As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, tomorrow’s business professionals will need to develop an adaptive mindset that allows them to successfully navigate a variety of markets, languages and cultures.
We’ve seen a lot of growth lately in the range of international full-time, part-time and executive MBA courses aimed at U.S. students looking for a global business school experience, and there’s no better way to expand your horizons than by studying in another country.
While top U.S. business schools continue to dominate many rankings, programs at global universities hold their own when it comes to prestige and quality. Of the top MBA programs in the world, there are typically high-ranking programs outside of the U.S., including the University of Navarra’s IESE Business School in Spain, the Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) Paris and the University of Queensland Business School in Australia.
But what sets apart an international MBA? Student body diversity is one.
European business schools, for example, boast a roughly 80 percent non-national ratio, compared to 30 percent at their U.S. counterparts. Whether these programs include class trips to work in emerging economies or offer a cohort with students from numerous different countries, they compete on equal footing with the best North American schools.
Another attractive characteristic for U.S. students is that many of the highly ranked business programs in Europe are just one year. Though the shorter MBA program means a more grueling schedule, many feel it’s worth the trade-off because it translates into just one year of foregone salary and the possibility of students getting their educational investment back in less than three years.
You’ll always have the highest exposure to jobs in your geographic area, so keep that top of mind as you think about your career goals and fields of interest. If you already know that you want to work in Asia, Europe, the Middle East or Latin America, you’d be better off choosing a local school where you can network directly with employers.
Many international MBA programs are offered in English, though fluency in the local language greatly enhances your candidacy when applying. English-language MBA programs at IESE Business School and HEC Paris, for example, offer students a chance to strengthen their Spanish or French while learning how commerce works in the host countries.
In general, though, overseas MBA programs prefer applicants who can point to previous professional or study abroad experience, since this demonstrates that you already know how to work with different cultures and are more likely to enrich the experience of others in the cohort.
INSEAD Business School in France opened a second campus in Singapore in 2000, clearly a shift to specifically target Asia and the Pacific Rim. Asian universities in turn have stepped up their game when it comes to competing for students.
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, one of the region’s highly recognized graduate schools of business, has joined forces with China Europe International Business School in Shanghai and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to raise their visibility in North America and Europe and interest more Western candidates to Asia to earn MBA degrees. Lower program costs and Asia’s ever-increasing economic relevance, plus the use of English as the language of instruction, makes this trio particularly appealing to students in the West.
Latin America, meanwhile, is a relatively young MBA market that offers substantial growth opportunities and an affordable management education compared to its North American counterparts. According to the most recent QS Top MBA Report on the global job market, hiring is particularly insular in Latin America, and the percentage of employers who look for talent within their own region is second only to the U.S. and Canada.
The region’s rapidly growing economy – notably in Mexico, Brazil and Peru – means increased opportunities for business and trade, and MBAs who are comfortable with the local language as well as with the region’s social and cultural norms will thrive.
Some of the schools recognized throughout the world are the EGADE Business School and IPADE Business School in Mexico, the CENTRUM Católica Business School in Peru and FGV’s São Paulo School of Business Administration in Brazil.
Whether your goal is to establish yourself ahead of U.S. candidates for international jobs or simply to have a degree that carries the cachet of regional knowledge, choosing to pursue an MBA overseas give you the opportunity for a truly transformational experience, leading to a greater understanding of yourself and how business operates around the world.