectations of your family.

  2. To peer demands.

  3. To acquire legally expected credentials.

  4. To acquire techniques of acting as per the social norms.

The 20 respondents are equally distributed across gender as shown in the table below with a majority 60% being aged between 20-30 years, 30% at ages 31-45 years old and 10% above 46 years old.

Table 2: Age Distribution of Respondents

Gender

Frequency

Percentage

Male

10

50

Female

10

50

Total

20

100

Table 3: Gender Distribution of Respondents

Age

Frequency

Percentage

21-30

12

60

31-45

6

30

Over 45

2

10

Total

20

100

Table 4: Experience of Respondents

Experience

Frequency

Percentage

None

6

30

1-2 years

10

50

2- 5 years

4

20

Over 5 years

0

0

Total

20

100

The results indicate that analysis can be done to indicate the dynamics of pursuing an MBA. The study will explain the demographics of joining an MBA. It can also explain the concepts of individuals taking this degree with little, immense or no experience. This aspect will, in effect, make the encouraging factors differ significantly.

To test the hypothesis, a table such as the one below, can best explain whether the hypothesis is to be accepted or rejected. In analyzing the data, for instance, the researcher can group items, as follows:

5.0 Conclusion

This study clearly found out from the analysis that students are motivated to pursue an MBA program by a diverse range of factors. From the first hypothesis, the researcher concludes that a student considers an aspect from all the four categories of motivating factors. There is a consideration regarding personal development, career enhancement, career switching or environmental factors. However, the study, through the negated second hypothesis indicates that some students consider some factors as more powerful and prominent than others do. In addition, the inquiry has established that majority of the prospective MBA students prefer part time studies to full time studies. This is due to the fact that majority of the people taking MBA program are working and they prefer studying while still working.   

The inquiry has adopted a multidimensional conceptual framework, which evaluates the inquiry in the concept of benefits accrued to studying MBA using full time mode of study or the part time mode of study. This is through an evaluation of the benefits and the shortcomings attributed to both of the modes of study. For example, when the prospective students opt for the part time mode of study they are able to work while they are working. However, they take long time to complete the program under the part time program. The benefits include interpersonal skills and communication skills, which are imperative for to a person leadership development. The skills learned are essential in career development and personal development, which are essential in the modern business environment.

The process of data collection involved use of questionnaires, which contained structured questions which could enable the researcher to obtain the relevant data. The collected data was analyzed which found that MBA program facilitates students with skills which are essential for career and personal development. The inquiry also found out that majority of the prospective MBA students opted for part time programs rather than the full time program.             

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