One of the oldest cities in the United States, Beantown, as it is fondly referred to by locals, is home to the United States' first subway system, lighthouse, public park and college - Harvard University.
Only 48 square miles, Boston houses more than 85 private colleges and universities and a student population of more than 250,000; the second highest number of students in North America and the most diverse population in the country.
An interesting blend of old and new, Boston boasts a vibrant cultural scene and lively nightlife fueled by its youthful population and renowned colleges devoted to the fine and performing arts like Berklee College of Music, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Professional sports are a four season pre-occupation. Bostonians are passionate sports fans and professional, championship winning basketball, baseball, hockey and football teams call Boston home.
Although the unemployment rate in the U.S. is hovering around 10 percent, Boston is faring better than the rest of the country. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts dropped to 8.8 percent in January from 9.3 percent in September 2009. Boston's health care and life sciences companies have been counter-cyclical players through the economic downturn, hiring more people while other businesses were forced to cut back. Technology, green energy and higher education are also leading the Boston area out of the recession.
The health care industry, the largest private-sector cluster in Massachusetts grew by 5.4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 through the first half of 2009. IT is only behind health care as the largest employment sector in Massachusetts. Software engineering already employs more people in Massachusetts than during the .com boom times of 1999-2001. With software engineers and computer science jobs rated one or two for job growth over the next decade - the momentum is aligned behind a good recovery in 2010. In a recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts' Donahue Institute, researchers polled IT businesses, asking what regions of the world presented the best opportunities for growth - 51.5 percent listed Massachusetts.
Boston based companies have benefited from decades of venture investment, particularly in technology and life sciences. In the Boston area, companies that began as venture capital-backed enterprises include office supplies giant Staples Inc., Internet tech leader Akamai Technologies Inc., and Genzyme Corp., the biotechnology company. Massachusetts and California lead the nation in bringing in venture money to fund start-up companies, but Massachusetts stands clearly in the lead in bringing in federal funds for basic research per capita.
Jobs in higher education have also fueled the Massachusetts economy. Hiring by colleges and universities, which slowed when plunging financial markets battered endowments, has picked up again. The sector added 2,000 jobs over the past six months, compared with 1,200 in the previous six months. Clean technology jobs are also contributing to job growth and excitement in Boston. Clean Edge, Inc., a research and publishing firm reported that Boston was ranked fourth out of fifteen metropolitan areas for clean-tech job activity.
Clean-energy jobs are already growing faster than other sectors, but it is forecasted that we are just at the beginning of the clean-tech job creation era, says Clean Edge contributing editor Clint Wilder. Not complacent to trust the economy to recover on its own, the governor of Massachusetts recently proposed a $50 million tax credit that would help fund up to 20,000 jobs by providing $2,500 for every new job created by a business with 30 or fewer employees.
MBA schools in Boston are aligning their focus with these high growth sectors. Harvard University offers an MBA with an environmental emphasis, as does Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy. MIT's Sloan School has introduced a Sustainable Business Lab (S-Lab) to address sustainability issues, and features the opportunity for students to intern with a variety of companies as they tackle environmental business challenges. Life sciences related MBAs are offered by a number Boston universities including MIT Sloan's Biomedical Enterprise MBA, Boston University's Health Sector MBA and Northeastern's Healthcare management program.
As great a place as Boston is to get an MBA, the availability of work US visas is a source of anxiety for many foreign nationals. Contrary to popular belief, the current annual level of H-1B visas available in the United States has not been reduced. (The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, allowing US companies to employ a foreign individual who is highly skilled, educated or a specialist for up to six years, during which time an application for permanent residency can be filed.) According to the United States Department of Labor, the number of new visas issued each year is subject to a cap of 65,000 during a fiscal year; an additional 20,000 are available to those individuals who received a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.
Another source of inaccurate information about the tightening of H1B visas is related to large financial institutions and automobile manufacturers who were part of The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a program enacted by the United States government in February 2009 to purchase assets and equity to prevent further damage to the US economy. The common myth is that TARP funded institutions are not allowed to hire foreign nationals. This is not correct, and it is also important to note that the law will remain effective for only two years after its enactment. While it is true that there has been an on-again, off-again effort by the US Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration laws there doesn't seem to be much energy in Congress to seriously take up this controversial legislation with the mid-term elections nine months away. No matter what the environment, immigration is a tough sell, said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
Boston is truly a special place to get an MBA. Boston students are part of a bigger community of people from around the world converging in one of the nation's leading center of research, and study. An hour away from world-class skiing and beautiful beaches, Boston has been home to a roster of eminent leaders in politics, medicine, literature, and the performing arts.