7 Key Differences Between U.S. and European MBA Programs

Applicants familiar with American-style MBA programs may be surprised to learn how different things are across the pond.

European vs US MBA Programs

The MBA degree made its way from America to Europe about seventy years ago with the founding of INSEAD.

European MBA programs have flourished ever since, offering countless opportunities to study in breathtaking Old World cities while mastering business in the world’s largest trading bloc. However, applicants familiar with American-style MBA programs may be surprised to learn just how different the degree is across the pond. Here are seven key differences to consider as you weigh whether a European degree is right for you:

  1. Most European programs are one-year. While UK schools tend to follow the American model, the vast majority of continental programs are one year long. Some may see this as a disadvantage, but for others, the reduced opportunity costs and the denser format are a distinct advantage.
  2. Many Euro MBAs have lower costs and better ROIs than U.S. programs. One year less of studies also means one year less of tuition, lost salary and living costs. Even compared to graduates of more onerous U.S. programs, graduates of elite European programs often land similar jobs with similar salaries!
  3. You can apply as an older candidate. The average age at U.S. MBA programs hovers between 25-28, but European programs average anywhere from 28-35. Candidates are older and more experienced on average, and the age range in classes tends to be wider than in U.S. schools.
  4. More flexible application requirements. U.S. schools have a tendency to recruit within a very tight GMAT range. Few schools are willing to go out of their way to recruit candidates with GMATs or GPAs far lower than their target. European schools, on the other hand, have class profiles with a far wider range of GMAT scores and GPAs due to the greater emphasis put on experience and application quality.
  5. European B-Schools are very international. Whereas international students make up 20-40% of the student body at American MBA programs, the number hovers around 90% at European schools. This is as true for faculty members as it is for students.
  6. International placements from European MBAs are higher than from U.S. MBAs. Going along with European schools’ international nature, international placements are much more common. So if you are targeting jobs in Asia, Europe or Africa, Euro programs can offer you unique access.
  7. There are many great unranked and unknown schools in each country. Everyone knows the Financial Times rankings, which are a great place to start when looking for prestigious European and international MBA programs. But beyond the most famous/highest ranked schools, there are a plethora of very good options. For example, have you ever heard of a famous Norwegian B-school? I hadn’t until this I wrote this article. But as a highly developed country of 5 million with a strong oil and gas industry and amazingly high salaries, there are certainly many opportunities for job-seekers coming from BI or NHH.

There are many benefits to a U.S.-style MBA program, but those looking for a quicker, cheaper, more international experience should also consider a European MBA.

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