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Why Study a STEM MBA?

One of the biggest trends in US-based business schools over the last few years has been the rapid growth of STEM-designated MBA programs. Two factors are driving the spread of these new, highly innovative courses: student demand and market trends. And neither show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Instead, STEM-trained business professionals will be increasingly sought after as global markets continue to embrace digital and technological innovations.

Jan 11, 2022
  • Education
Why Study a STEM MBA?

But what are STEM MBAs? What are the benefits for international students? And with so many options out there, where’s the best place to find the right course for you? Find out the answers in this look at why you should study a STEM MBA.

What is a STEM MBA?

A STEM MBA is a multidisciplinary program that bridges the gap between business management and technology. In other words, they're designed to teach business skills and technical skills. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) part of the MBA could include a focus on mathematics. For example, looking at how advanced quantitative analysis can create more effective investment strategies. Alternatively, you might learn how to use data analytics to design better marketing campaigns or customer profiles. Other students focus on how new technologies, such as AI and automation, are impacting future business models.

Like traditional MBAs, these STEM based courses take around 24-months to complete, although there are accelerated learning options for those who want to finish in a year. Some schools offer part-time options, giving you up to three years to get your STEM MBA.

STEM MBAs can be demanding and require candidates with strong leadership abilities and a high level of technical knowledge. Learning is a combination of classroom-based lectures, guest talks from business and tech leaders, group projects, technical seminars, case studies, and exciting work experience and internship placements.

Why are STEM MBAs important?

The world is suffering from a STEM skills shortage. In the USA, experts predict the economy needs an extra 1.1 million STEM professionals by 2024 to keep up with tech innovation. There's a similar demand for STEM professionals in Europe, Asia, South America, and rapidly developing African economies, such as Ethiopia and Kenya.

Technical knowledge is now one of the most sought-after skills employers look for when hiring for professional roles and executive positions. Over 70% of new hires at Mastercard come into the company with what recruiters call hot tech skills, including blockchain, cybersecurity, data analysis, and even cryptocurrency.

However, you don't have to be a coding genius to work for a company like Mastercard. Instead, as vice president of people insights Sarah Gretczko explains, it's more about understanding the connection between STEM and modern business practices. "Our entire workforce is focused on figuring out how to embed technology in everything we do, how to make sense of the tsunami of data we have," says Sarah Gretczko. "We need workers who embrace technology as a mindset in how they approach their work."

Learning to speak two languages

STEM graduates are unique professionals who understand what a business needs and how to deliver it. They can combine separate parts of a business into a single unifying vision. This ability is why organizations like Apple, Google, Tesla, and SpaceX are much more than 'just' tech companies. However, people who can 'think' in both business and tech terms are still relatively rare, and this has to change.

"There's definitely a gap right now in the skills economy, and I mean gap almost literally," says Wendy Moe, a US tech-recruitment specialist. "We have lots of people with good business and leadership skills, and then we have people with awesome technology skills. But they 'speak' different languages. STEM graduates are tech and business bilingual, which makes them extremely attractive job candidates."

Ralph Caprio, a recent MBA STEM graduate now putting his skills to good use as a senior program manager at Amazon, explains how his course taught him to think and approach business in a more holistic way. "I took eight data-focused modules," says Ralph. "The classes focused on a variety of in-demand technical skills – systems-modeling software and data visualization tools. They put a quantitative spin on marketing and other core subject areas in business. I was able to learn the analytical side of a business and other valuable skills, like how to design marketing campaigns in the tech space and use quantitative analysis to plan the life cycle of a business."

The benefits of a STEM MBA for international students

Developed and developing nations are in competition to attract the best STEM MBA students and graduates. As such, a STEM-based MBA can speed up your student or work visa application. It could also allow you to stay longer in your host country.

Take the USA, for example. Overseas students can apply for a student visa to stay and work for up to one year in the USA. But those with STEM degrees can apply for an optional practical training (OPT) extension to their visa, permitting them to remain for three years. Similar schemes exist in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and many other European nations. Exciting and exotic locations like Bali, The Cayman Islands, and Antigua also offer fast-track 'golden ticket' visas for entrepreneurs and innovators with a tech-skill set.

The MBA Tour

The MBA Tour is the best place to start your search for a STEM-based business management program. A subsidiary of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), The MBA Tour is an innovative organization that connects prospective candidates with leading business schools from around the world.

It hosts over 60 business education events each year across six continents, creating environments where the most talented and ambitious candidates can connect with business schools from North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and Africa.

On February 9th, The MBA Tour is hosting a STEM-specific virtual event for candidates interested in studying in North America. Participating schools include Harvard University, Boston University, Fordham University, American University, and more. You can book your free spot here.

This event will give you the opportunity to hear directly from top North American STEM programs and learn how this degree can help deepen your expertise across disciplines and transform your career. You will receive insights into what business schools are looking for when assessing applications, and have a platform to connect with current students, alumni, and business school staff and get your unique questions answered.

If you are not available on February 9th, check out other The MBA Tour events here. These events include workshops where you can get first-hand tips on making your application stand out from the crowd. You will also have the chance to meet with admission officers in small groups, and attend interactive presentations outlining the unique features of different schools. And there are lots of opportunities to network with fellow applicants, alumni, and MBA lecturers.

"The chance to interact with prospective business schools, getting my resume reviewed, and networking with potential candidates were the real highlights for me," says a recent MBA Tour India attendee.

"I was impressed by the excellent organization,” says another candidate who attended The MBA Tour European virtual event. "The speakers were amazing, and it was great to have a space for asking questions. And it was authentic. I didn't feel like I was missing out just because the event was virtual."

There's a business school for everyone. And The MBA Tour can help you meet yours!

Article written in association with The MBA Tour.

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Ashley Murphy


After graduating with a degree in English literature and creative writing, Ashley worked as a bartender, insurance broker, and teacher. He became a full-time freelance writer in 2016. He lives and writes in Manchester, England.