Higher Education

Is an international MBA right for you?

Learn more about the international MBA degree, including what to expect from a program, potential careers, and starting salaries.

international mba

Updated 15-5-2024

Do you dream of becoming a global business leader? Thousands of universities worldwide offer an international Master of Business Administration (MBA) designed to immerse you in a rich, multicultural business experience. Unlike a typical MBA, international MBA students are much more likely to have an opportunity to study abroad, undertake an internship in another country, and become multilingual.

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ESSCA Online Campus

Become a 'next gen leader' with an MBA Business & Technology from ESSCA School of Management's Online Campus. ESSCA is a triple-accredited international business school based in Paris. If you're looking to further your career and academic learning while preserving the balance of your personal life, this is the hybrid part-time MBA program for you.

What is an international MBA?

An international Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an advanced degree program that prepares business students for global-scale careers in their field. Usually, an international MBA offers specialized courses and experiences that introduce students to new cultures, markets, and business practices that are different from their home country.

Businessman with luggage meeting colleagues in conference center meeting room
Photo: 10’000 Hours/Getty Images

This type of MBA is a good fit for expats interested in working at a foreign startup, joining a globalized firm, or even diving into entrepreneurship abroad. An international MBA may be the next logical step in your academic career if you have a bachelor’s degree in international relations or business.

Traditional MBA vs. international MBA

An international MBA allows students from various nationalities and backgrounds to gain the knowledge and skills of a traditional MBA program in a diverse, multicultural setting.

While traditional MBA students usually stay in one place and study in their native language, international programs emphasize learning through diversity. This means mastering a new language useful in global markets and spending time abroad through an internship opportunity or university exchange.

Another hallmark of the international MBA is a very diverse student body. For example, a typical MBA class at INSEAD includes 110 different nationalities, and 97% of students in Oxford’s Saïd Business MBA program are from outside the UK.

How much does an international MBA cost?

Compared to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc), an MBA is one of the most expensive master’s degrees. This varies drastically depending on which university you attend, with private A-list schools having much higher tuition costs than public B-list schools.

In 2023, the average cost of an MBA at one of the world’s top 20 business schools was $202,200, according to BusinessBecause.

Here are some average tuition costs for the popular countries to pursue an MBA in:

CountryMBA tuition (per year)
The US€14,000–40,000
The UK€9,000–60,000
The Netherlands€8,500–32,000

In certain European countries, tuition may be free or nearly free for MBA students, depending on their nationality:

CountryMBA tuition costs (per year)Student nationality
Finland€0EU/EEA only
Sweden€0EU/EEA only

If you’re looking for a cheaper international MBA, you may find online programs more affordable in terms of tuition while also avoiding the cost of commuting to campus.

How long does it take to get an international MBA?

Anywhere in the world, MBA programs last 1–2 years for full-time students, and international degrees are no exception. If you decide to go part-time, your degree will likely take around three years.

Online international MBA programs

Although they’ve been around for a while, online MBA programs have taken off in the last few years. Previously, it was common for employers to value in-person MBA graduates over online ones. However, this has changed drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic when classrooms worldwide moved toward remote learning.

Those who graduate with an online MBA can expect minimal variation in their starting salary or employability compared to an in-person MBA from the same school.

ESSCA Online Campus

Become a 'next gen leader' with an MBA Business & Technology from ESSCA School of Management's Online Campus. ESSCA is a triple-accredited international business school based in Paris. If you're looking to further your career and academic learning while preserving the balance of your personal life, this is the hybrid part-time MBA program for you.

In fact, the variety and quality of what’s available from an online MBA program has improved since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many global universities offer online international MBAs with the same perks as their on-campus degrees but with more flexibility. For example, French business school ESSCA’s Online Campus offers an MBA Business & Technology that is both hybrid and part-time.

Is an international MBA worth it?

You can expect an international MBA to be worth the time and effort if you select the right program, get good grades, and pursue a career in the field in which you studied. While tuition can be expensive, job placement rates and salaries are also high for business professionals who graduate from an international MBA program.

MBA students seated in the classroom of an international university
Photo: Drazen_/Getty Images

The Financial Times includes a ‘value for money’ rating in their annual business school rankings, which can help you decide on a particular program’s worth.

Careers and employability

Some of the most common career paths for international MBA holders include business operations, market research analysis, management analysis, and human resources.

In general, having an MBA massively boosts your employability in business careers. According to a 2022 global survey, 92% of corporate recruiters plan to hire recent MBA graduates in the next business year.

International MBAs often include additional skills and learning to make you look even better to global employers. This includes speaking multiple languages, experience with another culture’s business etiquette, and knowledge of foreign markets.

Salary expectations

Compared to only a bachelor’s degree in business, having an international MBA considerably boosts your earnings. Here’s an idea of what you can expect in terms of average yearly salary with an MBA in various countries:

CountryAnnual salary
The US$102,100
The UK$92,400

The expected starting salary for a recent international MBA graduate will depend on which university they attend, the field they enter, and where they live.

A businessman attends an interview with a businesswoman across the table
Photo: mixetto/Getty Images

Fields like finance and technology generally pay better for MBA holders, especially at global corporations. The highest-paid positions are business consultants and C-level employees like CEO, CFO, COO, etc.

What are the requirements for an international MBA?

Top international MBA programs are pretty competitive. A bachelor’s degree in a related field with above-average grades is the bare minimum for most institutions.

Many schools prefer students with prior work experience abroad or the ability to speak at least two languages fluently before applying. So, if you’ve never worked in another country or are using business school to fill a resume gap, you may want to consider a different track.

Other programs are less concerned with attracting bilingual students and focus more on career ambition or openness to global perspectives. One of the most important things a prospective international MBA student can be is decisive about their career goals – both the industry and specific employer – before enrolling in an program abroad.

Choosing your international MBA program

Starting your journey toward an international MBA degree can be intimidating, especially when you’re trying to choose the perfect program for your future. The best course of action is trying to get an idea of what a university’s MBA program offers so that you can envision how it will help your career grow.

A mother researches online MBA programs while sitting with her family
Photo: MoMo Productions/Getty Images

Try the following before deciding where to apply:

  • Study the institution’s website – Most international MBA programs post statistics about their recent classes and where graduates work. Find out if they’re working in careers and sectors that appeal to you.
  • Check for accreditations – The AACSB is a major global accreditation agency. In Europe, look for the European Foundation for Management Development Equis accreditation.
  • Visit the university, if you’d be attending in-person – If it’s financially and logistically possible, try to schedule a visit to the university and take a tour around campus or attend an open house event
  • Talk to alumni – Most major international MBA programs have alumni clubs in large business centers worldwide that host events where you can network with people who attended the university
  • Look at business school rankings – The Financial Times, QS, The Wall Street Journal, and Business Week (amongst others) regularly publish rankings

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