MBA Outlook: Vietnam

With the development of many Asian economies, it’s only natural that international business schools are courting young Vietnamese executives for their MBA programs. An entrepreneurial spirit bubbles on every street corner there, and the nation is known for its intelligence and work ethic. A recent Financial Times article examining the phenomenon pins part of the recruitment boom on the fact that Vietnam has a young population, with more than half its 84 million citizens under 25, and a growth rate of more than eight percent.

“Vietnam is certainly one of those emerging economies that is very exciting and it’s the right place to target,” says Angel Cabrera, Dean of Thunderbird School of Global Management. “But the business world has the lead over business schools in this respect. We’ve only seen the beginning of this.”

An MBA Tour trip to Ho Chi Minh City was part of this beginning. “Part of our goals in these visits is to recruit immediately. But another goal is to develop a better understanding of a western style MBA program,” says Meredith Curtin Siegel, director of the MBA Tour. “Rather than being a direct source of recruitment for our admissions directors, this trip was more of an opportunity to educate the market.”

The country’s skyrocketing economic growth poses unique challenges to recruiters, though. While this energy and entrepreneurship is alluring to international business schools, many Vietnamese may think twice about studying overseas. Prospects for employment and development abound within locally based multinationals, and good careers within these companies are keeping executives rooted at home.

According to the Financial Times story, for those who do want to embark on an MBA or other form of business training, the opportunities to do so locally are increasing. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) has established a presence in Vietnam, and is offering undergraduate and postgraduate education. At the Hanoi School of Business, students can acquire executive MBA program run in conjunction with University of Hawaii’s College of Business Administration. Professionals taking part in the program receive an AACSB-accredited MBA degree from the University of Hawaii. The school also has a relationship with Tuck School of Business, through which students can take the Tuck-HSB International Executive Development Program for Vietnamese Managers.

Perhaps the most compelling anchor for Vietnamese professionals, however, is the fact that executives can now earn in a month what they would have been paid in a year just five years ago, says Warrick Cleine, managing partner in KPMG‘s Ho Chi Minh City office. “If you are a young talented professional in Vietnam, your future is looking pretty good,” he says. “And it’s all happening now so there’s increasingly a feeling that if you’re not here, you may be missing out.”

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