Feb 15, 2011

One Year vs Two Year MBA program, European MBA vs. US MBA – Which one to choose?

European MBA programs are usually one year in length when compared to the full time MBA programs in the US, which extends over a two year period. Hence, US vs European MBA comparison can also be considered pretty close to the 1 Year vs 2 year MBA program comparison with exception to the region specific attributes.

A lot of MBA applicants, especially internationals, are confused about which region to target for their MBA education. While the US has always been an educational center, Europe/Canada and other parts of Asia are fast offering great places and strong global MBA programs. Choosing the right region is one of the most common questions for MBA candidates and particularly, it is a decision making involving some level of confusion when international aspirants such as from India are applying for a course outside their home country and hence, are pretty open to the idea of moving to a country they desire.

So let’s find out what are the key differences in the MBA program of the US business schools and the European business schools or between the one year and two year MBA programs:

1. Length of the program:
Most of the European schools offer 1 year program compared to the 2 year full time MBA programs of the US based business schools (there are few exceptions such as LBS which offers 15-20 month program). However, it does not mean that you will learn any less in a European MBA program than in the US one. It is just that you will be more busy in the school and studies with less time to indulge in the other activities in the European programs when compare to the American ones.

2. Specialization:
A two year full time MBA program (more typical in the US) gives you more opportunity to explore the areas of your interest by taking electives that interest you and other learning opportunities such as consulting projects, etc that may align with your post MBA goals. European MBA programs, usually 1 year in length, will be more specific to get the fundamentals right and move into the advance part in the remaining time.

3. Internship:
All the two year MBA programs at the US allow around three months internship opportunity to the MBA students. It is particularly beneficial for those who are career changers and hence, internship gives them a vital point to market themselves during full time recruitment. Moreover, most of the campus recruitment takes place through the conversion of internship into a full time offer. In contrast, European MBAs do not have such a long internship period and at the most, will have few weeks to work on some kind of project with a company as their pitch of “real-world experience”. For those who consider internship a must (don’t forget that you earn pretty well during internship to offset the cost of tuition to a certain extent), a two year US program might look more attractive than a one year European MBA. On the other hand, those who want to come back to their pre-MBA industry, a one year MBA program might make a lot of sense.

4. Average work experience / Age:
European MBA schools tend to have higher average age of the incoming class than the US schools. While the top tier US Schools have an average work experience of about 4-5 years, it is around 6-7 for the European schools. It is also to do with the fact that many of the applicants who apply are more experienced at the first place and hence, prefer one year program over a two year one.

5. Tuition and Living Expenses:
Tuition and living expenses are less for a one year European program when compared to a two year MBA program. Also, you lose just one year of your salary than two years (in the full time US program) and hence, payback period is less in a European program than the US MBA. For e.g. INSEAD’s website says that its MBA graduates recover their MBA expenses in three years or even before.

6. Ranking:
US MBA programs still rules most of the rankings, however, European programs are fast catching up. The 1999 Bologona Accord has provided a level of uniformity to the degree qualifications for higher education across Europe and has helped in developing quality educational programs across the region.

7. Percentage of Internationals:
Internationals constitute around 30-40% of the top business schools in the US compared to more than half of the class belonging to outside-home country in the European MBA programs. For sure, the US MBA programs can not beat the European schools in international diversity for many coming years.

8. Language:
While English is the prominent language in the US and hence, internationals, most of whom know English really well, find it very easy to work alongside colleagues in any major corporation in the US. In Europe, however, it may be critical to know the local language to present yourself as a great recruit for the companies that are recruiting from the particular region. Learning a new language in one year ain’t easy!

9. Bonding with Classmates:
More the time you will spend with your classmates, better will be the bonding. Hence, two  year programs/full time US MBAs score over 1 year/European MBA. Having said that, the bonding amongst students also depend on the location and community culture of the school. For e.g. student bonding and collaborative student culture at Dartmouth or Cornell (where no matter which part of the city you go, you end up bumping into the same set of people) is  definitely going to be stronger than that of NYU or Columbia (New York city!).

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