Is Work Experience necessary for MBA?

To nip the brewing suspense in the bud, here is the easy response – Yes! Work Experience is necessary for the good MBA programs.

There are many reasons as to why most business schools, abroad, categorically mention the non requirement of any work experience, for MBA applications. However, the reasons have less to do with their willingness to admit fresh graduates and way more with keeping their options open, when faced with immense competition within the business school admissions community.

By relaxing the requirement of work experience, for an MBA, they are able to make exceptions for the exceptionals, the candidates with outstanding undergraduate records (Read Top MBA in USA without work experience for freshers).

But the reality is that the class profiles of nearly all the elite MBA schools, in the US, are full of students with multiple years of work experience. Here’s a quick visual, in the interest of time.

The average age of enrolled students is over 25 years, and average work experience is in the neighborhood of 5 years. The pre industry experience ranges from military to media, with consulting, government jobs, energy, venture capital, high tech, manufacturing, education, and even non-profit, throwing in their share of intellectuals in the MBA class mix.

Read What type of work experience is required for MBA abroad?

Is work experience necessary for MBA


Average work experience in the Top Business Schools (USA)

Business School Average Work Experience
Stanford GSB 4 Years
Wharton Business School (Upenn) 5 Years
Sloan School of Management (MIT) 4.8 Years
Columbia Business School 5 Years
NYU Stern 4.9 Years
Haas School of Business UC Berkeley 5 Years
Anderson School of Management (UCLA) 5 Years
Smeal College of Business (Penn State) 4.5 Years
Carlson School of Management (Univ of Minnesota) 4.8 Years


So why is work experience essential for MBA?


What you bring to the MBA classroom

The trend (also similar for past years), is a clear indication of any B-school’s affinity to accept students with a substantial level of work experience. The reasons for this affinity are easy to gauge. MBA curriculums are essentially all about peer education, through active classroom participation. Experienced students are able to provide real instances from their practical knowledge. In the mostly case-study based forum, this style of learning can be far more enriching than the purely academic approach, where the knowledge is limited to textbook content. The unexperienced student is unable to contribute, or analyze, real world business situations.

To be a successful MBA applicant, the admission’s committee should be convinced that you are seasoned enough to handle the competitive B-school environment, building upon your prior business skills.

How your future employer will perceive you

Besides the coursework gains, a pre MBA work experience can improve your post MBA candidate profile. A substantial work experience can be an impressive take away, for your future employer. It shows your willingness to make an informed career choice, as well as an eagerness to improve your candidature. An MBA is indeed a much treaded path towards a high salary package. However, any recruiter is not going to blindly offer it to someone who has never seen the insides of a real functional conference room.

What is the middle ground for the unexperienced?

The answer to that could be bridge programs. They can add a credible level of business training in your resume. Many schools offer a transition program, for students without any work experience, into the business world. Most of them are available for college seniors, recent college graduates and even high school students with an adequate supply of intellectual genes.

The notable ones are the following:

Besides the bridge programs, you can also explore the 2+2 (two plus two) MBA program like the one offered by Harvard Business School (Read Is Harvard 2+2 program right for Indian students?). It allows deferred admission, to the unexperienced, with the promise of enrollment upon successful completion of 2 years of employment.

Among the obvious advantages, to recent college graduates, it also offers an incredible peace of mind and an over all faster career track as compared to the traditional normal MBA applicants, with greater than 2 years of work experience. But beware of the caveats and read Early career MBA: Is it for you?, to get a deeper insight at the impact of donning on the MBA suit way too soon.

So, between the choice of applying with or without work experience, it should be apparent that the trend seems to suggest that top B-schools favor the applicants with a job history. While exceptions are often there to prove this trend a lie, it is always safer to plan your career according to what is accepted, rather than what rules the schools are willing to bend, for you.

Meanwhile, here are a few related posts for further reading.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

1 Comment

  1. Hari says:

    Dear sir ,

    I, Hari working in an automobile company since 2014(3 years). I want to pursue MBA .Everyone suggesting is that I have 3 years experience in automobile industry so it is very difficult to get a MBA degree now. when i was searching i came cross your site MBA crystal which is helping huge no. of students to pursue MBA. Iam in dilemma whether i should for Indian B schools or International B-schools.
    I belong to a middle class family so it is difficult for me to pursue in India as it costs around 20lakhs .Is it possible for me to pursue MBA
    Should i pursue MBA in India or abroad ? can u please suggest me what should i do ?

    Hari Prasad.

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