MBA from India (IIM/ISB) vs MBA Abroad in 2021 – Which is better from ROI perspective?

The Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) continues to be one of the most popular professional programs for Indian students pursuing higher education in India and abroad. An MBA degree is usually earned in two years. However, it is possible to complete the course in one year by means of accelerated programs.

In 2019 a whopping 2,44,169 applicants registered for The Common Admission Test (CAT) for MBA admissions— the highest since 2010 when nearly 2.04 lakh candidates applied for it. CAT is the test to shortlist candidates for top business schools of the country, including the IIMs. Apart from the IIMs, nearly 1200 other B-schools accept CAT scores for admission in their MBA, PGDM and such other business programs. This year the exam will be held in 376 centres across 156 cities of India. Other well-accepted entrance exams for studying MBA in India are SNAP, XAT, NMAT by GMAC and IIFT.

Those who opt for an MBA abroad have to take the GMAT or the GRE. According to GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) on an average 29,000-30,000 Indian students take these tests, and of them nearly 80% apply to study abroad programs. Many B schools are now accepting GRE scores, though less in numbers when compared to those accepting GMAT.

Irrespective of college, MBA is an expensive program and involves quite a large investment. Hence, when one decides to pursue the program, the daunting question one has to deal with is where to study – in India or abroad? In addition to money, a student is also required to invest time and energy to acquire the degree. Hence, a right decision is highly imperative.

USA is unarguably the top MBA destination for Indians. However, Canada, UK, Europe, Singapore and Australia are fast emerging as sought after destination for Indian MBA aspirants. US MBA programs are mostly of two year duration, while those in Europe, UK, and Singapore are of a year or so. In case you opt for an international MBA program, a meticulous investigation needs to be done to confirm that the aspired career goals are allied with the course you’re settling for. Sometimes in the desperation for acquiring an international degree, students ignore the background check part.

Below-par B schools, be it at home or abroad, often take students with least entry requirements, but such a degree would end up being useless as it will not add any value to the candidates’ profile thus failing to impress potential recruiters. An array of parameters like – college brand reputation, infrastructure, placement statistics, and alumni feedback – need to be taken into consideration before selection of college.

If you currently are in a dilemma about where to pursue an MBA degree from, then do take into account the following pros and cons so that you can make an informed choice.

Pros of MBA in India

Admission criteria

A good score in the entrance tests is enough for getting admissions to the best B-schools in India.  The written test is followed by the twin rounds of group discussion (GD) and personal interview (PI).

Work experience criteria

Work experience is not mandatory in getting admitted to a two year MBA program in India. For Indian candidates with work experience, one year MBA programs (figuring in the prestigious FT global MBA rankings) for executives at – ISB-PGP, IIMA-PGPX, IIMB-EPGP, IIMC-PGPeX – are the best.


Cost turns out to be the deciding or limiting factor, when it comes to studying MBA. A two year MBA program in India would cost between a few lakhs and to little more than 20 lakhs (IIM Ahmedabad –reportedly the best B school in country). The return on investment is generally pretty delightful for the top-ranked B schools, as students passing out from these institutions get an average salary of 20-22 lakhs.

Bottom line is MBA in India will be much cheaper than MBA abroad. In addition to the supplementary expenses including travel, accommodation and cost of living – the tuition fee MBA from a foreign university is extremely high.


If you are not aspiring to work abroad and are willing to settle in India, an MBA from the best Indian B schools is just the right thing for you. On completion, you are most likely to get placed through campus selection.

Familiar milieu

A familiar background is of no less importance. Doing an MBA in India means you will be at the nest best place to home. More importantly, your entire network will be functional while staying in the country.

Remember, eventually, your network will be your source of job by means of recommendations and connections. Hence, you will be in need of powerful connections. Doing an MBA from the foreign shore means you will have to start your network-building exercise all over again.

Cons of MBA in India


MBA program includes an array of modules like lectures, case studies and group projects. Students need to take part and contribute in finding solutions to problems or undertaking case studies.

In India an MBA classroom will be filled with freshers, with only a few with work experience. Hence, primarily theory based learning would take place. The programs in India are primarily focused on how things work in the country.

Indian B-Schools hardly follow an international point of view, even though students at times go for study abroad programs for a semester as a part of the Indian curricula. This could eventually be a road block in the path of progress beyond the home market, particularly for those aspiring to bag senior roles in MNCs. Good news is, off late the country’s best B-Schools including ISB and IIM-A have started endorsing more international standards of teaching.

