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Work experience: Why is it important for international MBA applications?

We get this question frequently on discussion forums and over email. In fact, a little too frequent for our comfort. So it doesn’t hurt talking about it again here.

If you are an MBA applicant with considerable experience, you now have our permission to say ‘Duh!’ and skip this post.

There seems to be a general perception among a lot of Indian MBA aspirants that the earlier they get their MBA from abroad, the better their job prospects would be in terms of company choice, role, designation and salary.

Most of them are either in college or haven’t been too successful with their Indian bschool applications (CAT for IIMs and other 2 year courses).

When the best programs mainstream management courses in India aren’t so fussy about work-ex, why should international programs insist on work experience for being selected and making the most of the program?

Though there is no thumb rule and there have been cases where students with an excellent academic and professional track record have managed to get into the top business schools with very little work experience, there are reasons why we recommend spending a few years getting a decent amount of real-world experience before you decide to take a plunge into the international MBA world.

For a domestic Indian MBA programs, pre-MBA work experience is not the primary criterion and you can proceed with it immediately after graduation.

However the process is quite different for an international MBA program. Here you need to leverage your pre-MBA work experience highlighting your meritorious achievements, professional accomplishments and leadership qualities at work (Read Minimum age limit for MBA in India and abroad).

Business schools look out for potential candidates who can add value to their school and also benefit the most from the program. So if you want the b-school to consider you as a suitable candidate, you need to have some industry knowledge and hands-on experience in your chosen career field.

An international MBA is not just about learning business concepts or skills through theory. It tends to be practical and collaborative in nature with an emphasis on teamwork and insights into the real business world.

There are the group projects, role-playing, simulations, case discussions to mention a few.

The case study method in business schools is popularly used for teaching various subjects. It revolves around a real-life scenario with some issue or problem faced by a company with a lot of actual data and facts provided.

You are required to evaluate it, use your knowledge and judgement based on your previous experience and present your opinion on how you would tackle the situation.

Through these various interactive sessions, you get to know diverse points of view which give you different perspectives of handling various corporate situations. You should be in a position to partake in these discussions and not feel completely lost.

The MBA journey can be a mutual learning experience if each student is able to gain (and provide) significant inputs from/to the class.

If you have completed over three years working at the time of applying, you can share your experiences and add some spice and flavour to your MBA essays and a thoughtfully created resume.

By the time you set foot into your business school, you would have completed around four years of working which is generally the average for most top schools.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and if you think you have gained rock solid work experience earlier than your peers, then we’ve got a different story.

Read these related articles:

Is Work Experience necessary for MBA?
What type of work experience is required for MBA abroad?
MBA without work experience
Will too much or too little work experience hurt your MBA admission chances?
Does company size and brand of pre-MBA work experience matter in MBA admissions?
Can a high GMAT score compensate for less work experience?
Top MBA in USA without work experience for freshers
Can a high GMAT score compensate for less work experience?
How to explain frequent job switching in MBA admissions
MBA after 5 year Work Experience
Also read,
Importance of Work Experience for MS Applications


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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

29 thoughts on “Work experience: Why is it important for international MBA applications?”

  1. Most B schools wheather they are best or worst (depends) requires you to have at least 2 years of work experience in order to be eligible for their rather annoying application process, you said that there are as you quote, some ‘exceptions to the rule and if you think you have gained rock solid work experience earlier than your peers, then we’ve got a different story.´

    Is it that?

    • Red,

      Surprisingly, there are quite a few international schools that accept candidates without experience (yup, forget the 2 year cut-off, we are talking about zilch work-ex here).

      I know folks who’ve attended such programs and are doing pretty ok in life. I’d say for such guys, the success can be attributed to their inherent capabilities rather than the degree.

      But as a general rule, we don’t recommend schools that bend over backwards to attract candidates.

  2. Dear Sir.
    I wish to join MBA in good business school in US.
    I have done 10+2+2 course from Bombay.(B.Com in june2012)
    I have always scored 90% and above marks in my examination.
    I am a qualified Chartered accountant from India.
    I have been working full time with Ernst and Young since august 2010.
    I wanted to know if my work experience for three years will be counted when I apply for MBA in US.Is my educational qualification enough for MBA admission ?What other papers apart from essays add weightage to the application.
    Please advise.

  3. im a fresher.i have to do ms in international business and to work in abroad. is it worth the money?? will i get decent job to settle bak my investment??

  4. Prashanth: Tough to answer that without knowing more about your expectations, test score, and other parameters. Why not work in India for a few years and then think about an overseas degree?

  5. I have a run-of-the-mill profile – A B. Tech in Computer Science and I’ve completed two years at an IT big wig. I haven’t made much foray in to the world of ‘management’ (since I’ve only two years of exp and my domain is largely technical), do I even stand a chance to get into a good B School abroad? Must I consider it as an option owing to my not-so-glamourous profile?

  6. Hi,

    iam a BTech in computer science and I have an experience of 2.7 years at an It big wig.My Gmat score is 760 and i was part of various projects for ISRO , DRDO etc during my graduation,also i have published couple of journals(national level).and i have been volunteering for an ngo on my weekends(DESIRE SOCIETY).what are my chances ???
    Kindly advice

  7. Hi Sameer,

    I have worked as a Management Trainee at ICICI bank in their legal department (I’m a lawyer from a top national law school) for 13 months. I quit my job last june and am now working full time on my 4 year old start up (which is a website dedicated to law students that earns us decent money and 5 lakh plus pageviews per month). Is such a profile (1 yr work ex + entrepreneurial pursuit) suitable for applying to top US B-Schools?

