Is Getting an MBA Abroad Right for You?

Posted on September 17, 2013 | Filed in MBA

Learn more about getting an MBA abroad.

Learn more about getting an MBA abroad.

U.S. business schools have always attracted a wide range of applicants and not just national but international as well. However, in the last 5 years an interesting trend has emerged. A wider percentage of American students are seeking to enter European business schools. A variety of influences are responsible for this shift – from the economic advantages to a more global perspective overall.

There are no boundaries to getting an MBA anywhere in the world thanks to technology and a global marketplace. So if you’re a U.S. citizen looking to get an MBA, it can be tempting to think about schools abroad. Spending a couple of years in Italy, France or England seems like a great way to discover new places and cultures, make new friends, possibly learn a language all while you hone your business expertise.

Most programs abroad at well-thought-of business schools are in English these days so, most likely, you’ll not be faced with a language barrier – something that may have stopped students in the past from getting an MBA abroad. There are, without a doubt, many other factors to consider if thinking about studying abroad, for example, how does an MBA degree earned overseas differ from a U.S.-based degree? And how does an international MBA affect one’s future career prospects and networking possibilities? And finally, how does the cost compare?

We’ll start with the most important observations. For one, let’s look at the diversity of the student body. Several international MBA programs beat their American counterparts hands down. On the average, European schools have boasted a roughly 80 percent non-national ratio of students, while the ratio at their U.S. counterparts is about 30 percent.

At Manhattan Admissions, we discovered that there are some international MBA programs that are strict about preventing a dominant culture at their schools! Rotterdam School of Management, for instance, has a very ambitious global MBA format. It’s unique in that it reflects the growing interest in full-time, part-time and executive “international” MBA courses aimed at American students. Why? Because of the fact that RSM has discovered American students yearn for a broader curriculum, a more diverse and international network as well as exposure to a different culture. Needless to say, it’s one of the top European business schools. The next item to consider when thinking about getting an MBA abroad: Where do you want to work?

Before packing your bags for a program abroad, you must be savvy about your career path. From our research, we found that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of London Business School MBAs stay in the UK for their first job after graduation. That said, if you want to work in the U.S., getting an international MBA might not be such a great idea. If you plan to work in the US, even if it’s for an internationally established firm, it might be just as beneficial for you to participate in a global study experience or even an international internship. That way, you’ll be lessening your commitment of two full years to a region where you don’t plan to work long term.

Next item to consider is cost and time frame. One of the most obvious differences between U.S. and international business schools is the cost and the duration of the MBA program. International business schools tend to be less expensive than American and require just one year of study instead of the usual 2 year programs required by U.S. MBA programs. The compressed study time usually means less cost, despite a higher cost of living aggravated by a weak dollar on international currency exchanges. However, one-year programs can still reduce a student’s ability to work while going to school.

It’s wonderful to broaden your horizons and experience a truly multicultural graduate program in a foreign country. Just remember, financing a graduate degree from an institution outside your native country can pose certain challenges.

You’ll have to do a whole lot of research, calculate the going conversion rates, however, this is nothing a business-savvy applicant can’t handle with a good calculator and the Internet. Many international institutions use their websites as the first place to investigate for prospective students. This is true, of course, for the admissions process, but it’s also true for financial aid opportunities. Procedures, availability, and types of funding for foreign students at most business schools vary tremendously. Foreign students usually are not eligible to receive most government loans and can have a difficult time with private lenders unless they have a resident as a co-signer.

In any event, here are 4 tips if you’re still intent on studying abroad:

  1. Check the university’s accreditations. The AACSB is a major global accreditation agency. Research the country of choice’s particular accreditation.

  2. Visit the university, if possible. It may be expensive to do this, but choosing the wrong MBA program could be much more costly in the long run. While you’re on the campus, be sure to talk to the students. In addition, talk to alumni where possible. Most major international MBA programs have alumni organizations in big cities. In some big cities, there are programs run by alumni for prospective students – be sure to check.

  3. Look at historical business-school rankings. And don’t just consider one year – but five years will tell you all you want to know, for sure. What’s more, prestigious magazines such as The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Forbes, among others, rank major international MBA programs annually.

  4. Study the school’s website for all your concerns. Many international MBA programs profile recent classes and give information on where new graduates are working. This will help you find out if MBAs are in careers and locations that appeal to you.

Lastly, international websites offers a wealth of information about funding and is a great jumping-off point for researching scholarships. During any of your search website searches, beware of requirements that say “commitment to working in France” that might disqualify you as an applicant. It could also save you from a commitment you’re not willing to make. Good luck!

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