Entrepreneurs: Who Goes to Business School and Why

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More Entrepreneurs See Business School as Crucial to Their Success

Entrepreneurs, job creators, risk takers: Call them what you want, but increasingly these business builders look to business schools and management programs to develop their skills, and schools have responded. The odds of succeeding as an entrepreneur can be steep, but business schools teach the skills that can help entrepreneurs make sound decisions and avoid expensive mistakes.    

“I meet a lot of entrepreneurs who have great ideas and even great businesses, but they don't know how to take them to the next level. They don't understand how to go out and get capital or find investors because they don't quite understand how it works,” said Brooks Dame, CEO of Proof Eyewear, a 2006 MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and finalist for Entrepreneur Magazine’s Emerging Entrepreneur of 2012.

“Building a solid background at a good business school is a great way to expand your opportunities, come up with new ideas, and really take your business to the next level.”


Interest in Entrepreneurship Specialization

  • Out of nearly 192,000 GMAT exams taken in 2014 in which test takers selected an intended concentration, almost 10,000 indicated Entrepreneurship. That’s 5 percent of all those indicating a concentration when they take the GMAT exam, the worldwide entrance test for graduate management study.
  • All business schools have courses, programs, or other offerings for entrepreneurs. There
    are currently more than 50 programs with entrepreneurship in the program title with codes to accept the GMAT exam and more than 400 programs in the mba.com school search that offer Entrepreneurship as an area of elective study or concentration. Thirty-one Masters in Entrepreneurship programs received GMAT score reports in 2014, up from nine five years ago.

Source: GMAT testing data, July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014

Where They Are and What They Hope to Gain From Business School

Percentage of prospective business students in each region/country considering entrepreneurship as a post-degree career goal:

  • Africa: 52 percent
  • Central Asia: 43 percent
  • Latin America: 45 percent
  • Middle East: 36 percent
  • Asia: 27 percent
  • Eastern Europe: 31 percent
  • Western Europe: 27 percent
  • Australia/Pacific Islands: 20 percent
  • Canada: 24 percent
  • United States: 20 percent 

Source: GMAC mba.com Prospective Students Survey, conducted January-December 2013; 3,616 students who are considering entrepreneurship as a post-degree career goal.

Why Aspiring Entrepreneurs Want to Pursue a Graduate Management Degree

  • Increase my entrepreneurial opportunities: 66 percent
  • Develop general business skills: 66 percent
  • Develop leadership skills: 62 percent
  • Develop skills to manage my business: 60 percent
  • Increase job opportunities: 58 percent
  • Increase salary potential: 57 percent
  • Allow me to accelerate my career: 56 percent
  • Increase opportunities for challenging/interesting work: 55 percent
  • Personal satisfaction/achievement: 50 percent
  • Greater freedom in job/career choice: 50 percent

Source: GMAC mba.com Prospective Students Survey, conducted January-December 2013, of 3,616 students who are considering entrepreneurship as a post-degree career goal


Four percent of graduating business school students worldwide in 2014 planned to be self-employed upon completing their degree. Among them:

  • 54 percent owned a business before school and expect to continue after graduation. 
  • 46 percent started a business while in school and expect to continue after graduation.

Some 93 percent of graduating students said passion, or doing what they enjoy, motivated them to start their business. Other factors such as flexibility (89 percent), autonomy (86 percent), and control (81 percent) were key reasons graduating students cited for being self-employed. 

Source: 2014 Graduate Management Education Graduate Survey 

Industries of Self-Employment

The main industries of self-employment for entrepreneurs who entered school as a business owner include products and services (48%) and consulting (19%). Among entrepreneurs who launched a business while in school, 32 percent are in products and services and 24 percent are in technology fields.


When asked how important their graduate management education was in helping with their business development activities, entrepreneurs who earned their degrees in 2014 ranked the development of leadership skills (leading their company, 87%), as most important, followed by growing their business (86%), developing an idea (83%), and writing a business plan (83%).

Source: 2014 Global Management Education Graduate Survey


Among nearly 21,000 business school alumni from the classes of 1959 to 2013 surveyed in October-November 2013, approximately 11 percent were self-employed. Among them: 

  • 91 percent are satisfied with their experience as an entrepreneur.
  • 80 percent of entrepreneurs worked for an employer after completing their graduate management education before starting their businesses.
  • 48 percent oversee multiple employees.
  • 35 percent are ahead of where they thought they would be in their careers, 20 percent of the employed.
  • 31 percent of these alumni run businesses with a multinational focus.
  • Alumni entrepreneurs had a median total revenue of US$815,251.
Source: GMAC 2014 Alumni Perspectives Survey