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Should I Have Work Experience Before Pursuing an MBA?

work experience before mba

If you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or will be graduating soon, you may be considering continuing your education with a master’s degree or Master of Business Administration (MBA). Before you start your search and begin the application process, you may want to consider the benefits of being in the workforce for some time before pursuing a graduate degree.

There are many benefits to having quality work experience before pursuing an MBA, the most important one is the positive benefit to your graduate learning experience; it will also increase your chances of getting into the business school program of your choosing.

Read on to discover why adding work experience to your application before pursuing an MBA program is beneficial.

1. Real-world experience is advantageous to MBA coursework.

Most MBA programs require applicants to have work experience because of the nature of graduate learning, especially programs relying on case studies and classroom participation. Work experience allows you to connect business theory and insights with a practical application that you have been involved with professionally. Moreover, you also benefit from the practical experiences of your classmates. It’s this combination of business theory and real-world experience that makes graduate learning so valuable and different than your undergraduate experience.

Today, it is not uncommon for undergraduates to spend a significant amount of time working in an internship or co-op program before graduation. Quite often prospective students underestimate the value of this experience and may not realize that an internship or co-op may satisfy the minimum graduate school work requirement. “Students often self-select themselves out of consideration without realizing the value of their undergraduate work experience,“ says Tim Landers, Director of Ramapo’s MBA Program.

2. Increase your chances of being accepted to the MBA program of your choice.

Alongside your academic accomplishments, GMAT score, outside activities, and personal accomplishments, prior work experience is an important variable to improve your chances of being accepted to an MBA program. Without it, your academic accomplishments and level of maturity will receive greater scrutiny. While it is not always necessary, having work experience provides an additional avenue to demonstrate levels of responsibility, business knowledge and advancement, all of which enhances your chances of acceptance.

If your undergraduate GPA is not a true reflection of your abilities, having professional experience can help boost your application score. It also affords you the opportunity to submit a recommendation letter from a colleague or manager who can address your business acumen.

Some schools provide GMAT waivers for applicants based on their years of work experience. Not having to submit a GMAT score could save you hundreds of dollars in time and money. More than half of GMAT test takers spent just about 51 hours studying for the exam, and the more time devoted to studying correlated with higher scores, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

3. More clearly defined career path.

If you decide to pursue your MBA immediately after completing your undergraduate degree, you may only have a general idea of what you want out of your career. Many graduates start working in their field of choice only to find that it wasn’t what they expected. And it is not uncommon for young professionals to discover their passion after one or two jobs. The first few years in the “real-world” provide valuable lessons and often leads to a whole new career direction.

4. Definitive goals for what you want to get out of your MBA degree.

Many professionals apply to an MBA program after recognizing the need for additional knowledge and skills to advance their careers. MBA programs offer “an opportunity to realign their education with their goals or even re-boot their career,” says Professor Meyer, director of graduate studies at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Working as a financial analyst, sales person or IT manager provides a wealth of insight into solving real-world business problems. Transferring these insights and problem-solving skills to your coursework and enhancing them with the knowledge from an MBA degree, will give you the skills to advance your career and become a business leader.

5. Greater appreciation for the overall experience.

MBA programs are typically much more intensive and competitive than the average undergrad program. Those that do not have the proper motivation may find that they simply are not up to the challenge of MBA coursework in their early 20’s. Spending a year working may make the transition to a master’s less daunting. “It made me appreciate learning more than when I was an undergraduate,” said Sarah Spickernell, 26, who studied at Oxford University.

How much work experience should you have before applying?

Deciding how much professional work experience you should have before getting your MBA is a personal decision and involves many factors. Most programs require a minimum of two years but often make exceptions for applicants who have grown up working in a family business or who have completed internships, co-ops or started their own business.

There is no magic number of years of field experience that will guarantee a spot in an MBA program. Look at the demographic statistics of the programs you are considering to get an idea of how much work experience is required. According to Business Insider, the typical MBA student has an average of four years of work experience. However, it might be more valuable to investigate the range of “years of work” so that you don’t jump to the wrong conclusion about your chances of acceptance.

Do Your Research

Work experience can be the difference between acceptance and being deferred. But there are many programs that don’t have a work requirement. These programs tend to attract a younger applicant so, before you get too excited, make sure the program satisfies the learning goals that you are after.

The average age of an MBA student is approaching thirty, suggesting that there is no right time to get an MBA. It also demonstrates that the value of an MBA is not diminished with age or time.


Categories: MBA