Also, do keep in mind that harboring dreams of working in the US or Europe can only come true with an MBA from a foreign university. Working in a foreign shore would mean competing with professionals armed with MBAs from that country. This, unambiguously gives them an added advantage.

Average Salary after MBA

The difference in average salary between annual packages offered to students of IIMs, ISB and other popular B-schools in India and that offered at the best B-schools abroad – is huge. ISB and IIM-A graduates get an average pay package of Rs. 23 to Rs. 25 lakhs.

Your Background

Background here includes – academic profile, geographical and cultural upbringing et al. Most Indian students with engineering background opt for MBA either in India or abroad. Result? Massive number of applicants happens to be from engineering background, making the competition steep. Additionally, MBA programs often aim at achieving wide diversity in student profiles, making it more challenging for engineer candidates.

Pros of MBA abroad


A better pedagogy is assured. Methods of teaching followed by B-Schools in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia, are radically different from those in India. B-Schools in the west implement an array of tools and techniques to augment the learning experience of students. The learning process is also extensively interactive and experiential.

Moreover, in international programs you will have an experienced peer group coming from varied ethnic backgrounds. This means better learning curve and acquiring helpful insights through fellow batch mates armed with industry experience in diverse roles. A great deal of learning happens from the diverse viewpoints of classmates, which in turn make you skilled in dealing with complex problems helping a company negotiate its move not only through home markets but also in the global pitch. Besides, today, networks are known to be ones’ net worth. Hence, having a international network will surely be an added advantage.

Average Salary after MBA

The alumni of the Ivy League colleges and top-ranked universities like Harvard and Wharton bag an average salary of Rs. 78 lakh.

Cons of MBA abroad

Admission criteria

With myriad candidates from numerous countries vying for the same seat, best international MBA programs, have highly complex and competitive entry criterion. The GMAT or the GRE score is only a first step. Weight-age is given on the overall profile of the applicant including academics, work experience, career goals and extracurricular activities. Another deciding factor is the immensely high quality essays and recommendations. Shortlisted candidates are then called for personal interview. One thing is guaranteed though; an MBA abroad will expose you to diverse work cultures, varied social customs, and languages.

Work experience criteria

Unlike Indian MBA programs, good quality work experience can be a deciding factor for MBA abroad. Prior work experience enables candidates to write high-quality MBA essays and also to fetch valuable recommendations from colleagues or managers which play a significant role in the admission process in case of MBA abroad. US MBA programs demand around 3-5 years of work experience and in case of UK and Europe it is 5-6 years.


Cost of studying abroad is the primary cause, many do not give it a thought. International recommended MBA programs are known to be extremely expensive. The cost of living, travelling and related expenses make it further exorbitant for most. The tuition fees for the two year MBA programs in the US vary from nearly $90,000 to $1, 40,000. One year programs range between $55,000 and $80,000. Add to it cost of living, medical insurance, books and travel, which is lesser for the one year programs and depend on the location.

Well known degrees normally lead to well-paying jobs which can be considered as an excellent ROI. That said, top ranking programs are no guarantee for a greater RoI than those ranked lower. For those, whose only concern is RoT, note that institutes like BYU Marriott appear ahead of Harvard Business School in RoI list. With most public universities not charging tuition fee, doing your MBA in Germany, is one way of avoiding exorbitant tuition fees abroad. Except for Harvard, MIT, or Wharton, a very interesting thing is that more expensive the program, lower is its RoI. MBA from foreign university is only viable when done from best B-Schools.

Personal criteria

Think of an MBA abroad only if you wish to settle on a foreign shore or travel globally. Those aspiring for an investment banker’s role on Wall Street will do well by opting for an MBA from a top international business school.


B school abroad typically do not guarantee a job after completion of the course. Graduates need to reach out and network with the companies they want to work for in order to bag a dream job. The average salary for MBA graduates from foreign universities varies between $85,000 and $1, 20,000 for the most of the global top 100 programs. Hence, while deciding on a country, by all means make an appraisal of the available job opportunities there, work visa related procedures, and support available from the B school you are opting for.

Final words

To conclude, your MBA is going to be the deciding factor of your career. Hence, before settling on for an institution, take a critical look at the universities both in India and abroad, evaluate the return on investment (ROI) thoroughly and only then make a decision keeping in mind your financial capacity. Don’t opt for a college, just because your friend or cousins have studied there, and don’t opt for a particular country because everyone suggests it.

This is a life-changing decision; make it solely on your terms.

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