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A Career in China? Job Prospects Drive More International MBAs

Better job prospects in Chinese and Asian markets are drawing MBAs from all over the world. CEIBS professors say more international students are enrolling in China's MBA programs.


Thu Sep 5 2013

This is a guest post by Jaime Rodríguez Santiago.

In recent years, the number of foreign students enrolling in China’s MBA programs have been steadily increasing. 

According to Dingkun Ge, a former Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), only seven per cent of CEIBS students in 2005 were from the United States. Flash forward to 2013, and approximately 20 per cent of the students enrolled in the CEIBS MBA program are from the US. 

But the rise in international student enrollments is not limited to just American students. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the number of foreign citizens who send GMAT scores to Chinese universities has increased 126 per cent over four years. In 2006 there were 546 - in 2010 there were to 1,509.

Ge argues that “people think all the action is in China, and young professionals want to go where the action is". Other major advantages include CEIBS’ alumni network, which Ge describes as a “powerful resource”  that helps students develop connections for the benefit of their careers. 

Kelly Branter, the executive director of Rutgers Business School’s international EMBA programs in Asia, said that foreign students gain unique and valuable expertise at its Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore campuses. On average, classes are made up from students from 15 different nationalities, from places as far as Tanzania and Colombia. “The world is shrinking,” Branter said. “Organizations are looking for their next generation of global leaders, and things are going to continue to change as the focus turns even more to China and other important new markets.” 

Other post-MBA tendencies also emerge. According to CEIBS’ Career Report for the class of 2010, 50 per cent of international students opted to stay in China and look for work after graduation, likely motivated by brighter job prospects in Asia. QS Top MBA Jobs and Salary Trends reported an estimated 19 per cent increase in employer demand for MBA graduates in China in 2011. 

Still, for employers and recruiters in China, an MBA or EMBA, regardless where it’s obtained, isn’t the most important factor in making a candidate’s resume shine. “If people come out here to do an MBA thinking that it will help them get a job in China, they will find it’s relatively low down on the list of priorities for employers,” said Andy Bentote, managing director of north and eastern China for recruiters' Michael Page International. 

“If you talk to pretty much any company, they will say their strategy is to localize as much as possible. A lot of companies will bring in a senior foreign manager, but one of their primary roles will be to prepare for a transition to local management.”

The main qualities employers are looking for in managers are the ability to speak Chinese fluently, followed by work experience in China, and then education qualifications and professional experience elsewhere. 

While some employers may not look at “stay-at-home” and China MBAs differently, the latter may have a more significant impact in a workplace. School administrators and students agree, for example, that the single greatest advantage of completing an MBA or EMBA in China is the diversity they will be exposed to. 

“Management is always about how you can get different people to come together and realize company targets," said Alex Korte, a graduate from the University of Western Ontario’s EMBA Hong Kong program. “A program in China can’t replace certain experiences, but at least it prepares you to work in mainland China with an open mind. So, you can accumulate knowledge more quickly and get experience that helps you get along with people and achieve your targets."


Inside track. (2011). China Economic Review (13506390), 8-9.