Graduate business students in the United States and Canada are more likely to cheat on their work than their counterparts in other academic fields, the author of a research paper said on Wednesday.

The study of 5,300 graduate students in the United States and Canada found that 56 percent of graduate business students admitted to cheating in the past year, with many saying they cheated because they believed it was an accepted practice in business.

Following business students, 54 percent of graduate engineering students admitted to cheating, as did 50 percent of physical science students, 49 percent of medical and health-care students, 45 percent of law students, 43 percent of liberal arts students and 39 percent of social science and humanities students.

"Students have reached the point where they’re making their own rules," said lead author Donald McCabe, professor of management and global business at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. "They’ll challenge rules that professors have made, because they think they’re stupid, basically, or inappropriate."

McCabe said it’s likely that more students cheat than admit to it.

The study, published in the September issue of the Academy of Management Learning and Education, defined cheating as including copying the work of other students, plagiarizing and bringing prohibited notes into exams.

McCabe said that in their survey comments, business school students described cheating as a necessary measure and the sort of practice they’d likely need to succeed in the professional world.

"The typical comment is that what’s important is getting the job done. How you get it done is less important," McCabe said. "You’ll have business students saying all I’m doing is emulating the behavior I’ll need when I get out in the real world."