Choosing among business schools and MBA courses is tricky. The MBA is the most popular graduate degree in the US, thanks in large part to its widespread acceptance by employers and the strong return on investment that graduates tend to enjoy. While the MBA was established in the US, it has become a truly global degree, with business schools across the world offering this qualification -- including most of Europe, Asia, some parts of south America and Africa.
"Where should I do my MBA?" is a question that many applicants will ask themselves. For some, it makes sense to stay in their home region and study locally, while others might find better opportunities (or just a great adventure) studying overseas. In terms of overseas locations, many international students like to study in these locations:
The 10 most popular destinations for MBA applicants
- The United States: many international students enjoy studying in places like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago; many students also try to transition to the US after an MBA, in industries such as finance, supply chain, consulting, or technology.
- The United Kingdom: London, with its many financial firms, is a popular destination for prospective MBA students. However, the UK is also home to some of the world’s best business schools, in London and outside.
- Singapore: many students, especially those from Asia, are drawn to Singapore’s international perspective, its strong business schools, and its finance industry.
- Canada: This North American hotspot offers low cost of living, great business schools, and liberal visa policies
- Germany: the country’s strong economy and developing business schools make Germany a popular destination for MBA students
- Australia: MBA applicants are drawn to Australia’s weather and business schools (not to mention its English-speaking environment)
- France: this country has a long history of strong educational systems, which has influenced the development of France’s MBA programs. Cities like Paris and Lyon have much to offer, including careers for those with MBA degrees.
- Hong Kong: although Hong Kong is going through a transformation, it’s still home to one of Asia’s biggest financial centers and strong business schools
- Spain: this European nation hosts many great MBA programs, not to mention a great quality of life
- New Zealand: the fact that English is the primary language in New Zealand means that transitioning here can be relatively seamless
However, you can do your MBA locally
Some students may choose to study locally, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, when business schools saw a rise in domestic applications thanks to travel restrictions. This option is good for those who are generally happy where they are, and don’t need international experience. It can also be easier on the budget, as the fees for domestic students can be significantly lower than studying overseas, though it depends on the region, with MBAs in the US by far the most expensive worldwide.
But many business schools in the US offer hefty discounts for in-state residents. In addition, studying at local business schools wherever you are in the world is more cost effective because there’s not the added expense of relocating.
Furthermore, the supply of high quality schools outside the US is expanding, especially in Asia. The pandemic as well as political and economic disruption are pushing more Asian students to study locally in countries as varied as China and Australia. Such courses have typically been tailored to reflect the particular experiences of businesses, corporate culture and values in the region. So they are a good bet for those who want to work in that territory after graduation.
The destination may depend on the MBA program type. Part-time MBA programs for working professionals are filled almost exclusively with candidates from the local area -- people who are generally happy with their career or just want an edge in their current job.
Online MBA programs, in theory, could make business education a global playing field. But in reality, most of the candidates who take such programs live locally, partly because some countries do not recognize online degrees from overseas institutions or restrict access to post-graduation work visas for online foreign students.
You can do your MBA to gain international experience
Business schools have built their brands on offering a truly global experience, in which students learn alongside, and from, a cosmopolitan mix of classmates. So doing an MBA in another country remains a hugely popular option. In Europe, the vast majority of the students in an MBA class will have come from abroad.
In a globalized world, many students feel that an international perspective and experiences will give them an edge in business. And doing an MBA in another country can help with this, in that students are able to spend a year or two abroad, building their international business skills and cross-cultural competencies, which are attractive for employers who want to take their products and services across borders.
For example, non-native English speakers often decide to do their MBA in the UK or the US to help with their language skills. And many MBA programs will offer students trips overseas, international projects with institutions on multiple continents and meetings with global executives. These can take the form of internships or consulting projects that allow students to experience the business world and culture in another country first-hand.
You can do your MBA where you want to work
Many people use an MBA as leverage to move to a country where they want to live and work, even if the job involves international travel. For those who desire to move elsewhere, an MBA can provide some of the necessary ingredients, such as networking opportunities, and connections to local businesses. Prospective students should take into consideration the size and strength of a business school’s alumni network, as well as what career services are available.
MBA candidates who want to move to another country will also need to be conscious of issues like language, visa availability, and culture, all of which can complicate the transition. In some countries such as Germany, it is a common job requirement to be fluent in the local language, even in a multinational company. In addition, ambivalence towards immigration, reflected in visa regimes, can be another obstacle to launching a career abroad.
Some MBA rankings list schools in terms of “international mobility”, or the percentage of graduates who end up in a different country from where they are from. This can be useful, but it should be noted that defining students as domestic or international can be an oversimplification and passports do not necessarily reflect a person’s heritage.