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IIM vs Foreign MBA: Salary, placements, admissions, student life, pros & cons

If you have ventured through the internet-narnia into this article space, you probably have been considering sprucing up your career with an MBA degree. In India, this MBA option presents itself at various career stages.

  • You can get a full-time MBA (popular as PGP) at any of the elite IIMs or other reputed schools like XLRI, etc. right after undergraduate school
  • You can get a full-time MBA (popular as PGPX, MBAEX, EPGP, etc.) also at the IIMs and other schools like the Indian School of Business (ISB) with a few years of work experience
  • You can get a part-time/weekend option aka Executive MBA at again one of the IIMs or other top schools like ISB, etc. with more than 10 years of work experience

But these options widen even further when an international MBA is thrown in the mix. At each stage the Indian MBA applicant is then faced with the question – Whether to pursue an MBA in India or abroad? Or for those who want to bask in the limelight of the best – Whether to pursue an Indian MBA at IIM or MBA abroad?

Are you thinking of making notes and comparing prices of international vs domestic flights, wondering about an Indian IIM MBA vs International MBA? Well, then you have certainly arrived at the best place to get your dilemma sorted. Let’s get started.

IIM MBA vs Foreign MBA after Undergraduation

This is the largest pool of MBA hopefuls in India. Half of the country’s young just-out-of-school population flock to take the CAT exam, unable to even crack a smile with percentile scores of well north of 98.

The ones who do smile with an admit at the IIMs (Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Bangalore and the likes), are counted as the prestigious few who graduate with a diploma equivalent to an MBA degree and excellent job placements.

At the same time, this is also the smallest pool of applicants for international MBA that doesn’t require a CAT but most often a GMAT exam score (B-Schools that accept CAT scores). Work experience is a mandatory requirement for applying to international MBA programs.

For those talented few who are admitted to international MBA without any work experience, the unimaginable is achieved by having incredible compensating factors like a stellar education background or unique extra-curricular activities to push their application through the huge pile of other credible ones.

Early entry MBA is available in a few international MBA programs, but then having to compete with a global population still makes this MBA route a distant dream for many.

Examples of Early MBA in international B-Schools are:

Here are a few tabulated comparison highlights between the two.

Entry with CAT score, interview, group discussion, etc. Entry with GMAT score, interview, etc.
No GMAT score needed. CAT is essential No CAT score needed. GMAT/GRE essential (Some schools have GMAT/GRE optional)
No work experience required Almost always, some work experience is essential. Average work experience is 4-5 years
Time duration is 2 years full-time Time duration is 2 years full-time in most American business schools and 1 year at European business schools
Most placements are in India with a few international placements Placements are usually in the host country with the ability to convert student visa to work authorization
Excellent brand value in India as well as abroad Top schools have global recognition but employability in India will be subject to employer’s awareness and perception of the program
Tuition cost ~ INR 20 lakhs or $24k per year Tuition cost ~ $100k for two years

Though the cost and brand value for an IIM MBA (PGP) is excellent and it is much cheaper than a foreign MBA, cracking a good score on CAT and making it in it is extremely competitive.

So, looking into early MBA options or perhaps using the coming years to build a strong work resume for an international MBA degree would be a good idea for many.
[Read How this MBA grad’s CAT failure later turned to multiple successful GMAT admits]

IIM MBA for Executives vs Foreign MBA

Now let’s say you have been around in the employment scene for a few years and you are considering getting an MBA degree to change or escalate your career track. And the following highlights pretty much sum up your current situation.

– You are an Indian working professional with a few years of work experience (5 or above)

– You have taken or considering taking the GMAT exam for MBA admissions

– You can technically afford MBA education full-time whilst also taking a career break of 1 to 2 years

– You want to use the MBA degree to catapult or change career towards a positive direction with better pay, more leadership roles and/or introduction to a new industry

– And consequently, you want only the best MBA program to help you achieve your goals. Either the promising international MBA programs abroad or the well reputed IIM MBA programs in India

Does that describe you?

Then you are primed to undertake an MBA degree, full-time, either at one of the international GMAT/GRE based MBA programs or an MBA for Executives at the IIMs. Let us get to the pulp on those.

MBA for Executives at IIM

First of all, not to confuse readers, an MBA for Executives is vastly different from Executive MBA. The former is meant to be full-time for professionals who have work experience while the latter is for senior professionals who can get an EMBA degree in a part-time format, often sponsored by their parent company to gain knowledge to inculcate them in their organization later.

We are here to talk about MBA for Executives which is usually pursued by applicants with the same profile as those who apply to international GMAT based MBA programs.

