An MBA in international business can open doors to exciting opportunities to travel abroad, advance your foreign language skills, and help you learn how to adapt management strategies to suit the needs of global markets and foreign business cultures. As a cross-disciplinary area of study, international business provides education rooted in multicultural perspectives and offers training in sound business principles for conducting commercial endeavors across national boundaries. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics projects an employment growth rate of 14% for management analysts and 23% for market research analysts through 2026. An international business MBA offers an attractive and potentially lucrative investment for students interested in developing the advanced and versatile skills necessary to pursue professional roles in government agencies, international finance, logistics, and trade development for global markets.
Should I Get an MBA in International Business?
Your career aspirations and learning style can provide a good starting point to help you determine whether an MBA in international business suits your goals. Online programs provide flexibility that appeals to working professionals seeking to change careers. However, the heightened emphasis placed on developing strong professional networks in MBA programs might make an on-campus program a more attractive option, since campus-based programs provide ongoing in-person networking and informal social opportunities that can offer a competitive advantage in the job market after graduation. Recent graduates of bachelor's programs with their sights set on landing a job in finance, or another area that typically requires an MBA, may find on-campus programs ideal. Careers in international business often begin through traditional jobs in marketing, management, or finance. If you aspire to work abroad, pursuing a career in a U.S.-based organization with international ties may offer an effective way to get your foot in the door.
International business careers require diverse professional skill sets that incorporate practical leadership, critical thinking, and strong quantitative analysis. An international business MBA integrates culturally appropriate management and professional communication skills with marketing, strategic planning, business analytics, accounting, and finance.
In addition to the well-known networking opportunities available through MBA programs and the competitive boost that an MBA can add to your resume, students in international business programs can reap other attractive benefits. You may find recruiting events and placement assistance for global internships as you near graduation, and after graduation your program's network of alums may offer extensive career assistance.
What Can I Do With an MBA in International Business?
Many students choose to pursue an MBA in international business due to the versatility of the skillset this degree imparts. Developing an advanced understanding of global business environments provides transferable skills applicable to a variety of careers, especially in marketing, management, banking, and finance. With the right combination of experience and professional education, skilled and resourceful MBA graduates can advance into higher-level management positions, and eventually into top executive roles within multinational firms. The most attractive candidates develop strong and flexible cross-cultural business communication skills, in addition to a broad understanding of international economic trends.
- Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agent
Professionals in financial and investment services roles serve as liaisons in financial markets, connecting buyers and sellers to one another. Their duties include monitoring portfolio performance, carrying out securities sales transactions, and consulting with companies seeking investors. Lucrative jobs in international banking and investments typically require advanced degrees and specializations.
Median Annual Salary: $63,780*
- Management Analyst
Sometimes called management consultants, these professionals analyze a company's operations, paying special attention to profit margins, efficiency, and structure. Management analysts working in international business offer advice on reducing costs and increasing revenues for international segments of companies. Their duties often involve living abroad or frequent travel, and many employers preferentially hire MBA graduates.
Median Annual Salary: $82,450*
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts gather and study information about market conditions and potential sales of services and products. Their duties may include collecting and analyzing data on demographics, competitors, consumer opinions, and factors that influence customer demand and satisfaction. Many high-level research-heavy international positions in this specialty require a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230*
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals in making investment decisions. Their job duties include analyzing the performance of stocks, bonds, commodities, and other investments. Their other responsibilities include interactions with regulatory agencies, portfolio management, and equity analysis. Advanced positions in financial analysis for international business ventures typically require a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $84,300*
- Budget Analyst
Professionals in budget analysis examine institutional spending and budgeting to verify accuracy, completeness, and compliance with regulations. Their responsibilities include preparing budget reports, monitoring fiscal allocations for efficiency, and performing cost analyses. While many budget analysts hold bachelor's degrees, some employers prefer to hire graduates of master's programs for positions in international business.
Median Annual Salary: $75,240*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose an MBA in International Business Program
Finding the right MBA program requires due diligence and self-awareness on your part. As you investigate programs that interest you, give careful thought to where you plan to live and work long term after graduation. You can start your checklist with factors such as cost of living, availability of employment opportunities, and general quality of life, while also considering the program's global influence. Many business schools boast strong ties to local and regional industries, but as an international business student, you should concentrate on finding a program with a global reputation, strong multinational recruitment alliances, and excellent internship or practicum opportunities in countries in which you hope to study and work. Check the availability of international exchange options and the variety of countries in which graduates find leadership training and job placements. To help you explore your options, you can peruse our list of the best online MBA programs in international business.