  8. Hi Sameer. I completed my Bachelors in Eng (Hons) from the University of Delhi and have since worked for 6 months at one of the big 4 advertising agencies of the world as an ad copywriter and then as an outbound leadership trainer at a prestigious international school for a year and a half. Before this I was a deck cadet in the merchant navy. Other than my bachelors degree I hold one post graduate diploma in training and development and one in nautical science. My doubt is that since I have done a variety of work not necessarily related to each other and my total work experience is only two years, am I a suitable candidate for an MBA abroad? Or are top B Schools looking for consistency in work and studies? An elaborate response would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  9. Hi Sameer,
    I would like to take MBA in finance in future.
    1. Which one of CA and CMA will be regarded as good working experience for pursuing MBA in top 20 colleges abroad? Or are there any other better courses to work for?

    2. Does working as CA/CMA in a normal company be regarded as good experience? Or is a top well-known company necessary?

    3. Which is given more priority : CA with 3 year work experience or CMA with 7 year work experience?

  10. Hi sammer,
    I just read above i have some query in my mind can u tell me that after doing my bachelor should i find a suitable job or should give my GRE?

    Now i am doing Honours

    And i am thinking to start preparing for my GRE from today so what you say.

    Thanks jay. 🙂

  11. Hi,
    I am a BTech (IT) student and will graduate in few months. I further want to clear upsc exams. If I clear them and work for few years, will my work experience there be considered there? Or shall I opt for a job of my field and have few years’ work expe in it? Which one would be better considered for mba course abroad?

  12. My name is Ravi Teja and my qualification is BBM LLB and I want to pursue Mba is it possible for me to go for the Mba with zero experience

  13. Hi Sameer,
    I am really confused about my future. I have 4.2years of IT experience(Oracle and SAP background). I am looking forward to pursue an MBA abroad. Singapore is in my mind(budget wise). I have read various articles that they do not provide Placements and once my student pass expires I will be deported to India. My whole idea is to work in Abroad for few years. Please suggest if I have to look for job opportunities there or applying for masters would be better. If MBA then I would not want to be into Technical domain. I want it to be HR or different courses, please suggest what are the best courses for me.
    Waiting for your reply.

  14. Hi Sameer,

    I have completed my B.Tech in electronics and communication in 2014,since 2014 i have been working with leading telecom firm in India.
    I would complete 2 years of work ex in telecom field this july. My experience has been in operations for these two years(Backend)

    Now i am thinking for higher studies abroad, i havent given any exams as yet.
    I am confused whether to do masters in telecommunication / masters in management/ MBA from abroad.

    So what do you suggest i should opt for ?

  15. @Ravi: There are some b-schools that accept folks with with zero experience, but it comes with strings attached. We’ve posted a link towards the end of the article above.

    @Umesh: Choose GMAT. CAT is for Indian MBA programs.

    @Sandhya: That’s how the placement process works abroad. So there is a risk, that you may or may not get a job. Be aware of the pitfalls before going further.

    @Sakshi: What’s your post-graduation goal? That should help you decide which degree to take. Reversing the process (choosing a degree first, without knowing where you’d like to go with it) is not a good idea.

  16. Hey sammer or anyone from the MBA CRYSTAL BALL team
    As in reference to your response posted on the gmatclub on my profile evaluation request i was trying to get in touch with you guys.
    Cannot seem to find out a way
    In the past i did send you guys two mails to which you haven’t responded yet.
    P.S => I am fascinated to see an indian consulting group which is outperforming the key players in the business.Although the user interface to this site is not great. It can be a lot better (Yes i am an IT engineer)


    • Hi Chirag,

      We checked our email records to see that we have responded to you twice in December 2015 on the same email ID you’ve used for this comment.

      Seems like you are not getting our emails. Any other email ID that we can connect on? Or a phone number?

  17. Why do you take so long to get to the point? Ofcourse we know work-ex is important, you don’t have to write 3 to 4 paragraphs saying it’s important just get to the point. Moreover, the answers doesn’t seem to be comprehensive.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Ujwal. This is an old post from 2011, when we were (and we still are) learning about blogging.

      Hopefully you’ll find out more recent articles more comprehensive, indepth and useful.

      Do share more inputs if you have them. It’ll help us discover our weak areas and improve.

  18. Hi Sameer. I orderd your book “Beyond The Mba Hype” excited to read it!!!

    let me tell you about my self I completed my Bachelors in Commerce ( from the University of Osmania, Hyderabad in 2015.
    while studying i’ve started working in a IT company and worked for 4 years by now as a Technical Recruiter. I’m i a suitable candidate for an MBA abroad? Or are top B Schools looking for consistency in work and studies? An elaborate response would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  19. Sohail: It sure helps to have a connection between the graduation degree and the professional experience. But in India, it’s quite common for the IT industry to gobble up the best talent from non-engineering backgrounds as well. So, don’t worry too much about it. Make a mark for yourself (in your MBA applications) by highlighting all the fantastic work you may have done in the last 4 years as a technical recruiter.


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