Given the sheer number of elite MBA programmes in the United States, it’s hardly surprising that a lower percentage of Americans look overseas for graduate business courses than those in other parts of the world.
According to the GMAC 2015 Prospective Student Survey Report, only 17 percent of American MBA applicants plan to submit applications for international programmes. 93 percent submit applications for programmes in the United States. The only other region or country to report more intended domestic applications than foreign ones is Canada with 46 percent of prospective students applying outside of the country.
The numbers get a little murky inside of the European Union, where students may change countries but have virtually the same rights as domestic candidates. But even then over 50 percent of applicants send materials abroad.
Everywhere else in the world reports a higher percentage of international applications compared to domestic school submissions. At the very least, this should tell you that a significant number of MBA hopefuls consider international programmes – and, indeed, international graduate student numbers are on the rise.
MBA Candidates Have Different Reasons for Studying Abroad
No one chooses to go to business school for a single reason. There are always multiple factors at play, even though there may be some overpowering ones. According to INSEAD’s 2015 Employment Statistics Report, a whopping 80 percent of graduates changed their sector, function, or country post-graduation (and 26 percent changed all three).
The GMAC survey demonstrates the primary reasons why MBA candidates opt for international study. According to their results,
• 60 percent want an international career,
• 49 percent want and international network, and
• 36 percent want to study in a country with English language instruction.
Of course, that “international career” category may be largely built on students that apply to American, English, or Swiss schools because that’s where they want to be after graduation. It doesn’t have to be about securing a job that demands international travel or opens opportunities to relocate every couple of years.
Post-Graduation Salaries for MBA Candidates
Still, it can be argued that salary increases are one of the driving factors for choosing an MBA at all – and it almost goes without saying that the more elite the programme, the higher the post-salaries to be claimed.
It’s therefore almost a necessity for candidates from some areas to travel abroad to complete their studies. And it’s the number of students looking at international universities that may drive some of the beliefs regarding salary increases.
Although the numbers a few years old, a Business Insider article demonstrates the salary expectations of MBA graduates. In 2013, South African MBA candidates expected to increase the current “average” salary of US $32,000 by 387 percent to $122,000. (And that reflects a decrease from the previous year’s expectation of $162,000.) Those figures are certainly in line with the median salaries reported by Harvard Business School graduates, but it’s important to keep in mind that many of their grads remain in the United States post-graduation. For those that return to South Africa, it’s more likely that the figures reported by INSEAD of roughly US $75,625 (as a median in 2015) are more accurate.
That said, the Financial Times reports an average increase in salary from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) at 68 percent with a current average salary of US $138,466. Those are certainly big numbers, no matter how you slice it.
Of course you can argue that UCT GSB is the only African school to crack the FT’s top-100 full-time MBA list. South American and Eastern Europe have equally low numbers of highly-ranked schools. It all boils down to the fact that many MBA hopefuls find it almost essential to travel – and even those that aren’t “forced,” find the extreme benefits of international graduate studies something they just can’t imagine doing without.
Katie Schenk studied human rights and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University while working with NGOs in Geneva. Although she has since settled in South Africa, with work towards a master’s in forced migration thought the University of Witswatersrand, nothing stops her from being a proud American. Katie has been part of the Prodigy Finance team as a content specialist since 2013. She also loves rugby, sloppy Mexican food and Tudor history, which means you could find her in any section of a bookstore.
* This blog post is sponsored by our friends at Prodigy Finance
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