Look into the networks of alums at programs that interest you as well, since they may rank among the most valuable post-graduation benefits of an international business MBA. How many active members does the association list, and what do the alums say about their experiences? Does the association maintain a strong reputation over time? How do your desired job markets perceive graduates from the programs of interest to you?
If you aspire to complete a dual concentration or an accelerated program, carefully consider the time commitment involved and whether you plan to attend full or part time. With fewer credits per term, many part-time students take three or more years to complete the degree.
Programmatic Accreditation for MBA in International Business Programs
Programmatic accreditation applies to specific programs or departments within the purview of a larger educational institution, and it serves to provide assurance that programs meet a set of rigorous quality standards. Since only students who attend properly accredited programs can qualify for federal financial aid, and schools typically accept transfer credits only from coursework completed in accredited programs, make sure to verify the accreditation status of programs that interest you. Earning your MBA in international business through a program with proper programmatic accreditation signals the legitimacy of your education to employers and other institutions.
For business programs, two agencies provide field-specific accreditation and appropriate quality assurance: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Students who attend programs without the proper accreditation from one of these relevant agencies could encounter difficulties with transfer credits, financial aid eligibility, acceptance into international exchange programs, or finding professional employment.
MBA in International Business Program Admissions
You can expect highly competitive admissions for most MBA programs in international business, so consider your goals and qualifications carefully as you plan your application. Schools typically screen applicants closely for optimal fit and make their admissions decisions holistically. Most advisers recommend applying to six to seven schools you consider highly compatible. Some experts recommend completing two rounds of applications, with the first round focused on programs that represent an ambitious stretch for you, and the second round focused on schools you consider more likely to offer you acceptance.
Most international business master's programs conduct similar admissions processes for on-campus and online programs. Applicants typically complete an online application, provide all required documentation such as test scores and official transcripts, and pay the application fee. Some online programs require students to submit additional components, such as video essays in which the candidate responds to admission questions posed by the school.
- Bachelor's Degree: To ensure candidates come from an appropriate educational background, most MBA in international business programs require a bachelor's degree in business administration, including coursework prerequisites in accounting, statistics, and economics.
- Professional Experience: Since most programs accept only candidates who aspire to leadership roles, they typically admit only applicants with two or more years of professional experience.
- Minimum GPA: Master's programs in international business typically require a minimum 3.0 GPA for undergraduate work. Some schools may offer provisional acceptance to students with lower scores but strong GMAT or GRE scores.
- Application: Candidates can usually submit initial applications online in a process that takes about an hour. Some schools allow up to two months after the application deadline to submit all supporting materials.
- Transcripts: To verify proper course credit, schools require official copies of all transcripts from the issuing institution. Typically, no transcript fees apply for current students.
- Letters of Recommendation: Programs typically require two letters of recommendation from professional or academic references. To ensure that you meet application deadlines, request the letters 6-8 weeks in advance.
- Test Scores: Most but not all programs require minimum scores of 300 on the GRE or 500 on the GMAT. Some schools consider scores on a case-by-case basis, rather than setting a minimum score.
- Application Fee: While application fees for graduate business programs vary, most schools charge $30-$50. In certain cases, such as for veterans or low-income students, some schools offer fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From an MBA in International Business Program?
MBA in international business programs vary in focus, structure, and course offerings, but you can expect to complete similar core coursework requirements for most programs. Since an MBA represents a substantial investment, give careful consideration to assessing international business programs to determine the right fit to advance your career plans.
Courses in an MBA in International Business Program
The core coursework for an international business MBA degree covers marketing, management, statistics, accounting, business law, and finance, as well as courses in international supply chain logistics, strategy, and trade. Specific courses vary among schools, but the list below describes five typical courses you can expect to complete.
- Emerging Markets
This course examines the distinctive aspects of international emerging markets and analyzes strategies for handling the opportunities and challenges they present for companies. The course addresses foreign companies entering and originating in emerging markets and places emphasis on how competition, market size, political conditions, and availability of resources affect the business environment.
- Global Supply Chain/International Logistics
This course explores international distribution networks and intermodal transportation systems using air, water, and ground surface methods. Students prepare for careers in international logistics management by analyzing and evaluating the complex dynamics of various supply chain trade-offs involving packaging, cargo handling, communications, warehousing, production, marketing, and inventory.