For the context of this article, we will confine ourselves to the Indian MBA for Executives from the top brass schools like the IIMs (The Indian Institute of Management). Here are the various degrees offered at top IIMs.

IIM Program Name FT Global MBA Ranking 2022 Duration Work Experience (Average)
IIM Calcutta MBAEx #68 1 year full-time 5+ (Minimum)
IIM Ahmedabad PGPX #62 1 year full-time 4+ (Minimum)
IIM Bangalore EPGP #53 1 year full-time 7+
IIM Lucknow IPMX 1 Year full-time 6 to 9 years

Now that we know our best IIM options, let us talk about the differences, advantages and disadvantages of getting an MBA at IIM vs abroad. We will keep the other stalwart ISB out of the discussion here. For those interested in ISB MBA, we have plenty of articles in our ISB archive here.

MBA at IIM vs International MBA: Advantages and Disadvantages

Let us tackle the comparison through two broad categories:

  1. Application and MBA life
  2. Placement and employer perception in India and abroad


Application and Student Life at IIM vs MBA Abroad

The eligibility criterion is quite similar for either of the two options. Officially, both require a GMAT score, work experience in the order of 5 years plus with exceptions for extraordinary talent, a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and essays, recommendations, the works.  In reality, the difference comes in the cost and the competition.

As far as application success is considered, if you are targeting only the IIMs, the class sizes are less than a 100 each. In comparison, a lot of top b-schools comprise class sizes of even 800 or more (such as INSEAD).

But as far as acceptance rates are considered, gathering from GMAT Club decision tracker, the rate of admittance at say IIMA PGPX is about 7%. That is 7% of total applications received make it in, albeit from a largely domestic pool of applicants as compared to MBAs abroad.

Now, take international MBA programs in Round 1. Harvard has an acceptance of 7% in R1 for a class of about 700. MIT Sloan has a rate of 14%, Stanford GSB about 9% and programs like INSEAD, Chicago Booth, HEC Paris, Michigan Ross, have acceptance rates of over 30%.

For a detailed look at acceptance rates of some of the top MBA programs in rounds 1, 2 and 3, we refer you to this article – MBA Acceptance Rate: Round 1 vs Round 2 vs Round 3

One of the highlights of an international MBA is also its diversity and global nature. Well over 30% of most MBA programs have international students and in some schools, it is as high as 80%. This kind of an environment is rich in learning opportunities through shared experiences from a variety of backgrounds and work cultures.

The average cost of education at top American b-schools can reach up to $100k or more. This, not including boarding and living expenses, study material costs, and travel money. Not to mention visa processing fees.

At the IIMs, the cost comes to at less than $40k for tuition. Even with the additional expenses incurred, the fact that all of the MBA for Executive in India listed above are only one year long, the opportunity cost is also lower.

In that sense, IIM is comparable to many European MBA options such as in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. Those are mostly a yearlong as well with affordable tuition in comparison to US.

Here is list of MBA programs with tuition cost, both low and high.

Placement at IIM PGPX, MBAEx, EPGP vs Top MBA Abroad

The biggest advantage of an MBA abroad is the ability to convert that education opportunity into international employment. Most countries have very streamline processes in place to transfer student visa to temporary work visa.

In USA, F1 student visa leads to an OPT that allows a short but substantial time to look for employment opportunities within the US. Thereafter, an H1B work visa and consequently permanent residency, or Green Card, follows.

With a degree within India, that opportunity can be rarely available. Only few exceptional candidates get to crack international recruitment, especially since recruiting companies have to bear the added burden of sponsoring the candidate for immigration and visa.

The chance at being selected, for instance in the US, in the H1B lottery is also lowered with a degree outside the US. Graduates from US universities get an extra exemption during H1B selection that you can read here – Working abroad after MBA.

However, if working abroad is not on your priority list, Indian IIM graduates make quite a pretty penny on the home front. Here is a table listing of the average salaries at some of the MBA programs abroad ranked among the top and a few similar to the IIMs on the Financial Times MBA Rankings.

MBA Program (FT MBA Ranking) Number of Graduates Percentage Employed Salary
Wharton, University of Pennsylvania (USA) #1 754 99% $155k Median Base
Columbia Business School (USA) #2 864 95% $150k
INSEAD (France)


781 92% $141k
Harvard Business School (USA) #3 71% of 1,000 participated in placement 95% $175k Median Base
Northwestern Kellogg (USA) #5 514 89% $145k Base
Stanford GSB (USA) #6 379 (246 participated in placement) 96% $162k Base
University of Notre Dame Mendoza (USA) #54 120 96% $151k
Warwick Business School (UK) #57 115 93% $119k
Pennsylvania State University Smeal (USA) #60 52 95% $115k Base
Mannheim Business School (Germany) #72 60 93% $103k Base

Now lets us list out the stats for the MBA for Executives at the IIMs. Bear in mind that though the average salaries may look significantly lower than those in earlier table, we have also added a separate column to reflect the purchase parity or PPP value for the given compensations.

