STEM Designation Attracts International MBA Students

STEM designation

While universal adoption is still far off, a growing percentage of full-time U.S. MBA programs are looking to get STEM certification. A 2021 Kaplan/Manhattan Prep survey of b-school admissions officers found that 22% of programs now have a STEM designation. Back in 2020, a mere 13% identified as such.

Meanwhile, another 23% of programs plan to go through the curriculum overhaul and rigorous approval process to secure that designation. The remaining 55% say they are not STEM-designated and have no plans to pursue it.

Many employers find the STEM MBA certification desirable because the technology and management skills that students acquire while earning their degrees have become essential in today’s workplace.

The designation is particularly important to non-citizen students because it allows them more time to stay in the US after graduation without an H-1B visa. Non-STEM graduates get only 12 months. But through the Optional Practical Training program, STEM graduates get an additional 24 months. This brings their total possible time working in the US post-graduation to up to three years.

Who’s Got a STEM Designation?

Elite business schools such as Chicago Booth, Michigan Ross, UCLA Anderson, Harvard Business School, and several others, have recently acquired the STEM designation.

“Earning a STEM designation is a trend that is catching on quickly, especially among the top ranked MBA programs,” said Brian Carlidge, vice president, Kaplan. On the other hand, a lack of STEM designation could hamper lower-tier MBA programs’ ability to attract international students.

“Non-citizen graduates of top-ranked American MBA programs are almost always going to quickly find a job stateside,” said Carlidge. Furthermore, he notes that the additional time makes prospective employers feel that investing in these graduates could provide a strong ROI.

The process for securing STEM designation is not quick and easy. Therefore, some smaller MBA programs may not have the bandwidth to do so, Carlidge said.

But, “not being STEM-designated may put them at a distinct recruitment disadvantage,” he observed.  “For many applicants outside the United States, it will be the differentiator.”

Source: Kaplan/Manhattan Prep survey

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