Why Location Matters When You Apply to MBAs

There are dozens of factors you need to consider when applying for your MBA. You want to attend a school with successful faculty members who have real experience and valuable insight. If you’re considering taking the CFA exams, you will want to consider what a university’s pass rates are, and how they can help you prepare. You should also be looking into the kinds of specializations different schools offer, since not all programs are created equally. While you may find the essentials like finance, marketing, and accounting across the board, if you’re looking for a niche specialization like supply chain or golf and resort management, you may need to dig deeper.


Among the most important factors to consider is location. Business schools are increasingly marketing themselves to prospective students by promoting the advantages of living and studying in a particular city. Your MBA can take you anywhere in the world, but where you study will have a big impact on how you start your career. If you’re looking at options for MBA programs in Ontario, two cities stand out: Toronto and Waterloo. Here’s how they stack up against each other in three important criteria:

Where you want to work: Toronto is the centre of Canada’s finance and banking industries, so it’s an obvious choice for anyone specializing in finance or accounting. Toronto hosts major offices of finance-industry firms like KPMG and Deloitte, and the headquarters of TD Bank, CIBC, and RBC. Marketers will want to take advantage of its thriving creative industries, while it also enjoys a growing technology sector. The GTA is also the centre of Canada’s manufacturing sector, and it still accounts for 13% of Toronto’s economy.

By comparison, Waterloo is one of the most competitive regions in North America for technology. With a thriving startup culture and an abundance of technology talent, Waterloo is a great place for aspiring entrepreneurs with a plan. However, the city has long been an important centre for the insurance industry in Ontario as well, not to mention the manufacturing sector’s prominent role in the economies of adjoining Kitchener and Cambridge.

Opportunities to grow: Waterloo is home to a number of institutions that exist to help entrepreneurs start their businesses. Incubators like the Communitech Hub are available to qualifying business school MBA students through their LaunchPad program, while there are also a number of institutional supports for funding and recruiting.

Where you work already: If you are a working professional and pursuing your MBA part time, your job will be your biggest location constraint. Part time MBAs in Toronto are popular because of the high concentration of finance, insurance, accounting, and marketing jobs in the city’s financial district. If you’re working in Toronto and you’re ready to take your career to the next stage, it is wise to find a downtown campus so that you can take a part time MBA on evenings and weekends.

The city where you decide to study will have a big impact on the early part of your career. It will determine the kind of network you develop while you’re in school and the kind of companies that recruit from your program.