find your perfect postgrad program
Search our Database of 30,000 Courses

Business Study Zone Home

Postgraduate (MSc, MA MBA and PhD) Programs in International Business

Find postgraduate programs in INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS

Virtually all businesses are global or becoming so. Few are protected from international competition – or lacking a desire to compete abroad. At the very least, firms of any size are likely to procure products, components, materials, or supplies abroad. So their procurement is subject to exchange rate fluctuations, trade embargoes, and so on. And, of course, it’s not just competitors, suppliers, and customers that are more global. The trend toward increased globalisation is to be found in capital markets, technology, national trade policies, etc.

International Business  

Business strategy is shaped in part by environmental forces: technology, markets, competition, government regulations, demographics, and so on. These are much more complicated when a firm operates internationally, given that they generally differ by country or region. Many businesses, trying to extend their domestic human resource, control, marketing, finance, manufacturing, and distribution strategies and practices to the international dimension, find that the complexity – and the differences – of the international dimension require substantial changes. The rewards of operating internationally are potentially large, but so are the required adjustments.

Read our student case study from Guglielmo Briscese who studied an MSc in International Development at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow.


International Business Trends in International Business

Numerous substantial trends continue to drive this field, including:

• Global competition affecting more and more businesses.
• The formation and development of new regional economic blocks, such as ASEAN and MERCOSUR.
• New bilateral trade deals.
• Competition for natural resources.
• Growth in outsourcing.
• Development of global supply chains.
• The shift away from the US dollar in international trade.
• New marketing communication channels.
• Changes in government regulation of, and involvement in, business.
• Increasing internationalisation resulting from the borderless nature of the internet

Choosing a masters program

Most international business programs are one year long. The similarities, however, tend to end there. Many programs are generalist in nature, giving a smattering of training in a host of fields. Others, however, are meant for specialists in marketing, or finance, or whatever. Still others, such as the Tilburg/NIMBAS (Netherlands) MA in International Business and Marketing Management, split the difference, offering a set of core courses to teach business basics and elective/specialised courses in one or multiple fields.

Many of the programs are resolutely business-focused, focusing solely on the development of business skills, such as in marketing, finance, or strategy. Others emphasise the complex external environment in which firms operate – including social, legal, political, and other factors. They look to help students understand how companies (and perhaps other organisations) operate – and the complex environment in which they operate. Copenhagen Business School’s MSc in International Business and Politics, for instance, requires multiple political science courses be taken: The Politics of International Business Standards, Law and Politics of the Global Community, and Political Risk: Business in Political Conflicts.

Many programs recognise the value of internationalists being given the opportunity to deal with those from other cultures, preferably in other languages. The opportunity to work in collaboration with students of other nationalities is therefore highlighted by various programs. After all, what better way is there to develop both international management skills and cross-cultural (and foreign language) competencies than to attempt them during the program. That said, not all programs attract an international student body. Some, but not all, make up for this by having foreign exchange programs. Similarly, some but not all programs offer (and give credit for) language study. Some go further by teaching courses in multiple languages. At various Spanish schools – such as ESADE, for instance – some electives/specialised courses are taught in English, some in Spanish.

Some programs, notably in Continental Europe, offer campuses in multiple countries. Students can complete their degrees by studying at one or more of them in succession. ESCP Europe, for instance, has five campuses: Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin and Turin.

Programs range widely in their focus and thus in their prerequisites. Those that are meant for generalists often require little specific coursework – perhaps in statistics, accounting, or economics. Those that expect students to specialise generally expect them to have a background suitable to their likely field. Thus, those who will concentrate in finance may be required to have done an undergraduate degree with an economics, accounting, or finance component.

Many programs also look for:

• second (or third) languages
• time spent abroad
• demonstrated and articulated interest in working internationally.

International business students MBA in International Business

The purpose of an MBA in International Business is to give students a full grounding in business from an international perspective with a particular focus on the restrictions and issues that arise from managing business globally.

Students will develop organisational and managerial skills to help them to develop them success in the global sphere of business learning about international organisations, international management, finance, marketing and entrepreneurship. They will explore how all these factors are affected according to their cultural environment.

MBAs in International Business will usually comprise of a selection of compulsory modules, plus some optional ones. Compulsory modules will usually include: International Business; Global Business/Culture; Marketing Strategy; International Strategic Management; and Financial Management.

Bangor Business School at Bangor University offers an MBA in International Business that offers two annual intakes – in January and September. This course is divided into two semesters with a dissertation being undertaken between June and September whatever intake the student is in.

PhD in International Business

A PhD in International Business will enable the student to take the study of this subject even further and undertake research at a more in-depth and specialised manner.  

Leeds University Business School has an International Business Division that offers students the chance to study a PhD in International Business and examples of their research specialisms include: Foreign direct investment in India – opportunities and constraints; Issues of economic development and the role of the private sector in reducing poverty; and International mergers and acquisitions.

Career opportunities

International business city The growing internationalisation of business means that those with substantial experience abroad, or focused on the international dimensions of business (such as export sales), are well placed to prosper. Those with knowledge of multiple environments, and the ability to handle different cultures and languages, are generally in short supply in any organisation, but they are increasingly necessary for firms to prosper.

And it is not just marketing, sales, or human resource professionals who are greatly affected by internationalisation. For instance, a financial manager well trained in domestic finance matters will need to learn a host of additional subjects when making the transition to an international post. He or she will need to master:  

• Different financial accounting systems and reporting requirements
• The foreign exchange market
• How to measure and manage foreign exchange exposure
• Political risk management
• Import and export financing
• Foreign and international tax planning
• The complexities of international performance evaluation
• Transfer pricing rules

The additional challenges are potentially significant, as this example shows. That said, the demand for those able to tackle them continues to grow.

Typical job titles

• Export manager
• International sales manager
• International marketing officer
• International product manager
• International human resource manager
• International treasury officer

Professional associations (UK and US)

The most useful associations for those interested in international business are not ‘international associations’. Instead, those pursuing internationally focused careers are advised to focus on associations geared to their functional or sector interests. Thus, someone pursuing marketing should look at the international section and activities of the national marketing association (in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Marketing). The other option is to focus on the relevant sector. Someone pursuing a career in the paper industry should therefore look at the international section and activities of the national paper association.

Introductory readings

Two frequently updated texts do a good job of covering the key elements of an international business program. Both Charles W L Hill, International Business: Competing in the Global Marketplace (McGraw-Hill/Irwin), and John D Daniels et al, International Business: Environments and Operations (Prentice Hall), cover the key operational elements of business: export and import; production and logistics; research and development; marketing; accounting and financial management; and strategy. They also cover the key environmental aspects of international business, including the global monetary system, global trade and investment, and country differences. Either would make a fine choice as an introduction to international business.

Those wishing to do more in-depth preparation in one field should consider Philip R Cateora et al, International Marketing (McGraw-Hill/Irwin), which gives a comprehensive treatment to its subject.

Closely related fields

International management is, of course, an application of the various management disciplines across national and cultural boundaries. See the discussions of whatever fields are of particular interest for further information.