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How Good Is That Foreign Degree?

A foreign MBA degree will be among your most expensive career decisions. Don’t take a call in haste. Try talking to friends or colleagues who are students or alumni of the programmes you are targeting

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Survey results have an interesting effect on people, especially when they appear in the mainstream media. Some months back, a barrage of articles said 93 per cent of Indian MBA graduates were useless, and the ones that did get placed earned a measly salary of under Rs 10,000 a month.

Not many readers seemed interested in digging deeper into the ‘boring’ parts about why these MBA grads did not get jobs and why the employed ones were paid so poorly. The shocking media revelation seemed enough reason for many higher education aspirants to assume that the solution to their woes was to pack their bags and fly out abroad for an international MBA.

But is a foreign MBA the magic pill for all the problems that plague the Indian MBA industry? Short answer – No! There sure are some excellent reasons for going abroad for your MBA. The academic exposure you can get in the classroom can be very enriching. You get to live, work and study in a truly international environment etc. Overall, it can be a transformational experience – academically, professionally and personally.

A foreign MBA is not worth it when you aren’t sure of what you really want from the experience, or when you apply too early or too late in your career, when you start looking at business schools as job placement agencies or when you target programmes that have very little street credibility, etc.

A foreign MBA degree will be among your most expensive career decisions. Don’t take a call in haste. Try talking to friends or colleagues who are students or alumni of the programmes you are targeting.

What many readers of the media articles didn’t catch was that the survey which covered 5,500 business schools, had left out the top tier MBA programmes. These programmes are still excellent investments, if you have the potential to crack their selection procedures. The same applies to foreign degrees. Some really good institutions fully justify the top dollar they charge for tuition. Graduates of these universities earn salaries (often in the $100,000+ range) that allow them to recoup whatever they’ve spent on their degree.

If you have played your cards well, you may even get a considerable amount of financial aid. Many higher education aspirants I interact with via MBA Crystal Ball, choose top ranking MBA programmes that offer them a partial or full scholarship. It’s a smart strategy to achieve a balance between the programme’s credibility and costs. It reduces their financial risk and allows them to focus on getting the maximum out of the opportunity to study abroad.

On the other hand, there are thousands of MBA colleges abroad just waiting to make a quick buck. They are more than happy to drop their entry barriers (test score, experience criteria, academic capability). Your ability to pay them is a strong enough reason for you to get a seat. When the value of such foreign degrees is low in their own country, you can’t expect employers back in India to get too impressed with your new qualification.

If you come across as the gullible, wide-eyed applicant clamouring for an MBA degree, there are enough business schools in India and abroad waiting for you with open arms. Foreign MBA programmes can still give you the bang for your buck, provided you are targeting the right universities and with the right expectations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Sameer Kamat

Kamat is founder of MBA Crystal Ball, and author of the bestselling book, Beyond The MBA Hype

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