When I was in your shoes as a prospective student—browsing top B-school websites and comparing different MBA programs—I wanted to know which program could help me most in achieving my goal to work in the U.S. and to become an enabled business leader in a world of Big Data and AI. When I heard about the certificate in Management Science and Technology Management (MSTeM) during my first visit to Fuqua in 2017, I knew that would be the differentiator.

I applied only to Fuqua later that year and I was so grateful to be accepted! Now that I’m halfway through my MBA journey at Fuqua and have taken two courses within the MSTeM curriculum, I want to share with you the reasons that I chose to enter and continue on this track.

1. Recruiting Advantage

Companies are craving MBAs with data analytics skills to compete in a world where business decisions are more and more data-driven. If you open LinkedIn or Indeed, you could find many job descriptions with the keywords “data analytics.” It has become one of the most desirable skills in the business world across industries. I still remember that when a pharmaceutical company came to recruit on campus, the director specifically emphasized their urgent need to hire MBAs with data analytics skills, even when the position was a traditional MBA role in the general management rotational program.

As an international student, having a skillset such as data analytics can make you more competitive when compared to domestic students without that experience. Among other things, this could help offset the communication disadvantage that non-native English speakers sometimes have.

2. Applying the Skills in Internships

I did two internships this summer, and the data analytics skills I’ve learned so far in the MSTeM track empowered me to add more value during them. The first was working as an internal consultant at Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies in China and the other was working as a summer associate in a Raleigh-based health care private equity firm. These two roles were quite diversified and very business-oriented positions, which are not ‘traditional’ data analytics jobs.

But it turns out that what set me apart was the work I did using the data analytics tools learned in Decision Models class. When I laid out the tornado chart (a tool used to do sensitivity analysis) in the presentation made to the chairman of J&J China, I saw that his eyes were shining. Later he told me that he is an MBA graduate himself but he didn’t think that an MBA intern without a related background could do that kind of data analysis. I really felt pumped at that moment.

3. Work Eligibility Benefits

Believe it or not, international MBA students are facing tough challenges when recruiting in the U.S. due to employers’ limited willingness to sponsor visas. MSTeM is a tangible way to combat this. The science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) feature of the track enables international students to extend their Optional Practical Training (OPT)—a program designed for people without visas to work in the U.S. legally—from one year to three years in total. This feature triples an international MBA employer’s opportunities to apply for longer-term work visas such as the H-1B.

The longer OPT timeline could also reopen doors to companies that have stopped sponsoring international students. Many companies limit their sponsorships because they fear that international MBA students would have to leave the U.S. if they don’t successfully get an H-1B visa within one year, which would mean all the investment (training, time, effort, etc.) in these candidates is wasted. But with three years, many companies are thinking differently.

One company I engaged with last year was willing to interview international students because it could endure people leaving after three years since the average tenure of the company’s employees in a role was around two. Due to this obvious advantage, many international students in my class take the MSTeM track as one of their areas of focus. By the way, there is no additional tuition for MBAs to take this track, and something free is always good for indebted students 😊.