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Reasons To Join A STEM MBA In The US—Including The OPT Visa

STEM MBAs are great if you want to enter a data-driven career, but what are the other benefits of STEM MBA programs?


Tue Jan 31 2023

A STEM- (science, technology, engineering, and math) designated MBA can set you up for life. If you’re looking to launch a career in the US or enhance your technical expertise, these programs can provide an exclusive gateway to top companies.

The benefits of a STEM MBA in the US don’t end there, however—there are several other reasons to pursue such a degree in a competitive jobs market.

Here are four things you may not know about joining a STEM MBA in the US:

1. International students can benefit from the OPT visa 

Let’s start with one of the most obvious benefits: for F-1 visa students who join eligible STEM MBA programs in the US, you’ll be entitled to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa. 

The OPT allows STEM degree students to stay in the US for up to 12 months on an F-1 student visa and then apply for a 24-month extension. This means that STEM students can work in the US for up to three years after graduation, without requiring an H1-B visa in this period.

For Tanmay Kothari, an MBA student from India at the University of California, San Diego’s (UCSD) Rady School of Management, this was one of his reasons for joining a STEM MBA.

Having worked in technology consulting in India before the MBA, Tanmay wanted to go to business school to excel in his career, and launch himself into a career in the US tech space. 

“As an international applicant, my priority was return on investment, and as US visa laws are strict, you have to figure out how to stay long enough. The OPT route helps you do this,” he says. 

Tanmay says he was also motivated to apply by San Diego's well-known beautiful scenery, great weather, and relaxed atmosphere. 

2. A STEM MBA means data-fueled courses

As you can guess by its name, a STEM MBA is perfect for those wanting to deepen their technical expertise in the business sphere.

The UCSD Rady MBA provides courses that help students become data literate, including core courses in Quantitative Analysis and Finance, with electives in Strategic Cost Management and Supply Chain Management.

“Initially, my approach to joining a STEM MBA was only for the visa option,” Tanmay says. “I was narrow minded about fields I was working in but since arriving at Rady, I’ve learned to think more holistically and take any given problem and provide an analytical solution.”

It’s not just about the tech side of business, either. The MBA offers courses in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.

Tanmay also cites another benefit he discovered when he started the MBA: the expertise of the faculty teaching on the MBA program. He refers to Professor Hyoduk Shin, who teaches Innovation Information Technology and Operations, as having in-depth knowledge of his subject and an engaging method of teaching. 

5d0c76541387c8d7614d2679960d46513b1df0d1.JPG Student Tanmay Kothari (pictured) says his STEM MBA from Rady is accelerating his career in the US

3. STEM MBA programs are practical in nature

STEM MBA programs tend to emphasize practical learning since technical skills are best learned when applied to a specific business problem.

As part of the UCSD Rady MBA, there is a Lab to Market course, which guides students to develop an idea from scratch and make it scalable over one year of the MBA.

As Tanmay had experience in entrepreneurship, after launching an ecommerce venture in India that he eventually sold, he knew this course was well-suited to him. 

4. You’ll gain great career prospects

It’s hard to ignore the career prospects that go alongside STEM MBA programs. Most employers are likely to be highly impressed by your ability to not just study an MBA, but a STEM-designated MBA that blends business and tech learnings.

As Tanmay is looking to build a tech career in the US, he is using every possible opportunity to gain as much experience as he can during his MBA.

He has already completed an MBA internship with a solar vehicle startup in California and is now working remotely in San Diego for a wealth management firm based in New York.

He says that becoming well versed in data analytics during his business school experience is helping to grow his career. 

“Data is an important part of the world—akin to oxygen!—and now every decision I take is a calculated one,” he says.