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Considering an MBA in the United States or Canada? What International Students Need to Know

Tuesday | August 22, 2023 | by Advent Group

A woman with curly hair and glasses sits attentively in a lecture hall. She is holding notes.

The United States and Canada are among the most popular destinations for international students. Both countries offer world-class universities, diverse learning environments, and career opportunities for graduates. 

Business education is a popular option for students, with the Master of Business Administration appealing to business professionals seeking opportunities to learn and grow.  

Why Do Students Choose the U.S. or Canada for an MBA?  

Undoubtedly, one of the benefits is the opportunity to network with people from all over the world. The student bodies of these countries are very diverse, which means that students will have the opportunity to meet people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. This can be a great way to build a valuable network of contacts that can help you in your future career. 

Another reason students choose to study in the U.S. or Canada is to attend some of the highest ranked universities in the world. Many business schools in the U.S. and Canada attract talented candidates, which means that you will have the opportunity to work with and establish a network of peers you can learn from. 

Program Structure and Curriculum  

The typical duration of MBA programs in the U.S. and Canada is two years. The first year usually focuses on core courses, such as accounting, finance, marketing, and operations management. The second year is reserved for elective courses, allowing students to specialize in a specific area of business interest. These are some of the common areas of specialization:  

  • Finance, which focuses on the analysis and management of financial assets 
  • Marketing, which focuses on the development and execution of marketing strategies  
  • Operations management, which focuses on the management of production and delivery systems 
  • Strategy, which focuses on the formulation and execution of business strategies 
  • Entrepreneurship, which focuses on the creation and growth of new businesses

International students can tailor their MBA experience to align with their career goals by choosing a specialization that is relevant to their desired field of work.  

They can also take advantage of the many extracurricular activities and networking opportunities that are available at universities in the U.S and Canada. Internships are also a good option for students who want to hone their skills and apply what they learn.  

Admission Processes and Requirements 

To be considered for most MBA programs in the U.S. and Canada, candidates are required to have a minimum of four to six years of professional experience. They may also need to provide academic transcripts, their GPA, GMAT or GRE scores, a résumé, personal and supplemental essays, and recommendation(s). An interview is typically the final step in the process.   

  • Timeline for MBA Program Applications: MBA admissions in the U.S. and Canada are divided into three intakes: fall, spring (winter for Canada), and summer. Fall is the primary intake for most business schools, followed by spring and summer. Applications for the 2023 MBA intake opened in summer 2022.
  • Language Requirements for International Students: MBA programs in the U.S. and Canada require international students to demonstrate proficiency in English. This is typically done by taking the TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Standardized Tests: Most MBA programs in the U.S. and Canada require standardized tests, such as the GMAT or GRE. While all of the major full-time programs still accept the GMAT or GRE, a number of programs allow some or all applicants to skip the exam. 

Financing Your MBA 

Tuition fees for MBA programs in the U.S. range from US$30,000 to US$200,000. In Canada, MBAs are typically more affordable. The average cost of an entire MBA program in Canada ranges from around C$30,000 (US$23,000) to C$120,000.  

Tuition is not the only cost to consider for MBA programs. You also have to factor in administration fees, textbooks, transportation expenses, and the cost of living in the city you choose to study in.  

Fortunately, there are scholarships and financial aid options available for international students in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the most common types of scholarships for international students include: 

  • Need-based scholarships: These scholarships are awarded to students based on their financial need. 
  • Merit-based scholarships: These scholarships are awarded to students based on their academic achievements or other merits. 
  • Work-study programs: These programs allow students to work part-time while they are studying. The money they earn can be used to help pay for tuition and other expenses. 
  • Loans: There are also a number of loan programs available for international students. These loans can be used to pay for tuition, living expenses, and other costs. 

It is important to note that competition for financial aid is stiff, and the availability of scholarships for international students varies from school to school. Some schools offer more financial aid than others. It is also important to start your research early, as many scholarships have deadlines that are months in advance of the start of the academic year. 

Opportunities for MBA Graduates 

Some of the most popular industries for MBA graduates in the U.S. and Canada are finance, consulting, and health care. In recent years, the tech industry has also established itself as a top field for MBA graduates.

When choosing an MBA program, it is important to consider the industry opportunities and career support that are available. Some programs have strong relationships with employers in specific industries, which can make it easier for graduates to find jobs. Other programs offer extensive career services, such as résumé writing assistance, mock interviews, and networking opportunities. 

Immigration policies vary between the two countries. In the U.S., international graduates who have completed an MBA program are eligible for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. This program allows graduates to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months after graduation. Graduates from STEM-designated MBA programs have a 2-year additional extension during this period, totaling 3 years. 

In Canada, if you complete a 1-year MBA (with a program length longer than 8 months but shorter than 2 years), you can receive a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for the same length as your program. If you complete a 2-year MBA program, you are eligible for a 3-year PGWP.  

Support Your MBA Application with a Credential Evaluation 

Depending on the university or program you are applying to, you may be required to provide a credential evaluation from a provider such as WES. A credential evaluation is an accurate and authenticated record of the educational qualifications you earned in another country. Learn how to get started with your WES credential evaluation.  

Even if an institution or program does not require a credential evaluation, supplying one in your application can help you stand out from other candidates.  

Related Reading 

How to Apply to a University in Canada 

F-1 Visa Updates: Benefits for International Students

Advent Group, founder of the one-to-one recruitment model, connects top universities and qualified prospective students. Since 2004, Advent Group has been a trusted global partner in higher education. Today we help 300+ of the world’s leading universities in 60+ countries to find the right MBA, Masters & EMBA candidates internationally. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).