- International Business Strategy
With an emphasis on designing and implementing appropriate adaptations for foreign business cultures, this course prepares students for cross-cultural management career roles, including strategic analysis in international business. Topics covered include global resource allocation, integration of company components, and establishing business legitimacy in foreign markets.
- International Comparative Management
This course compares functions, structures, processes, and goals for careers in management of multinational business environments. Students learn about multiculturalism; comparative business advantages and disadvantages among host countries; the organization of multinational commercial enterprises to accommodate culturally specific managerial strategies; and cross-cultural and interpersonal differences in training, hiring, and promotion.
- International Trade and Investment Law
This course provides an introductory survey of legal issues impacting business trade and investment conducted in global contexts. Topics addressed include laws, agreements, and treaties in international trade; expropriation and other risks of conducting international business; and determining which country's law applies to business conducted abroad by nationals of other countries.
How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA in International Business?
Most students who hold bachelor's degrees in a business discipline can complete international business MBA programs averaging 30 credits of coursework in about two years. Many programs offer part-time options with evening classes for working professionals. Exceptionally capable and motivated students who can attend school full time and study intensively may want to consider an accelerated program which can lead to completion of the degree in 9-15 months, potentially lowering the cost.
Students who hold undergraduate degrees in other disciplines can enroll in "boot camps" to complete prerequisites for the MBA program; this can add an additional 6-12 months to the degree completion time. Electing dual concentrations can also extend the degree completion time and increase the cost of the degree. Many business programs offer cohort learning formats, in which all students follow a fixed schedule throughout the program and graduate as a group, while others allow for more flexibility and individual pacing.
How Much Is an MBA in International Business?
Many students weigh tuition costs heavily in their decision-making process. While prices vary greatly, total tuition (including mandatory fees for international exchange programs) typically ranges from about $10,000 at the low end to about $50,000 at the high end, with most programs costing around $30,000. You may reap additional cost savings if you plan to study abroad in an area with a lower cost of living and a favorable exchange rate. You may also need to factor in foregone income, which increases opportunity cost.
In addition to tuition costs, you should consider a few other factors that can affect your financial planning. If you aspire to a career requiring full foreign language fluency, for example, you may need to take additional coursework to become more fluent, adding to the time and cost. Some employers offer tuition assistance, which can offset some of the costs. Also consider that graduate teaching assistantships may not be available at the master's level, as many schools reserve them for Ph.D. students. Other variable costs may apply, such as textbooks, technology costs, and any required travel costs for international residencies or research opportunities. An MBA represents a substantial investment of time and money; consider many factors to determine whether the degree represents an appropriate return on your investment.
MBA in International Business Certifications and Licenses
- Certified International Purchasing Consultant
Offered by the International Purchasing and Supply Chain Management Institute, the CIPC credential demonstrates expertise in international purchasing consulting skills and prepares graduates for consulting careers. Candidates must demonstrate at least three years of business experience, and must take an interdisciplinary exam that covers accounting, purchasing management, and business law.
- Certification of Capability in Business Analysis
Offered by the International Institute of Business Analysis, the CCBA designation -- level two in a competency-based structure -- demonstrates expertise in business analysis. Candidacy requires two references; at least 3,750 hours of business analysis experience within the past seven years; and 21 hours of professional development within the past four years.
- Chartered Financial Analyst
Offered for global investment management professionals, the CFA ranks as the highest and most widely respected designation for the profession. Candidacy requires a bachelor's degree, a passport, a statement of compliance with standards of ethics and professional conduct, four years of investment decision-making experience, and a passing score on three levels of exams.
Resources for International Business Graduate Students
APSIA promotes and advances professional education in international affairs. Member benefits include an international career guide, lists of fellowships and scholarships, and a directory of graduate programs.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, CIBER comprises 17 business research and higher education institutions promoting international competitiveness and educational excellence.
As the official journal of the Academy of International Business, JIBS publishes interdisciplinary content in international business studies, including cross-country comparative studies and cross-border finance and investment pieces.
As a nonprofit internet-based organization offering free membership to students, IPMN promotes debate among interdisciplinary academic communities and practitioners involved in international public management.
A nonprofit organization maintaining professional development, work exchange, and study abroad programs, CIEE offers its members scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities for international exchange.
Professional Organizations in International Business
Professional organizations offer many valuable opportunities for students and recent graduates of MBA in international business programs to enhance their skills and build their networks. Benefits available exclusively to members include annual conferences, focused networking opportunities, discounts on professional development and education materials, mentoring programs, and exclusive opportunities for briefings with subject area experts. Some organizations also offer exclusive information on scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities for international business exchange.