MBA recruitment in Asia Pacific hit record levels in some nations and future looks rosy across most of the region

MBA career opportunities within Asia Pacific are rosy and the region seems to have staved off the worst of the recession, according to the QS Salary and Recruitment Trends 2009 Report, the world's most exhaustive research on the opinions of the world's leading MBA recruiters. The report, available from 12 Novermber 2009 on, canvassed the opinions of 743 MBA-recruiting companies - including Dell, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble and Bank of America - from 34 countries, allows an international breakdown of recruitment and salary trends both in international and regional terms.

In parts of Asia, the picture is positively rosy. Demand for MBAs in China and India are at record levels. Demand is so strong that the Municipality of Shanghai has funded the launch of its own local business school - Shanghai Advanced Centre for Finance - to compete with other local schools like CEIBS and Cheung Kong Business School. Employers in China could not find enough Chinese MBAs returning from US and European business schools, spurring the local government into action.

It's not just China where demand is hot. Edward Hyun, Director - Business Development for American Express Global Network Services Asia, reports strong demand for international MBA hiring to meet pipeline leadership needs throughout the region. He comments MBAs bring the maturity, business and cultural awareness as well as the leadership skills to take our company forward. Even during difficult economic conditions we remain committed to our MBA hiring program, not just in Asia but around the world.

Emerging markets

MBA demand is shifting away from developed economies towards emerging markets, and particularly Asia. Without doubt, the survey is reflecting the emergence of more and more Asian companies seeking MBAs - they now represent 25% of total respondents, up from just 10% in 2003. These employers are willing to hire from local business schools at relatively low salary levels, but most Asian employers are still committed to hiring from top North American, European and Australian business schools and are often willing to pay the higher salaries expected by graduates of those schools. The rise of an elite cadre of Asian business schools is underway, but will probably take another ten years to be fully established.

In Asia, the MBA is becoming more in vogue. Asian candidates are among the highest GMAT scorers in the world, and are focused on developing excellent technical skills often at the expense of integrating fully in the social aspects of the MBA. But Asian recruiters are looking for ambitious, well-rounded MBAs.

More and more MBAs are joining Chinese companies from international MBA programs and Asian MBA programs, says Michael Yang, General Marketing Manager, Motorola (China). I think the attraction for these MBAs is not the starting salary, but the growing opportunity. Amy Chong of EQT Partners in Hong Kong says MBAs bring commercial acumen and international experience to the China-based employers.

Japan and Korea
Japan and Korea are well-developed MBA markets. Jay Kang of Maekyung Business Newspaper in Korea observes the large companies in Korea, like LG, Samsung and Hyundai, have recruited MBAs for many years. However there is a large unmet demand amongst mid-sized Korean companies who wish to employ MBAs but do not know how to go about this.

MBA salaries across the Asia Pacific region vary enormously and it makes little sense to look at averages for the region as a whole. We have broken the region down into three meaningful zones.

Australia and New Zealand have MBA salaries more akin to other Anglo-Saxon regions like the UK and USA, with an average salary of US$80,700.

North Asia and Singapore, with an average salary of $62,300, is made up of Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.  Reported MBA salaries in this region range for $22,000 to $120,000.  But MBA salaries are rising rapidly - in the last five years average MBA salaries in China have risen from $25,000 to just over $50,000 - and we expect them to gradually catch up with their higher paying trading partners in the West.

South East Asia includes India, Thailand, Vietnam and surrounding countries where MBA salaries are consistently much lower and average $31,200. Of these countries, India presents the most variety. The vast majority of companies are paying salaries of between $20-25,000 and hiring locally educated Indian MBAs. However, western-educated Indian MBAs can earn salaries in excess of $90,000 and enjoy a remarkably low cost of living. As such, India offers one of the best returns on investment for internationally educated MBAs looking to return home to work.