In 1931, author and historian James Truslow Adams coined a novel philosophy. In his book, The Epic of America, Adams said regardless of socioeconomic status or background, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He called it the American Dream. One of the largest barriers for very able outsiders to achieve that American dream is the H-1B visa lottery.
The process can be convoluted, limiting, and frustrating. Over the past year, Transparent Career (formally TransparentMBA) has been collecting data on MBAs seeking H-1B visas. Of the more than 13,000 registered users, about 14% have indicated they received H-1B visa sponsorship. Not surprisingly, no other industry sponsored more H-1b visas than technology, which took up 28.3% of the population. Tech was followed by consulting at 20.7%. Both industries eclipsed the next highest industry — manufacturing at 5.6%.
“Transparent’s data looks entirely consistent with what we have seen and known to be true, specifically at Duke Fuqua over the past few years anecdotally, as well as talking with our other business school counterparts,” says Sheryle Dirks, the associate dean of career management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “Absolutely tech and consulting are the biggest industries.”
COMPANY-SPECIFIC HIRING DRIVING INTERNATIONAL MBAs TO THE COASTS
Indeed, two major tech firms seem to be driving recent hiring and H-1B sponsorship. Amazon and Microsoft were at the top of a list of 138 companies to sponsor H-1B visas reported from Transparent Career exclusively to Poets&Quants. Amazon led the way hiring 18 Transparent Career users, followed by Microsoft at 13. Deloitte was the only other employer to sponsor a double digit total at 10.
While those numbers might seem low, consider only 85,000 new visas are granted each year. Dirks calls the H-1B visa lottery a “fragmented” market. “The vast majority of companies are sponsoring one or two MBAs at a time as opposed to sponsoring in the tens or hundreds,” she points out.
Instead, the data in the aggregate points to at least a few trends. Besides tech and consulting driving the vast majority of hiring, it is also pushing international MBAs to the coasts. While New York City and Chicago claim the highest amounts of H-1B visa-sponsored MBAs, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose have a relatively high percentage of sponsored MBAs, says Kevin Marvinac, co-founder and chief operating officer of Transparent Career. “That’s definitely due to Amazon and Microsoft,” Marvinac maintains.
The data points to a continued surge in MBA hiring by tech firms–as well as tech’s dependence on international talent.
“I do think the surge of tech and MBA hiring over the past three to five years has made that (H-1B sponsorship) more possible for students at Duke as well as other top MBA programs,” Dirks explains. “You are talking about a major industry that has grown in it’s hiring of MBAs and which happens to be pretty open to the idea of sponsoring H-1Bs.”
According to Rahul Choudaha, the principle researcher and CEO of DrEducation, a U.S.-based global higher education research and consulting firm, tech and consulting hire more international graduates for at least two reasons. First, Choudaha says, there is a larger talent gap compared to roles in sales, marketing, and human resources. Second, tech and consulting firms seem to be especially global in nature.
“Many of these organizations are truly global in their operations,” Choudaha tells Poets&Quants, noting Transparent Career’s data “very much aligns” with what he’d expect from elite MBA hiring. “And having the talent,” he continues, “which not only brings the skill set to accomplish the job, but also brings the global mindset and diversity perspective is a plus.”
Those two factors tend to make international students especially attractive to global employers, Choudaha says.