PPP, or Purchasing Power Parity, measures the prices of goods in different countries and evaluates the purchasing power of the respective currencies. It is like imagining your salary’s equivalent salary in another country.

So, instead of taking your salary and doing an absolute conversion say from INR to USD, a PPP conversion helps us understand what would your buying power be in another country, in this case the US.

In other words, if you have a comfortable lifestyle with a certain salary in India, would that salary’s PPP be good enough for a comfortable lifestyle in the US?

MBA Program (FT MBA Ranking) Number of Graduates Percentage Employed Salary PPP value of given Average INR Salary, in USD
IIMC MBAEx (#68) 79 (75 participated in placement) 87 offers. 100% Average: INR 36.79 Lakhs ($45k)

Max.: INR 1.37 Crore ($165k)

Average PPP Salary in USA: $158k
IIMA PGPX (#62) 136 (121 participated in placement) 98% Average Domestic: INR 38.64 Lakhs ($37k)

Max. Domestic: INR 75.20 ($91k)

International Average: USD 136k

Average PPP Salary in USA: $166k
IIMB EPGP (#53) 75 (72 participated in placement) 100% Average: INR 31.63 Lakhs ($38k) Average PPP Salary in USA: $136k
IIML IPMX 109 (108 participated in placement) 100% Average: INR 24.66 Lakhs ($30k) Average PPP Salary in USA: $106k

Source: University pages

IIM MBA for Executives vs Foreign MBA: Which one to choose?

Your final goal should drive your decision regarding which country to choose for an MBA. With all the information furnished earlier and with some more digging on your part, get ready to ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you wish to live and work in India or do you want to settle abroad?

IIMs are a great option for a future in India, of course. But placements in IIMs also often include international hires. So, international recruitment is not completely off the cards, but quite limited in terms of such possibilities. International MBAs generally get a bigger bite at foreign placements with easier work authorization processes.

  • Do you want to come back to India after a foreign MBA? Vice versa, do you want to work abroad after an Indian MBA at IIM?

Your chance at securing employment greatly depends on the employer’s perception of your institution. For the sake of completeness, we recommend you to read our previous articles reflecting both sides.

Value of an Indian MBA abroad

Value of a foreign MBA in India

Typical IIM recruiters include international names like Google, Accenture, Adidas, Ernst & Young and EYP, KPMG, BCG, Bain, McKinsey, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, Deloitte, FinIQ and more.

Indian recruiters among the lot are Infosys, L&T, the industries under Adani and Ambani groups, Flipkart, PwC, Axis Bank, Wipro, Mindtree, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, and more. 

Obviously, the exposure to global companies, Fortune 500 or more, will be higher in reputed programs abroad. Whereas the exposure to indigenous companies in India would be higher domestically.

Similarly, a lot of Indian employers may not be as familiar with the stature of international MBA programs outside the Ivy League reputation.

Moreover, an Indian MBA will be more relevant in curriculum to the domestic needs. Whereas, an international MBA will probably be more globally inclusive. The fundamentals, perhaps, being just the same in either.

Executive MBA at IIM vs International Executive MBA

Finally, there is also a third career stage where applicants may consider an MBA degree where the same Indian IIM vs international b-school dilemma may surface. This happens when the applicant is a senior professional with more than 10 years of work experience, in need of management education to gain C suite roles in their industry.

This is a typical description of Executive MBA, which as briefly mentioned earlier is different from MBA for Executives. Here the companies often decide to sponsor their senior employees for an EMBA degree while still keeping them on payroll.

Here, the decision between an IIM Executive MBA vs foreign EMBA should be basically driven by the needs of the individual, the company’s vision, and the b-school EMBA program’s strength in the particular industry and specialization.

For more details, we recommend the articles in this EMBA archive.
If this article was too data-oriented for you, watch this video where we’ve given our subjective views and a (non-politically-correct) recommendation: MBA in India vs MBA abroad

Now, which one will be your cup of tea?

Drop us a line at info at mbacrystalball dot com for further professional assistance for your GMAT / GRE MBA applications.

And read these articles to expand your knowledge.

IIM MBA for Executives Blogs – with first hand applicant stories

– [Video] How to introduce yourself in interviews

Indian employed in the US heads to IIM MBA in India

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