Vietnamese Students’ Love Affair with Business/Management


According to this information from the 2010/11 Open Doors international academic mobility report, 41.3% of all Vietnamese studying the US last year chose to study business/management, by far the highest percentage of any of the top sending countries.  Engineering  and math/computer science ranked 2nd and 3rd at 10.7% and 8.5%, respectively. 

Why do so many Vietnamese choose to major in business/management?  Because 1) their parents tell them to, thinking it’s the best way to get a good job; and 2) many Vietnamese who are unfamiliar with the concept of a liberals arts education believe that you have to study business to “do business.”   (If any other reasons come to mind, please send them my way.) 

The end result is two-fold:  1) too many young Vietnamese are studying something they’re not really interested in and have no passion for; and 2) a likely surplus of business/management graduates.  Vietnamese society and its labor market have many and varied needs, both current and projected, of which business/management is but one.   Personally, I always find it refreshing when a young person here tells me s/he wants to study something other than business

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10 thoughts on “Vietnamese Students’ Love Affair with Business/Management

  1. I studied Communications, Mark!

    When I checked out the scholarships by the University of New South Wales, they didn’t ask me anything assuming that I would want to study Business. When I said I wanted to do a Master’s in Public Policy, they said they had no information because no Vietnamese students had ever asked about it.

    • That’s great! You seem to be putting it to good use. I remember once talking to a Vietnamese high school student who wanted to study philosophy at a US school (and his mother supported him!). The main thing is that students are realistic about what they can and cannot do with what they have studied. That’s one reason why good career counseling is so important.

      • Career counseling is only one small thing, to me. Even when I was already enrolled in a program, I went to RMIT’s career center a thousand times just to find myself knowing what I would do upon graduation.

        Experimenting is much more important. High school students should be exposed to and experience a wide range of “hypothetical jobs” before deciding which degree to pursue.

  2. “Vietnamese society and its labor market have many and varied needs, both current and projected, of which business/management is but one” Can you outline some of these ‘needs’ that is currently not appreciated?

    I think any Vietnamese privileged enough to apply for college is sufficiently aware of what a liberal arts education is (but that has little to do with what they believe in though, in fact one can & is encouraged to specialize in LACs). But anyway, I’m not very sure about those who go to community colleges/ apply through studying-abroad agencies. Regardless of how naive Vietnamese students seem, I think you’ve got a point there – studying biz to do biz. This relates well to the stiff educational system that does exceptionally well for the sciences and not so with keeping the students up to date. Poor decisions are bound to happen.

    I know a handful of parents who are able to fully finance their children and who are also not very aware of the education scene; these people are usually biz/ finance people so perhaps this explains somewhat the trend. This people are the driving force to many redundant things happening in Vietnam, for example the surfeit of housing construction- a lot of extravagant villas and international schools (which, to my belief, can teach little)

    Thanks for posting this though 🙂

  3. Really nice post, Mark. This is the same in India! The number of MBA schools that have popped up over the last 5-10 years is impressive, but looking at their credentials is important.

    I think it’s great if someone wants to take an MBA if they really want to, but you are right, it’s truly refreshing to meet someone daring to be different. The markets will get saturated with MBAs and then it becomes meaningless.

    In India, students go straight from high school to undergrad to MBA without much or any work experience. And, this being said many want to have a management job!

  4. I guess there’s the pretty plain and obvious explanation that there are not so many well-paying jobs to come back to in Vietnam to justify studying abroad for most students, even for engineers. The main benefit then might be improving your English rather than advancing in your field, and it’s the business world that rewards English skills the most. Just a thought.

    • Yes, that’s one explanation but it doesn’t explain why the percentage is so high compared with the other top ten sending countries. (China is a distant 2nd at 27.5%.) By the way, there’s a pretty long list of other benefits that (can) accrue from studying overseas, in addition to improving one’s English.

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