Language proficiency

Language is the bridge across cultures

The study of modern languages and cultures has long distinguished Thunderbird from other graduate business schools. Thunderbird incorporates language instruction into the overall educational experience to help you strengthen your global mindset – and stand apart from other MBA graduates. As such, Thunderbird’s Executive MBA program has two distinct language proficiency requirements:

  1. English proficiency for admission
  2. Second-language proficiency for graduation 

English proficiency for admission

If English is not your native language, during the admissions process you will need to demonstrate your ability to both study in English at the graduate level and conduct business in English. Upon demonstration of your English proficiency, you will have met this language requirement and no additional English courses will be needed. In some cases, Thunderbird may ask that you verify your English-language abilities through TOEFL or IELTS testing, if needed.

Second-language proficiency for graduation

Language is the bridge across cultures. Thunderbird has long realized the value of multi-lingual professionals in today’s globalized marketplace. All Executive MBA students are required to be conversant in a second language upon graduation. You can achieve this requirement in one of four ways:


Option 1

If English is not your native language, and you meet Thunderbird’s English proficiency requirement for admission, you have automatically also met your second-language proficiency graduation requirement. (You may still take additional language classes if you’d like.)


Option 2

If English is your native language, and you already speak a second language, you can test out of this language requirement by successfully completing an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) administered through Language Testing International (LTI) or through ALTA Language Services. Contact Executive MBA Admissions with any questions. 


Option 3

If you enter the program without a second language, you can take the 6-credit Thunderbird language curriculum offered through the Executive MBA program. The language program is taught on campus in Arizona in an intensive modular format and includes exposure into cultural norms and indicators associated with a language. With a minimum of four EMBA participants, instruction is offered in the following languages. You are welcome to take any language class, or gather a group of at least four cohort members and we will create a language program for you.

  • Arabic
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

The language program is an additional fee of $6,000 (not included in regular tuition) and requires a minimum of four students participating to offer a particular language. Contact Executive MBA Admissions with any questions.


Option 4

You may take language classes somewhere other than Thunderbird (online, self-study or in your home region) any time before, during or after your Executive MBA studies. Then, you can test out of the language requirement through the process noted in Option 2. NOTE: If you complete the language requirement after the normal Executive MBA program classes, your official graduation will be delayed until the requirement is met.