Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

How An MBA In Switzerland Can Unlock A Wealth Of Careers—From Luxury To Retail

Switzerland has long been associated as a go-to destination for traditional MBA careers in finance but there’s much more to studying in Switzerland than that


By  Heather Fallon

Tue Apr 9 2019

When you think of careers in Switzerland, you probably think about finance.

That is not a surprise, Switzerland is well established as one of the world’s top financial hubs, showcased by the sheer density of banks and financial services related roles in the country.

However, Switzerland is far more than this sector.

From pharmaceutical firms to hospitality, Switzerland has a diverse and innovative economy. In fact, Switzerland has one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the world, giving applicants ample opportunity to explore a range of careers.

For students studying at the University of St. Gallen’s MBA program, the diversified Swiss economy is helping them to pursue careers in companies like cosmetics firrm Estée Lauder, travel retail firm Dufry and the global auction house Christie's.

According to an employment report from St. Gallen's full-time MBA class of 2018, over 70% of graduates have stayed in Switzerland after completing their course. Alumni are now working in industries such as non-profit, transportation and real estate, with 78.9% of graduates working in a career outside of finance. 

Location, Location, Location

st gallen

Switzerland is a small yet varied country, with the University of St. Gallen situated just an hour outside of Zurich. Many students commute from Zurich to St. Gallen for their studies. 

With such a high density of top companies, and more importantly, company headquarters, based in cosmopolitan cities such as Zurich, Yanan Yu had ample access to work and work experience during her MBA degree.

Yanan moved to Switzerland from China, formerly working in corporate communications at the Brunswick group as well as in finance at KPMG.

“If you want to move to a new country, for me the best way is through schooling,” she says, admitting an MBA had always been in the back of her mind.

Having been drawn to the University of St.Gallen by its strong reputation, (ranked fourth in the Financial Times top European business schools), Yanan was able to harness these assets to move in to a job in travel retail. 

“It was about where my interests lie; it was a lot of self-reflecting on what I really wanted to do and what I was passionate about,” she says.

With hopes of moving into retail and marketing, Dufry, a leading global travel retailer operating over 2,300 duty free and duty-paid shops in airports, cruise lines, seaports, railway stations and downtown tourist areas in 65 countries, was on Yanan’s radar. As part of the MBA program at St. Gallen, she took part in a three-month corporate project in marketing at Dufry Switzerland in Zurich. After it, she was offered a full-time job in marketing and joined the company after graduation.

St. Gallen’s full time MBA offers the opportunity to meet companies on campus through regular evening presentations and networking sessions, as well as off campus through entire days dedicated to visiting offices in cities like Zurich and Basel. This access to corporate companies can prove vital when securing future job positions.

A diverse cohort = diverse opportunities

Yanan is not the only St. Gallen MBA student to successfully pursue a career in a non-financial sector. Ilona Genoni Dall had previously studied the history of art, even doing a PhD in the subject.

“Art was always my passion but at the same time I was fascinated by the market mechanisms,” she explains, which was why she decided to pursue an MBA.

Ilona’s MBA equipped her with the necessary tools to develop both her business and leadership skills. The MBA program at St. Gallen places an emphasis on career progression, with Leadership Development courses as core modules. 

Coursework on topics such as team dynamics and personal resilience encourages students to hone their self-awareness and interpersonal skills at all levels of an organisation. 

“Shortly after I had graduated from St. Gallen I was promoted to general manager at Christie’s in Zurich,” Ilona explains. Christie’s is an auction house with a presence in 46 countries specialising in not only art, but also wine, watches, jewellery and other collectables. Switzerland is an important market for consigners and collectors, with Zurich and Geneva being home to 2 of the 10 Christie’s salesrooms worldwide.

Jevgenija Glazunova, meanwhile, came to St. Gallen from Latvia with a background in marketing, having previously worked for Unilever and eBay. jev

Jevgenija completed her MBA part-time, allowing her to work alongside her studies, which gave her the opportunity to immediately put MBA concepts into practice. She now works at luxury beauty brand Estée Lauder as a CRM Manager.

“[In Switzerland,] you have different languages and different regions, and these regions show very different consumer behavior patterns which is fascinating, especially for me in the field of consumer products and data.”

This varied consumer economy translates into the classroom, with students on the University of St. Gallen MBA program having backgrounds in healthcare, hospitality, real estate, and more. Students have between four and 10 years of work experience and there are 84 nationalities in the St. Gallen MBA network.

“It’s very much a stereotype that MBAs are only done by bankers and consultants,” says Jevgenija.