The pathways to the MBA are almost endless but there is one corner of the world that provides a menu of options like no other. The United States is the largest MBA market in the world with over 125,000 MBA graduates each year, according to the US Department of Education. Americans pursue the coveted MBA for both increased salary and opportunity. The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) reported in their 2012 Global Management Education Graduate Survey that graduates averaged about a 70% increase in their post graduate salary. According to GMAC’s 2013 Corporate Recruiter Survey, three-quarters (75%) of companies have plans to hire MBAs in 2013. Obviously, these statistics are driving the demand for the MBA domestically but what factors would entice a professional from outside the US to consider a US-based program? For the record, about one-third of full time MBAs matriculating in most top tier US MBA programs are foreign nationals. So what’s the appeal of US programs? To understand this, we knocked on the doors of a couple of US MBA programs to find out. Here are the four key attributes of the American MBA that make the American MBA worth the pursuit.
The Size of the American Economy. The US economy is central to the world’s economy. The US economy is over $16 Trillion, which makes it the world’s largest single national economy. “Many of the world’s biggest companies are headquartered in the US and that gives a significant advantage when looking for an internship or a full time job,” commented Mario Martinez Dubreuil, 2nd year Emory University MBA student from Peru. In fact, the United States has nine of the ten largest companies in the world and half of the world’s top fifty firms, represented by such giants as Apple, Exxon Mobil, Google, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson. If you’re not seeking the big business experience, the US also has about 30 million small businesses. The central feature of the US’s economy is the economic freedom afforded to these businesses to determine what the economy produces, spurring great interest in science and innovation without a lot of regulation by the government. However, when the government does get involved, an impact can be felt on international students. Consider the US’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP, which was designed to free up the money market during a time of financial crisis. It basically banned US corporate participants from hiring international students. “Identifying companies which hire international students is a challenge, and can significantly hamper the recruitment process,” says Randolph Ng, a 2nd year Emory University MBA student from Singapore. While the TARP barriers have essentially subsided, the work Visa issues still pose a barrier to employment opportunities.
Leading Edge Marketing and Advertising. Approximately 71% of the US’s economy is consumer spending. So you can imagine the level of marketing that occurs in the US to support such a huge demand. “I wanted to strengthen my marketing skills and be up to date with the most recent marketing trends,” commented Dubreuil; more specifically, “breakthrough advertising campaigns, social media campaigns, and consumer understanding techniques.” The US advertising market has been forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.2% with a market value over $200 Billion. The biggest trend is in the transformation of this market from the traditional formats to interactive digital based advertising. Last year, the New York Times highlighted the fact that the United States would be spending more money on mobile ads than Japan, who has historically been the world’s leader on mobile advertising. As the world’s major consumer market, MBA students are poised to be on the leading edge of, not only marketing and advertising to consumers, but also collecting consumer information and utilizing big data analyses.
Quality of professors. “The USA is the standard by which all business schools globally are measured to, and I took that to mean that the programs in the USA are of a higher quality than it would be in any other country” remarked NG. This was a sentiment echoed by all the students we interviewed. According to Dubreuil, “Concentration of world’s top MBA programs forces schools to seek for continuous improvement and that’s what you find in top MBA schools in the US. Top-notch professors with great working experience elevate the programs and make the learning experience and class discussions richer.” Most students felt that great professors are the backbone of quality MBA programs. According to the 2012/13 QS Global 200 Business Schools Report, the United States has 22 of the 39 Elite Global Business Schools, which includes programs from Harvard, MIT, Kellogg, Stanford and Wharton.
Student Diversity. Lastly, a surprising benefit to international students is the amount of diversity in US MBA programs. Santiago Peralta, a 2nd year MBA student from Argentina at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, feels that US programs offer a level of student diversity you can’t find anywhere. “The diversity in Thunderbird really opened my eyes to other opportunities and friendships across the world.” For most top tier US MBA programs, international students compose about one-third of the incoming class. Harvard University’s 2015 class has an international student composition of 34%. While this is very common for the top tier programs, lower tier programs may have a much higher composition of international students, providing a much greater level of diversity and a broader cultural experience. For Dubreuil, diversity was important in the decision of where to obtain the MBA. “I have met people from all over Asia, Latin America, Europe and of course the US. Learning from them just by having a conversation opens your horizons and US Business schools do offer that background and cultural difference in its students.”
While the United States is currently the mecca for MBA programs, it’s important to note that there are some major cultural differences that greatly impact life (and employment) after graduation. Students highlighted the fact that Americans are born with innate abilities for networking. Finding gainful employment isn’t easy in the US and requires a lot of social skills to find and connect with influential individuals inside of organizations. Social networking is not taught in the MBA, although some programs are beginning to offer classes in personal branding, which essentially teach you how to market yourself online and in-person. According to the biggest market for MBAs, it’s still a degree in high demand. So if you’re considering learning about the world of business, the United States is definitely a good place to start.
By J. Todd Rhoad - Author of the Henry Series for MBAs
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