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What Work Experience Do I Need for an MBA?

What Work Experience Do I Need for an MBA?

An MBA is one of the most sought after programmes for individuals who want to advance in their career. If you have started looking into the requirements for most competitive programmes, you may have come across work experience as a top criterion. But what exactly do business schools mean when they refer to work experience? How do you know that your experience is competitive? Here is a quick overview of everything you need to know about the work experience prerequisite.  

Is work experience an absolute necessity?
Most traditional full-time MBA programmes require work experience and may not accept any part-time jobs or internships to contribute to these years. However, articleships may be accepted by some schools.
In the US, most competitive business schools will accept a minimum of two years of full-time work experience, while in Europe, three years is widely accepted. Usually, there is no upper limit to the number of years, however, the average for most US and Canadian schools is three to seven years, while in Europe this is four to 12 years. In recent years, some US business schools have started to open their doors for recent graduates with fewer years of work experience through a deferred, accelerated or early career MBA. For example, Harvard Business School has a 2+2 programme where candidates can apply to secure their seat without any work experience. Once admitted, you will have to complete two years of employment and then join the full-time MBA programme.

Why do programmes prefer candidates with some work experience?
The main reason experience is preferred for an MBA is because the cornerstone of a good MBA programme is peer education and active participation. Students with practical knowledge gained in the industry will be better equipped to contribute to discussions and analyse and evaluate situations.

What qualifies as “good” experience?
Good work experience is extremely relative. Broadly, work experience that is aligned with your future goals after the MBA is considered ‘good’.  Quality and quantity are good metrics. You can showcase your experience by providing details in your application on the following elements of your job history:

  • Career progression within the same company
  • Career progression in a different company
  • Quantitative and qualitative impact of your work and contribution in and outside of the workplace
  • Initiatives you have taken at the workplace
  • International exposure
  • Involvement in social activities

Do I need to be at a particular level in my job before I apply?
When it comes to job level and titles, you can apply regardless of your position in the company. MBA programmes generally look for candidates with demonstrated leadership, which can be shown in other ways through your work, besides just titles. For instance, if you have taken on an additional responsibility such as starting a new mentoring programme for new employees.  

Does having too many jobs reflect badly on my application?
Having many jobs, whether it is three, four or five won’t be considered negative as long as you are able to show a linear progression in your resume. Keeping this in mind, you have to be astute to weave a story that shows how your previous changes were informed decisions leading toward an MBA. Also, there can be many reasons for job switches like better opportunities, the company closing and laying off employees. If this was one of the reasons you changed jobs, it needs to be articulated properly in the application. Having many jobs is not a red flag but can have adverse effects in the business school application process if they were not purposeful.

After reading this we hope that you can make an informed decision regarding your readiness to apply to business school. If you need more help figuring out the application process, read our blog for a nine-step guide and some frequently asked questions. For assistance on identifying the right business schools programmes or any other MBA-related guidance, get in touch with us.

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