Is it worth doing an MBA to get ahead in Germany?

Germany has been really behind on business education for a long time especially when you consider their European neighbours in France, Spain, the UK and even Switzerland. Until now, the best business schools in Europe were in these countries and even the best business school in the German speaking region isn’t in Germany (it’s in St.Gallen, Switzerland). 

It is ironic that for years, the top talent in Germany, Europe’s leading economy, have had to go to their economically struggling neighbours (and I’m not including the UK in that) for their management education. And that is only if they don’t have the financial appetite for a degree in the home of management education – the US. 

The reality is those that until the last 5 – 10 years, management education, and in particular MBAs, just wasn’t available or widely recognised. The pinnacle of a managers education was actually a PhD, not an MBA. In fact there was a little farce a few years back when it was suggested that MBAs from private schools like INSEAD in France (probably the most famous non-US institution) weren’t recognised in Germany and couldn’t be included in CVs and on business cards. 

But now Germany has go over its lethargy and aversion to business schools and a number of institutions have become well recognised thanks to their determination to push English language MBA education along an Anglo-Saxon model. And several of them have become quite well known internationally and are beginning to be seen as reputable alternatives. Recruiters are also beginning to take an interest and many (but definitely not all) are starting to accept the value of an MBA over a Masters degree.

This is great for us foreigners as it means we have on our doorstep good MBA possibilities, taught in English, that are worth having on our CVs after we leave the country. And, for now, MBAs in Germany are still significantly cheaper than in other European countries, even though that is changing steadily. 

Most importantly the top schools in Germany are taking MBA career development seriously and actively support non-German speakers in networking effectively and finding good jobs. I have spoken to a lot of people who have cited this as one of their key frustrations in Germany. Companies are not willing to hire or promote non-German speakers. But this really is changing and the German business schools may be the extra networking boost you need. 

The top two schools in Germany are now clearly Mannheim and ESMT Berlin. Both offer full-time and part-time MBA and EMBA programmes. After these two, number three is widely accepted to be Frankfurt School now, on our doorstep, and contrary to popular belief, is not just for the finance industry. In the last 10-15 the school has grown and diversified significantly from its banking institute days. After Frankfurt, there is WHU (Vallendar and Düsseldorf) and HHL in Leipzig. There is also EBS over in Wiesbaden, but they have been struggling seriously with various image, quality and financial issues and I really wouldn’t recommend at the moment. 

Which ever you chose though, this group of Germany’s top business schools offers some really good opportunities for expats to get better integrated into the workforce and to build a good network. There are also many smaller players around like Accadis in Bad Homburg and ISM in various cities. But with international accreditation and recognition they aren’t the best choice. 

2 thoughts on “Is it worth doing an MBA to get ahead in Germany?

  1. Hey, really liked your article but i have been looking for more information about doing masters in Germany as a foreigner and work along with that in a job relating to my field. I would really like if you could write something about that.

    Cheers

    1. Hi Habib,

      I’m sure I could manage that! The thing about masters is that there is so much more choice than MBAs and many of them are completely free at state universities. I will have a think about how to get it down into a concise article though

      F.E.

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