Pros and Cons of Earning an MBA Abroad

Because of international commerce, a country’s economy tends to be intertwined with those of other nations, and major corporations frequently have offices on multiple continents. Anyone who hopes to lead a Fortune 500 firm someday should realize that such a high-profile leadership role will probably require extensive travel and collaboration with colleagues from all over the world.

An ambitious businessperson may wish to consider attending a business school in a country where he or she is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident.

[Read: 4 Popular European MBA Programs for Americans.]

Stacy Blackman, the namesake of an MBA admissions consulting company, advised prospective students to investigate whether workers at their dream employers usually have an MBA degree from a particular type of school. Blackman, a former U.S. News contributor, notes that employers that are picky about the academic pedigree of their employees tend to favor alumni from B-schools with “global name recognition.”

“Being a top-performer at B-school is often more important, however, than the brand of the school,” she wrote in an email. “Only a small fraction of employers globally truly expect an elite MBA degree — almost always, a higher education degree will suffice depending on the professional and target career path (or) employer.”

The first MBA program that comes to mind for a prospective MBA student who is just beginning his or her search for the right fit may be a prestigious academic institution based in North America or Europe, such as Stanford Graduate School of Business in the U.S. or HEC Paris in France. However, excellent prominent B-schools are based in a variety of world regions, including Africa, Asia, Central America, Oceania and South America.

Here is an outline of the pluses and minuses associated with going abroad for B-school, as well as considerations related to where you are coming from and where you wish to go.

Selling Points and Disadvantages

Earning an MBA or another type of graduate business degree in a foreign country is one way to increase cross-cultural awareness, gain new language skills and network with like-minded, talented individuals from distant places who would be difficult to meet otherwise, B-school alumni say.

“One big advantage is that you will be able to learn about new cultures, which will help you in future work opportunities,” Max Benz, founder and CEO of — a website that allows people to find employment options that would let them work from wherever they prefer– wrote in an email.

[Read: 7 Common Mistakes International MBA Applicants Make.]

“It also allows you to experience different working styles and how certain companies operate,” adds Benz, who has business-focused bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. “This can be beneficial for future employers who want employees with global experience.”

Unfortunately, international flights to and from a foreign school may be expensive, and strict immigration policies in a foreign country could make it difficult for students from abroad to work within that nation.

“There are some downsides to pursuing an MBA overseas, such as the cost involved or not being able to apply for jobs,” Benz says. “Students may find it harder than they expected to get visas or work permits for their schooling abroad, which means they might have to leave the country abruptly when they graduate without much time for transition. They may also be concerned about cultural differences in learning styles, study habits, and academic rigor.”

Other Factors to Consider

When comparing MBA programs in different countries, keep several regional distinctions in mind.

The norm in some countries is for MBA degrees to be completed within a single year, whereas in other places the typical time-to-degree is two years. The price of B-school in some areas tends to be more expensive than in others, and starting salaries among recent MBA graduates tend be especially high within certain countries such as the U.S. Depending on where a student comes from and goes, there may be significant cost of living disparities.

[Read: How MBA Students Can Get More International Experience.]

No matter where in the world you’d prefer to pursue an MBA, it’s wise to investigate your target B-school’s curriculum and course offerings to assess whether the lessons taught at that school seem interesting and relevant to you.

It’s also prudent to think about whether your dream school is either world-renowned or highly regarded only within a particular geographic area, since the extent to which employers recognize the value of an MBA influences the quantity and quality of post-MBA job opportunities.

Admission odds for a candidate applying to top-notch graduate business programs may vary depending on the location of those programs, according to Blackman, who notes that European B-schools tend to enroll a larger percentage of international students than U.S. B-schools.

“Meanwhile, US schools are more competitive for those with overrepresented backgrounds in the applicant pool,” Blackman says.

Another consideration is your ultimate destination, meaning the location where you intend to spend the majority of your career.

“If your professional goal is to live and work in Europe, pursuing an MBA there is arguably the best introduction to business life regionally,” Blackman emphasizes, noting that a majority of newly minted graduates of top European B-schools find work in Europe upon graduation. “If you prefer to work in the US, the US MBA programs dominate with 87-to-89% outplacement to the US.”

Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools.

More from U.S. News

10 Best Business Schools for an International MBA

5 Must-Haves in a Globally Focused MBA

See the Top 10 Global Universities for Economics and Business

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