U.S. STEM MBA Programs: An Overview
Restrictions on work visas during the 2019-2020 academic year–when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height–depressed numbers of international MBA applicants. In fact, 48% of U.S. MBA programs reported a decline in international applications for their 2019 entering classes; 23% of U.S. MBA programs reported a significant decline (a 21% or more drop in international applications)!
Before the pandemic and to alleviate the uncertainty in the visa process, several American MBA programs found a strategic differentiator: STEM certification. Graduates of certified science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree programs qualify for STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training), a 24-month extension of a student’s F-1 visa to apply the skills they learned in their STEM degree studies in full-time employment in the U.S.
Now, it’s true that applications to business schools have strongly rebounded during the 2020 application season. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. programs reported growth compared to 2019, according to a survey of application trends conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). The international survey, conducted during the summer of 2020, included 1,085 graduate business programs in 325 business schools worldwide.
However, the survey showed that international candidates remained far less likely to commit to enrollment than domestic students, and more likely to ask for deferrals. Growth among international business school applicants was significantly lower than for domestic applicants in the U.S.
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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 email@example.com.
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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