Jobs that require a STEM background are more likely to provide solid wages. Source: Mario Tama/AFP

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) MBA programmes are becoming more and more popular, offering benefits to both domestic and international students. They are increasingly present at business schools in the US, as more schools incorporate a STEM element into their MBA curricula.

Millions of STEM jobs are projected to go unfilled in the near future. In fact, it’s estimated that 3.5 million jobs will need to be filled by 2025. You can imagine the impact of this group of disciplines on the economy just by looking at the companies and products revolutionising our lives. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and on and on — STEM powers all of them.

The current pandemic has only served to emphasise the significance of technology. With more individuals using Zoom, Slack, and other applications to communicate with family and coworkers, teaching students how to utilise and develop technology has never been more vital. Many people and companies will keep some of their new technological habits after the pandemic is gone. Now is the time to lay a solid foundation.


The current pandemic has only served to emphasise the significance of technology. Peter Parks/AFP

What’s more, jobs that require a STEM background are more likely to provide solid wages. These workers earned an average of US$86,980 in 2019, according to the US Department of Labour. Thus, students studying in the US are more likely to take this path, allowing them to stay longer in the country through Optional Practical Training. 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. It allows international students to work in the US for an initial period of 12 months, with the possibility for students to extend this by a further 24 months. 

If you have earned a degree in STEM fields, you may apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorisation if you:

  • Are an F-1 student who received a degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Programme List;
  • Are employed by an employer who is enrolled in and is using E-Verify; and
  • Received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorisation based on your degree.

Under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme, you can gain temporary employment that is directly related to your major area of study. Source: Hazem Bader/AFP

Anyone who holds an F-1 visa, and is studying an academic programme at a university in the US for at least one year, can apply. Although there are three main types of student visas, most international students studying at a US college or university will be F-1 visa holders.

You don’t need to have a job offer already in order to apply for OPT, which is a benefit over other temporary work permits in the US, like the H-1B visa that must be sponsored by a named employer. The main thing you will need is an Employment Authorisation Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before you start work. 

With options ranging from electives to dual degrees, some of the top STEM MBA programmes in the US include Carnegie Mellon Tepper STEM MBA; Chicago Booth Full-time MBA; Columbia Business School MBA; Cornell: Johnson School of Management Tech MBA; and Harvard Business School MBA with a STEM-designated specialisation.