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STEM MBA in USA gaining popularity amongst international applicants

As STEM MBA gains popularity amongst international applicants to US Business schools, the first question that pops up is, "Can an MBA degree be STEM-designated?" Firstly, STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. MBA, being a business and management program, traditionally did not fall under the STEM category. B-Schools are now designating MBA concentrations/tracks, specialized master’s degrees, dual degrees, and entire MBA programs as STEM program.

In recent years, many leading US business schools have modified curriculum to create a new category of potential leaders with fluency in management skills and quantitative expertise. This will satisfy the high demand from US companies that require talent to lead, manage and solve problems in today's dynamic and tech-driven environment. An MBA with STEM designation provides students with training in areas like Data Analytics, Decision Theory, Business Modelling, Information Systems for management, Managerial Economics - subjects and concepts gaining dominance to lead businesses in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Additionally, conventional subjects like Finance, Economics, Statistics, and Strategy are gaining a more quantitative approach.

As per an analysis done by Poets&Quants, of the top-100 MBA ranking, 91 B-schools had some path to a STEM degree, by way of a concentration in the MBA, a dual degree, the entire MBA, or a specialized business master’s degree like Business Analytics, Finance and Information Systems. Only 9 schools have no discernible STEM pathways or programs.

To get STEM-certified, B-schools have to go through months of review, revamping and overhaul of the curriculum. This is followed by scrutiny and analysis by authorities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) gauges compliance. DHS 's STEM Designated Degree Program List is a complete list of fields of study that DHS considers to be STEM fields of study for purposes of the 24-month STEM optional practical training extension described at 8 CFR 214.2(f).

Despite the arduous process, for the past 5 years, an increasing number of B-schools are going through the process. Why? Because STEM graduates are considered essential to US economic competitiveness and growth, and the government grants an extension of 24 months of work authorization to non-citizen STEM graduates via the Optional Practical Training. Thus a STEM graduate gets a 36 month OPT. This appeals to overseas talent, as the longer period of employment in the US offers an edge during recruitment and ensures tangible career benefits. A non-STEM OPT allows international students to stay and work in the United States for 12 months after graduation.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison was the first business school in USA to receive STEM designation for concentrations within an MBA program, in 2016. Duke University added a certificate program of courses to its MBA program in 2017 which allowed for a STEM designation. In 2018, the University of Rochester became the first school to have its entire MBA program designated as STEM.