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Should I get an MBA in the US?

interstride logo by Interstride
June 11, 2024

The US is the top destination for international students seeking a Master of Business Administration degree or MBA. Before applying to business schools, international students should weigh the value of an MBA from the US versus from another country based on their career goals.

MBA programs teach students the skills needed to excel in business management and advance their careers. MBA programs typically take two years to complete. Some universities offer accelerated one-year programs that could potentially save you money on tuition costs, but be prepared for the intensity of these programs as they squeeze two years of learning into one year.

MBA programs for international students in the US

Many international students choose MBA programs in the US because of the prestige of the program and/or institution or the opportunity to build a career in the US. In the Times Higher Education 2023 World University Rankings, over half of the top 25 business schools are in the US. Furthermore, due in part to the large size of the country and the popularity of MBA programs, the US has more options for MBA programs than any other country. The UK, which holds 20% of the spots in the top 25 business schools rankings, has over 100 MBA programs to choose from while the US has over 500.

While an MBA from the US may cost more than an MBA from another country, it may also be more valuable. For example, top MBA programs in the US such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School provide connections to large networks of employers, recruiters, and successful domestic and international alumni. This adds value to the technical skills learned in class and the prestige that comes with a degree from a top US university. 

The cost of an MBA in the US vs another country

A report from the Graduate Management Admissions Council found the median starting salary for MBA graduates in the US is $125,000 per year. However, not all MBA graduates have the same earning potential. There are many factors that affect the earning potential of an MBA from the US including but not limited to which school you attend and which MBA concentration you choose.

The following table compares the average yearly cost of getting an MBA for international students with the average yearly MBA salary in each top destination country for MBA students.

CountryAverage annual MBA costsAverage salary for MBA holders

Highest-paying MBA jobs in the US

Before you decide whether to apply for an MBA program in the US, think 1-2 years ahead. Do you want to remain in the US for work? If so, what jobs do you see yourself seeking after graduation? If the job doesn’t require an MBA and doesn’t pay more than your current role, then earning an MBA may not be worth the cost and time. However, if you are looking to advance your current career or move into the business field, an MBA could help. 

Below is a list of the highest-paying careers you can pursue with an MBA and their median yearly salaries. Keep in mind that these figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are for US jobs only. They also do not include bonuses, so workers in these roles often take home much more than this each year:

Should you get an MBA in the US as an international student?

For many international students, the short answer to this question is yes! Pursuing an MBA in the US may be the right choice for you if:

  • The MBA will open up access to new career opportunities or promotions
  • The MBA will increase your earning potential more than the amount you spent on tuition and associated costs
  • You want to expand your professional network
  • You want to work in the US
  • You can afford to attend school full-time for 1-2 years (F-1 visa holders cannot attend school part-time in the US)

Students whose goal is to return to their home countries for work after graduation should research the average salaries for MBAs there if that data is available. For international students whose goal is to remain in the US for work, enrolling in a master’s degree program opens up several work authorization options. 

Many MBA programs qualify for STEM OPT work authorization which allows graduate students in eligible programs to work in the US for up to three years after graduation. Graduates from non-STEM programs can only work for one year on OPT. Even if you used OPT or STEM OPT while pursuing an undergraduate degree in the US, you can use it again as a graduate student.

Interstride tip! Want to start a business in the US? We worked with immigration experts at Fragomen to compile a guide to the best visa and green card options for business students, entrepreneurs, and investors in the US.

Final thoughts on getting an MBA in the US for international students

Getting an MBA in the US can be beneficial to international students when they are strategic about where to study and what careers to pursue after graduation. Rather than looking for the cheapest MBA programs in the US for international students, compare the reputation of different programs and compare the cost of the degree to the average salaries of graduates in your chosen career to see if getting an MBA is worth it for you. 

Interstride’s University Rankings can help you as you begin to research schools in the US. Find universities with large international student communities, international staff and faculty, and high international student employment outcomes.