U.S. STEM MBA Programs: An Overview
STEM certification programs have proven application bonanzas for top business schools. STEM certification may have begun pre-pandemic as a way to alleviate uncertainty in the visa process, but the programs have proven to be a robust inducement for MBA applicants, particularly from foreign countries. According to Poets & Quants, “At Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, the move to designate its entire MBA program STEM in early 2021 paid dividends this year. . . Its applications rose by an incredible 21%, an increase of 450 to 2,555, even though Cornell presumably felt the same domestic squeeze as its peer schools.”
[List of top STEM OPT U.S. Business Schools >>]
Cornell’s new MBA class has students from 43 countries, a dramatic rise from 30 countries from 2021. Cornell is receiving roughly double the number of international applications as domestic applications. Poets & Quants also reported strong upticks in foreign student enrollment among 27 B-schools surveyed: “In the top 10, the average gain was 10.2 percentage points, or 36.6%, with Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business the biggest by points — 18, or 72%, to 43% — and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania the biggest by percentage: 84.2%, or 16 points, to 35%.
“Across all 27 schools, the average gain from 2020 to 2022 was 14.6 percentage points, or 69%. The biggest gain was at CMU Tepper, which doubled its total from 28% to 56%; notably, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School gained 23.5 points, or more than 200%, to 35%. Three other B-schools more than doubled their international ranks in two years.”
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The GMAC’s survey from 2019 was the first to inquire about a program’s STEM-certification, and found that these programs were more likely to report growth in international applicants. A total of 195 of the 804 U.S. programs responding reported that their programs were STEM-certified (24%). Among them, the most common program types were Master of Data Analytics (28%); Master of Finance (22%); and Master of Information Technology (14%). And while a majority of both STEM-certified (53%) and non-STEM (57%) programs reported declines in total applications during this period, STEM-certified programs fared better among international applicants. In the 2019-2020 academic year, 43% of STEM-certified programs grew their international applications, compared with 26% of non-STEM programs.
Given ongoing concerns over visa status and one’s ability to work in the U.S. after business school, programs that are STEM-certified are sure to be more appealing to this applicant pool.
While some MBA programs – such as Chicago Booth, Wharton, Virginia Darden – now offer specific concentrations that qualify international students for STEM OPT, others – such as Berkeley Haas, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, and Rochester Simon – qualify MBA graduates of all majors in their MBA programs for this extension.
During 2021, MBA programs have seen a rebound in international applicants, and many schools (NYU Stern, Darden, and Yale) are touting this return. Still, they are maintaining their STEM certifications because it will pave the way for their graduates to get jobs and stay in the U.S. long enough to pay off or pay down their loans. Despite its cost, the MBA degree continues to pay robust dividends right off the bat. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article: “At about 98% of universities that offer master’s of business administration programs, graduates typically made more money two years out of school than they had borrowed, a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal student loan data for nearly 600 programs found.”
STEM MBA Programs
We’re going to do our best to keep this table current. However, please do not rely on this table; confirm the STEM designation yourself to make sure that the MBA programs you apply to really have that designation. And if you find out a school has attained STEM certification and is not on the list, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to learn how to get into top MBA programs that offer STEM OPT eligibility and are a good fit for you, register for a free consultation with me.
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