The location is a factor when choosing an MBA programme which sometimes tends to be given secondary consideration. But it shouldn’t. The main reason is that statistics show that quite often MBA graduates live and work in the local area for years after graduating. So picking the right spot is essential.

An MBA certainly provides you with better qualifications and increases your chances of promotion at your place of work or of a major career shift. However, making the right choice is crucial. Elite universities may have brand names that give you an extra shove, but they are not necessarily the only possible choice one can make when pursuing an MBA degree.

The simple truth is that every ranking system has weaknesses and the criteria for each ranking may be vastly different from the needs and interests of the applicant. Rankings should not be the only selection criterion. There only about 20 elite MBA programmes in the world and it would not be very wise to exclude all the others.

A university degree should above all be tailored to your personal needs and aspirations, without being a complete drain on your savings. So before you fill in the application, you may want to check out the advantages of second-tier MBA programmes. 

Why is the location important?

A student’s ability to enter a particular sector after graduation will be enhanced by networking and nearby placement opportunities and those are easier to find in thriving economies. Recruiters give priority to candidates who have already lived or worked in the region where a certain position is based, and graduates tend to gain employment near the geographic location of their MBA programme. Take the following scenario, for example. An MBA from Harvard does indeed open doors everywhere, but if you’re interested in working in the IT business, it may be better to go to Stanford Graduate School of Business. It is closer to Silicon Valley; it is very prestigious; and networking and placement opportunities are better. Even though that is quite a specific case, the principle does apply universally.

Rankings, reputation and prestige of the institutions and programmes offered notwithstanding, many candidates start off their MBA search with the consideration of various  “hedonistic” factors such as  “where would I like to live?” and  “where would I like to work?” and only later look at what’s on offer in the area of their choice. The main reason is that statistics show that MBA graduates usually end up living and working in the same area for years after graduating. So picking the right spot is essential. For example, Albena, who is pursuing her degree in Copenhagen, says that one of the reasons she chose this location is because she had wanted to live in the Nordic countries for some time.  “Copenhagen was an easy choice”, she says.  “I wanted to be in a big city and Copenhagen  is, in my mind, a city you can really enjoy in the region. At the same  time, Denmark is one of the countries  trying to become an innovator in the area in which I am interested. Of course,  I also looked at the rankings of the university.  But I have no reasons to regret  my choice – the city is wonderful and as  long as you’re mentally prepared that affordable  housing is hard to come by and  the monthly expenses are higher than  in most European countries, everything  should be fine”.

Employment perspectives after graduation

As statistics show that many MBA students end up living in the country of their graduation for years after finishing their studies, researching the MBA recruitment perspectives in the region of your choice is very important when considering which MBA programme is right for you. You stand a much better chance of getting a placement at, and even being hired by, a local company, so the regional employment perspectives are not to be underestimated. According to the 2013 annual Corporate Recruiters Survey by GMAC, companies from the Asia-Pacific region increased their MBA graduate hire and 61% of them hired MBAs in 2013 (in comparison to 54% in 2012). The survey also shows that European companies kept the MBA graduate employment rates the same as 2012 (54%) and 85% of the US employers hired MBA degree holders in 2013 (up from 82% the previous year).

What should you keep in mind?

Of course, there are also a number of other factors to have in mind when choosing a location. First and foremost is the cost of living and how much you are willing or able to pay. Also, there is the matter of cultural experience: how comfortable you are outside your culture and how willing you are to get acquainted with a new one, including learning a new language. Besides, considering that a significant percentage of the graduates often remain to work and live in the area where their alma mater is located, the cultural differences in conducting business are not to be neglected. It is general knowledge that the Anglo-Saxon business manners, work ethic, etc. are somewhat different to those in, say, Scandinavia. The book “Culture Shock! Finland”, for example, has a whole section titled “Doing Business in Finland”. It is also a fact that the way people do business in the West is very different from the way people do business in the East, although nowadays the differences are slowly melting away.

Family situation is also not to be neglected. If the student has family commitments, then leaving behind a partner and children for a certain period of time, or uprooting them from job, school and routine, is no easy matter. There is also the visa question. Do you require a visa to study in the country you chose? Are there any specific work permits you need to obtain in order to be employed in the country of your choice upon graduation? Do the cultural differences presume a different treatment toward international employees? These are all questions you need to keep in mind when making the choice of your programme’s location. It isn’t news that choosing your MBA is a process affected by a wide range of considerations. Educating yourself about every aspect of a programme is crucial, not only in regards to how that programme would impact your life while you’re studying but, more importantly, how it would affect your life after you graduate. Choosing the right location of your school can influence your career development like no other factor. So be wise and realistic when evaluating your profile and expectations against the programme that would be best for you.

All that said, even though the location factor is crucial to consider when choosing your MBA programme, today’s highly globalised economy takes off some of the pressure. Even if you graduate in Asia, you stand a high chances of being hired by a company based in Europe, for instance, as many companies have branches all over the world today and relatively rapid employment relocation is quite popular for graduates. In this case, however, choosing a brand name school for your MBA programme is crucial because the worldwide recognition of your degree and the top-notch reputation of your alma mater could be key to your prospective employment opportunities.