An MBA in North America: The All-Encompassing Experience | TopMBA.com

An MBA in North America: The All-Encompassing Experience

By QS Contributor

Updated July 19, 2014 Updated July 19, 2014

Business education expert Aled Owens explores the ever-popular aspiration of pursuing an MBA in North America.

As the birthplace and longstanding pioneer of the MBA qualification, North America remains the most popular destination for prospective MBA students around the world.

Alongside some of the world’s most prestigious business schools – such as Harvard Business School, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Stanford Graduate School of Business – the region boasts over 400 accredited MBA programs with world class faculty and study experiences.

US students ‘on the MBA employer radar’

With a wealth of high-quality MBA programs in the USA and Canada, prospective students are spoilt for choice on location, program duration, teaching method and class size.

Add to this advances in technology and communication, plus an increased focus from employers on finding the right-fit MBA graduate employees, and choosing a suitable program can be tough.

Further, locality is becoming less of a factor in post-MBA hiring across North America.

Students are able to attend schools across the region, experiencing for a short time, a climate and environment that they might not have otherwise, safe in the knowledge that they are still on the radar of MBA employers, regardless of their study location.

This is a perspective shared by international MBA employers, who according to recent QS research, continue to increase the number of business schools they recognize for producing quality MBA graduates.

It is not only the quality and reputation of North American business schools, but also the exposure to the US MBA job market, which makes the experience of studying an MBA in the USA an attractive trait to employers abroad.

But prestige and reputation are not the only factors that ensure North American business schools consistently rate amongst the best in the world.

It is also their ability to change with the times.

North American MBA programs: changing with the times

Despite initial concerns, the global economic situation of recent years has done little to stifle overall demand, or reduce competition for admission to top MBA programs in the region.

Where it has had a significant effect, is in forcing business schools in North America to re-asses and improve how they offer MBA programs to their students in order to continue to develop relevant future business leaders.

Business schools constantly adapt, offering more variety and diversity in their curriculum, and increasing the number of ways that students can access their programs. More elective options, greater number of MBA specializations, and increasingly flexible study methods are just a few ways that North American business schools continue to entice top students back into the classroom.

Shorter, more intense 12- to 18-month programs have seen increased popularity in both the US and Canada.

The development of part-time or modular executive study formats have also allowed schools to appeal to those keen to continue working while improving their long-term prospects during a time of uncertainty.

Diverse MBA classrooms and team interaction

Business schools have also strived to offer the most relevant and challenging classroom experience.

Students often find their MBA classroom to be the most diverse working environment experience that they have encountered. Reflective of today’s business world, there is a heavy focus on team interaction, peer learning, participation in case study competitions and international class residencies.

Schools have also been keen to take advantage of changing social trends, as well as to give more flexibility to students.

There has been an increase in courses and customization options for specializations in emerging areas such as non-profit management, corporate social responsibility and energy sustainability. However, the emergence of these interests has been at the expense of more traditional areas, with MBA specializations in finance in particular declining in popularity over the past two years.

A further result of this development has been the continued increase in the number of MBA graduates turning to roles in consulting, particularly in non-traditional industries.

This has been encouraged through schools increasing the opportunity to gain consulting experience as part of their MBA, including short and long-term International residencies, many of which include consulting engagements.

Adapting to MBA job market conditions

These changes have helped students themselves alter their approach and positioning in the MBA job market.

Many who started their MBA program with specific career goals have adapted to market hiring conditions, or found new business opportunities in their own passions and interests.

To some, this has meant exploring technology and e-commerce organizations, which are looking to attract the brightest talent; or turning to opportunities within healthcare industries which are looking to restructure in order to meet the demands of an ageing population; or to supply chain roles within organizations looking to modernize processes, globalize logistics and digitalize communication.

To others, entrepreneurship hubs and venture funds have allowed them to explore business start-ups with the support of expert faculty and infrastructure within the business schools.

Many assumptions can be drawn on the effects that these developments have had on students who have passed through business schools over the past two years. However, despite ongoing macro concerns of currency instability, a lack of investor confidence and ongoing MBA hiring freezes, there is evidence that many of these changes are beginning to show success.

After enduring three years of bleak reports on post-graduation job prospects, students have been buoyed more recently, as MBA employers in the US and Canada report increases in the number of jobs on offer, both during 2011 and when looking to the future.

These reports and predictions are good news for current students, recent graduates and those considering applying to business schools in North America over the next 12 months. They suggest that the schools’ reactions to changes in hiring demand has in fact helped MBA students endure turbulent economic times.

Adapting to MBA job market conditions

These changes have helped students themselves alter their approach and positioning in the MBA job market.

Many who started their MBA program with specific career goals have adapted to market hiring conditions, or found new business opportunities in their own passions and interests.

To some, this has meant exploring technology and e-commerce organizations, which are looking to attract the brightest talent; or turning to opportunities within healthcare industries which are looking to restructure in order to meet the demands of an ageing population; or to supply chain roles within organizations looking to modernize processes, globalize logistics and digitalize communication.

To others, entrepreneurship hubs and venture funds have allowed them to explore business start-ups with the support of expert faculty and infrastructure within the business schools.

Many assumptions can be drawn on the effects that these developments have had on students who have passed through business schools over the past two years. However, despite ongoing macro concerns of currency instability, a lack of investor confidence and ongoing MBA hiring freezes, there is evidence that many of these changes are beginning to show success.

After enduring three years of bleak reports on post-graduation job prospects, students have been buoyed more recently, as MBA employers in the US and Canada report increases in the number of jobs on offer, both during 2011 and when looking to the future.

These reports and predictions are good news for current students, recent graduates and those considering applying to business schools in North America over the next 12 months. They suggest that the schools’ reactions to changes in hiring demand has in fact helped MBA students endure turbulent economic times.

 

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in July 2014

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