If you are a US citizen trying to decide where you want to get your MBA degree, it can be tempting to think about schools outside the USA. After all, the world knows no boundaries thanks to technology and a global marketplace. Spending a couple of years in Spain, England or Asia also sounds like a nice way to see new places and things, and meet new people while you sharpen your business acumen. And since most programs at reputable business schools are in English, you won’t face the language barrier that may have stopped you otherwise.
While there may be many enticing reasons to matriculate outside the US, there are several factors to consider making sure it is a good decision. First and foremost, you need to assess your short and long term career goals. Do you plan to live and spend the bulk of your career overseas? If so, this actually may be a good option for you, since the reputations of schools outside the US carry the most gravitas in the region where they are located. Much like a top regional school in the US, many programs in Europe and Asia are best known by employers who are located nearby. Certainly there are a handful of schools across the pond whose renown extends globally, but for the most part, just like in the US, these schools are limited and very selective.
Even if you can get admitted to an LBS or an IE, however, it still does not mean that it’s the best place for you to go to school. Remember that business degrees are fairly sticky, meaning that graduates tend to stay and work within an 8 hour car drive of their chosen MBA program’s home base. This means your post MBA network will be concentrated in a geographic region nearby the school. If you plan to stay in this area, then getting an MBA nearby is a good plan. If you plan to return to the US, however, it may not be as wise. Additionally there are the economic differences. Many people don’t realize that accounting standards are completely different in the US and elsewhere, which could make a finance career more challenging if you go to school in one place and work in another. Finally, there are all the visa issues to think about. If you can’t find a sponsor company or are otherwise unable to obtain the rights to work within the network of your chosen institution, you could be setting yourself up for challenges when trying to get a job.
Getting an MBA outside the US may seem glamorous, but it’s not the same thing as studying abroad. It’s more akin to “going all in” on your chosen region. If you plan to work in the US, even if it’s for an internationally established corporation, it might be just as beneficial for you to participate in a global study experience or even an international internship instead of committing your entire two years to a market where you don’t plan to work long term.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.