U.S. vs. European MBA – How to Decide?

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U.S. vs. Europe.

Both have their merits, similarities, and some key differences.

Here are some important features of U.S. and European B-schools that you may like to weigh when deciding between the two geographies.

(Note: Admission policies of schools and guidelines for standardized tests can change. Refer to their website for the most updated information.)

1-year vs. 2-year

Europe has been the traditional powerhouse of top 1-year MBA programs: INSEAD, IMD, IE, SDA Bocconi, Oxford, and Cambridge. U.S. too has few (Kellogg and Cornell), but it’s known more for its 2-year programs.

The two different durations have their own pros and cons, which can be major influence on your decision to pick one over the other. An obvious advantage of 1-year program is its lower cost, both in terms of direct expense on tuition & living and opportunity cost of one additional year. An obvious advantage of a 2-year program is that it’s more suited for career changers, who constitute major chunk of applicants. Click here to learn more pros and cons between the two.

What it means for you?

If you’ve preference for a 1-year program, then Europe is likely to figure in your plans, provided you’ve a strong preference to work in Europe. (Geography of your MBA program has a very strong correlation with the geography of your post-MBA employment: most companies recruit for the region (country/ continent) where you study. More on this later in this post.)

International quotient

This is one of the biggest selling point of European schools. Even relatively less popular programs will have 50+% of its class international, and with the top ones 90+% (for example, LBS has 92% international students in its class of 2017). In terms of numbers of nationalities too, they score high. INSEAD, for example, typically has students from 90+ countries.

In contrast, U.S. schools have 30-40% of their class international, and just few schools such as HBS and Wharton have 70+ nationalities.

But do you need the diversity, the exposure that students from 90+ countries offer. The marginal benefit of additional internationalization to the class is severely limited beyond a point. And the international representation in U.S. schools is high enough for you to not reach that saturation point even in a 2-year program. (Ask your friends who’ve attended B-schools in U.S. as to how much they could make use of the international opportunities available at their schools.) Moreover, how much time and energy you’ll have in a fast-paced 1-year program (that most European schools offer) to experience the breadth of international quotient that European schools offer.

Besides, most U.S. schools offer exchange programs with schools in Europe and Asia, which you can make use of if you want even more international exposure.

Also, the opportunity to learn second international language in European programs has often been projected as a component of overall international theme. But, working knowledge of second international language is necessitated more by the local job-market reality (multiple languages in Europe) than by the quest to provide an international experience. To quote GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2015:

The demand for language skills was ranked higher by employers based outside of the United States. For example, among European companies, the demand for relevant language skills tied with strong oral communication skills (70% of respondents) as the second most critical skill employers seek. A majority of Asia-Pacific (65%) and Latin American (64%) employers also ranked relevant language skills as a critical selection factor for potential new hires, compared with just 41 percent of US companies [emphasis added].

Moreover, to be fair to U.S. schools, with much smaller populations (compared to U.S.) in most European countries, it’s probably a compulsion for most European schools to have many more international students.

What it means for you?

There is plenty of international exposure in U.S. schools too, way more than you can tap into. Unless you’re an outlier, it should be a small consideration, at best.

Class culture

European programs are smaller in size than their U.S. counterparts, which means you’re likely to get more individual attention by the faculty.

Also, European schools typically have older, more experienced students (average age around 29 years).

What it means for you?

How important these factors are for you? Ask this question and you’ll get the answer.


With their large endowment funds, U.S. B-schools outweigh their counterparts in other continents in terms of breadth and depth of resources they offer – generous fellowships, renowned faculty, research centers, and best facilities and technology.

Besides, the large class size year after year means large alumni base for most. And the fact that most graduates from U.S. B-schools work in U.S., the largest economy and home to most Fortune 1,000 companies, means they are entrenched not just in numbers but also at places where it matters.

However, that doesn’t imply that European schools are resource-crunched. They too provide world-class experience to their students. It’s just that in one-to-one comparison of top schools, U.S. B-schools are likely to be more plentiful.

What it means for you?

More resources aren’t bad.

Strong geographical bias in post-MBA placements

U.S. and European schools, both, will place you predominantly in their respective geographies. The table below provides distribution of post-MBA geography of class of 2014 of few U.S. schools. More than 80% of the class worked in U.S. (the first six columns are six different geographical regions in U.S.) and within U.S., they predominantly worked in the geography (highlighted in blue) where the school is located.

The table below provides similar data for London Business School (LBS). Notice the geographical bias.

And INSEAD’s case is no different.

To give another reference on geographical bias in recruitment, here is what GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2015 says on student mobility:

Globally, the majority of companies plan to place new graduate business hires within the same region where they recruited these candidates [see table below]. For example, 98 percent of US recruiters plan to place the recent business school graduates they hire within the United States. At the same time, however, 27 percent of US-based recruiters plan to place new hires in Western Europe, 26 percent in East and Southeast Asia, and 19 percent in Latin America.

What it means for you?

If you want to work in a particular geography, then that should be the overriding factor, unless you get admission to your dream school in another geography.


Prefer a European school if you want to work in Europe post-MBA and/ or have preference for 1-year program.

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