Middle-aged workers looking for a career boost account for almost half of those in China applying for graduate management education, a global survey has found.
The vast majority of Chinese candidates are aged 35 to 45, have reached middle management and want to take the next step up, according to a report by the Graduate Management Admission Council, an international nonprofit organization based in the United States, and market researcher Ipsos.
This motivation differs from the overall result, in which the largest proportion of respondents, 27 percent, said they had pursued business school as a way to gain more respect from colleagues.
Other reasons－to explore the world, be recognized for their expertise, start their own business, take their career to the next level, improve their socio-economic status or take a break from work－had a fairly equal share of about 12 percent.
The council, which said the survey was the first to gauge the motivation behind business school students, polled 6,000 people in 15 countries who have sought to enroll in graduate management education programs in the past two years, including more than 1,400 on the Chinese mainland.
The survey found that the typical trigger for those wanting to take their careers to the next level and apply for such an education in China is that they want to apply for a job, but lack the required skills or degree, or they have an issue at work such as not getting promoted or receiving negative performance reviews.
"They aspire to have more control of their career development and to become successful, but they think that to rise further, they may need a postgraduate management degree, such as an MBA or master's degree," said Yolanda Kwok, regional head of business development for the council, which represents 216 business schools across the world.
Pan Zheng, 29, who is in an MBA program at Shanghai International Studies University, said most of his fellow students are middle-level workers in their companies who want a competitive edge.
"Generally speaking, the younger generation has a better education level, so those in their 30s and 40s have to make up for the deficiency if they want to climb the career ladder," he said.
"Another reason that they pursue such education is that it offers new knowledge of business management, which they've never touched upon, despite gaining significant experience in their professional fields."
Li Yuanyuan, MBA director of marketing, admissions and career services at China Europe International Business School, attributed the particularity of Chinese graduate management education seekers to the macro environment of the country's economic development.
"Though slowing down, China's economy still boasts plenty of emerging industries, with great job opportunities for young people. Usually, the time between graduating and reaching 40 years old is prime time for developing one's career," Li said.
Zhou Haiwang, deputy director of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Population and Development, said the particularity is also because college education in China is less position-relevant.
"For example, in Singapore, graduates from certain university majors will be employed in corresponding management positions in banks. But in China, college graduates usually start their careers from the grassroots level," Zhou said.
Kwok anticipates a significant growth in the number of graduate management education pursuers who have entrepreneurial plans and need the skills to put their ideas into practice.
"We'll witness the number of such candidates increasing within three to five years as the government encourages entrepreneurship," she said.