Employers worldwide value MBA degree holders from Europe highly. There are myriad good reasons to choose to pursue your degree in the schools of the Old Continent other than career prospects. The excellent institutions and their favourable learning environment and the opportunity to enjoy the unique ambience are just some of them. And last but not least, we should mention that business graduates in Europe are the highest paid in the world with a starting median salary of 105,120 US$.

One of the benefits of doing your MBA in Europe is the opportunity to build a network, which is a tremendous advantage when you start or continue your professional route. Due to the shorter period of study (one or one and a half years) than that of American schools, the opportunity cost may sometimes seem better. In the USA the two-year programme is still prevalent, although more and more institutions offer shorter MBAs. However, everybody knows that the real opportunity cost is relative and dry numbers cannot reflect it.

Favourable position in the job market

During good and bad times it is important to have a diploma that employers favor. 87% of the class of 2012 of business schools in Europe was employed after graduation, according to a GMAC survey. Having a European MBA is also a great opportunity to change careers or find a better job - 43% of graduates had new employers after graduation. Alumni’s median starting salary for all management programme types in the Old Continent is higher by more than 22,000 US$ than that in the USA. For the classes of 2000-2012, jobs in Europe were also better paid than in America - 108,355 US$ compared to 100,000 US$.

The most recent survey by the MBA Career Services Council, an association of business school career services offices and companies who hire MBA students, in the fall of 2012, shows that worldwide on-campus recruiting opportunities and full-time job postings are on the rise for most schools. The increase is for most of the industries and only 15% of institutions reported a decline in on-campus recruiting.

A strong sign of the stabilization of the job market was that the registered rise came regardless of the status in the business schools’ rankings. Europe’s business education student pool is highly diversified and expatriates have almost the same chances in landing a job as the domestic students. The proportion of Citizens that have secured employment upon graduation is 59% and for foreign students is 55%. In this respect, only Asia/Pacific Islands is more favourable to foreigners than Europe. And this is just one of the reasons why one in every four non-domestic students in European business schools will try to get local residency or citizenship after finishing the degree. European culture and diversity is a magnet for talented people with inclination for a career in business.

Comparative advantages

The EU is an open political and economical space with four fundamental freedoms built into its legislative framework – free movement of people, goods, services and capital. These principles in combination with the democratic traditions, and the rule of law, make the region a thriving arena for doing business. If you are granted a visa for the country of your school, with it you will be able to enter all 27 member countries of the EU (in July 2013, with the accession of Croatia, they will become 28) plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

But apart from also being the biggest economy in the world, Europe is a unique place to live in with its incomparable cultural diversity and breathtaking historical heritage. Unsurprisingly, Western Europe is the preferred place for work of students coming from the countries of that region (82%). Citizens of Eastern Europe (55%) and the Middle East (39%) possessing business degrees have put Western Europe in second place as a preferred career destination. Only 9 percent of American business degree holders are interested in Western Europe, while 28 percent of Western Europeans favor the USA as a place for professional realization.

The EU enlargement has put Eastern Europe on the radar of Western Europe business graduates and 9 percent of them confessed that they were searching for a job there.

Debt matters

Of course, when it comes to business education, one of the most common concerns of prospective students is how to pay for it. Among graduates of American schools 63% have financed their studies by loan, and in Europe this figure is 44%. Almost half (49%) of the class of 2012 in Europe has incurred debt for their studies in comparison to 61 percent across the Atlantic. The historical employment picture for business graduates, however, is better for Americans than for Europeans. The GMAC survey of the classes of 2000-2012 reports 7% unemployment for the citizens of the Old Continent and 4% for their colleagues across the Atlantic. This is a significant difference and cannot be entirely explained with the crisis which affected the EU more harshly than the US in the past few years.

The industry of business schools is still more developed in America and US institutions’ diplomas have comparatively greater weight at home. There is a bigger circle of business communities, traditions and contributors around American business schools than around European institutions. Let’s not forget that the first European business school – INSEAD – was started nearly half a century after Harvard University created the first MBA programme in 1908. It is not that the European MBA lacks prestige and recognition. On the contrary – employers from all over the world appreciate qualified candidates from the Old Continent. However, in some respects Europe still has to catch up.

A place for the independent

Europe is a great place for entrepreneurs and for people who prefer to work more autonomously. Twice as many Europeans as Americans are self-employed – the ratio is respectively 10 to 5%. This picture doesn’t change when the base is wider and the data for all business graduates, regardless of their citizenship and working on both sides of the Atlantic, is taken into account. The proportion of self-employed in Europe is 11% and in America it is 5%.

Decline, not a crash

As we already mentioned, business degree holders are in an advantaged position in the job market. The crisis has negatively affected employment prospects on the Old Continent, but the decline is not steep. In 2012 fewer European companies (67%) anticipated hiring MBAs than in the previous year (68%). The main four professional spheres in Europe in which employers expected to attract talent were marketing and sales (43%), consulting (38%), business development (38%), and general management (36%).

As to which candidates amongst business graduates are preferred by European employers, two things set the Old Continent apart from the rest of the world. Here, companies favour more international experience and language skills. 61% of them seek to hire MBAs who have worked for at least five years. Most big firms (82%) use their websites to seek potential employees and about three-quarters of them also do on-campus recruiting. Mid-sized firms also rely on career fairs and 61%of them say they hire former interns.