Recent decades have brought countless new opportunities and challenges for business professionals and for those pursuing an international business degree. Expanded connectivity, smart technologies, and increasing lifespan are changing how we think about work.

What is more, companies are becoming more global than ever before, and demographic changes are shifting economic power. More than ever, business leaders must be adaptable problem solvers with a high degree of cultural intelligence. Aspiring managers have started to consider international business schools in other parts of the world. Their interest is triggered by various factors such as the state of economy, the globalisation of business, and the hunger for new horizons.

Geotargeting with an MBA

In this context the MBA, as the most recognisable and prestigious postgraduate management degree worldwide, emerges as an opportunity that provides more than just business knowledge and leadership skills. Nowadays, B-schools are a place where MBA participants gain specific knowledge and know-how about business in a certain region or industry while building their targeted network of contacts on a local, regional or global scale. Some MBA programmes have a global focus, others a regional or a local one, and this focus is reflected in the student body, the curriculum, the career services, and the geographical diversity of recruiters.

The intricacies of a regional focus

Although it might seem that globalisation has taken over the real business world, and the MBA one as well, having a local or a regional focus has an equally strong value. Gaining in-depth knowledge of – and building a local network in – a single country or region can make a difference in business leadership.

“We create a hub for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) here, where you can meet and connect with the most influential thinkers and businesspeople of the region,” highlights the School for Executive Education and Development (SEED) (Hungary). SEED aims to create a best-in-class business school for the CEE region, which brings together and nurtures the talents of the region locally.

The Graduate School of Management at GLOBIS University (Japan) aims to cater for the growth of “leaders of change and creativity who will contribute to a better future for both Japanese and Asian society.” With only 7% Japanese students, GLOBIS attracts 68% of its MBA students from Asia and 32% from Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The programme combines global business perspectives and an international network with a strong regional focus. The curriculum features traits of the Japanese culture such as having a personal mission and includes courses like Japanese Management and Globalisation of Japanese and Asian Companies.

How international can an MBA be?

An international MBA is not one abroad, but one that immerses its participants in an international academic and business environment. Internationalisation is a complex set of features provided by a programme. Some B-schools aim to have truly global MBA programmes, and this can be reflected in their name but, most importantly, in the MBA learning experience itself.

Peers from around the globe

Business schools in the US, the motherland of the MBA, have traditionally attracted a pool of applicants from different parts of the world. Data from the Institute of International Education (IIE) reveals that the US is still the top destination for graduate degree studies, with close to 400,000 students in graduate school in 2016, many of them in B-schools. Top US B-schools boast the most competitive MBA programmes, receiving about 10,000 applications per intake and selecting about 10% of them. However, they are far from having the most diverse MBA classrooms.

“International business schools boast unmatched levels of diversity. While American business schools have made great strides to increase diversity, they still have some catching up to do before reaching the levels of schools in Europe and Asia,” notes Mr O’Connor, a contributor to Forbes magazine.

On average, the number of foreign students in European B-schools can range between 80% and 90%, while this number is two to three times lower in US schools. Some international MBA programmes are particularly stringent about preventing a so-called “dominant” culture emerging. For example, EDHEC Business School (France) has 93 nationalities represented in its MBA classes and 86% of its professors have international career experience.

If you attend a school that has a diverse makeup of students who hail from different territories, you can immerse yourself in a unique environment and learn about different cultures.

Learn more about MBA programmes at EDHEC Business School by taking a look at this handy school profile.

International exposure

“I wanted to learn about doing business in other countries,” says Joe Felice, an American who decided to enrol in the MBA programme of the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) in the Netherlands. However, you can maximise your international exposure by carefully looking at the options provided by different business schools.

The curriculum may be focused on business practices in different regions and territories, which can help the global business professional to gain exposure to new ways of doing business and also to the regulations that apply on a global level and not just a domestic level. In addition, some B-schools boast campuses in different countries and even continents - such as EDHEC Business School (France), which has campuses in France (Lille, Nice, and Paris), the UK (London), and Singapore. The cultural mix and the academic and professional background of MBA professors expose students to a myriad of perspectives. Study trips, internships, projects for real clients in other countries, or a social impact project that goes beyond your frontiers are other tools of B-schools to immerse you in a global environment. Depending on your preference, check out what is on the B-schools’ international exposure portfolio and choose which environment suits you best.

Finally, cross-border career options could be your ultimate goal. Jan Mikael David from the Philippines has made the first step. “Prior to my IE (Spain) International MBA, I was Senior Digital Manager at Havas Media based in Singapore. I chose IE for its truly diverse and talented student pool. Today, I work in the Global New Business office of Havas Media based in Madrid.” Career services, recruiters, and employment destinations are also excellent indicators of the international focus of MBA programmes.

Trending destinations

Indeed, prospective students maintain a strong interest in international study and employment. More than half (57%) of prospective students would prefer to study internationally, according to the 2016 Prospective Students Survey Report of the General Management Admission Council (GMAC). This figure is down slightly from 59% in 2014 but still higher than 2011 when 51% of respondents preferred international study.

Only prospective students from the United States and Canada have a preference for domestic programmes, while students from other parts of the world, including Europe, prefer to choose a programme in another country. This is easily explained. The United States is the most popular study destination for most citizenship groups across major world regions. The list of top -10 study destinations is headed by the US, but they are followed by, in descending order, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.

Globally, 35% of prospective students seek international careers, down slightly from 38% in 2014 but still high compared with five years ago when 29% of candidates intended to seek international jobs. Half of prospective students wanting to study abroad also prefer to work abroad.

Figures show that prospective students who prefer to study abroad are looking to improve their chances of having an international career; build an international network of colleagues; study in a country that offers English-language education; experience learning amid a diverse student body; and have opportunities to learn English or improve their proficiency. On the other hand, those preferring to study in their home countries are more likely to do so in order to be closer to their families and to obtain a more affordable education.

In the end, the choice between studying at home or abroad, immersion in a truly international environment or the mastery of the intricacies of doing business in a certain region, strongly depends on how you want to build your career in the future. You can now choose from a diversity of MBA programmes to geo target your career.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2017-2018 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Geotargeting Your Career”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.