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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. Also read Average age and work experience at top B-Schools around the world and Will too much or too little work experience hurt your MBA admission chances?.

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. There is also Yale’s Yale Silver Scholars Program Review for graduating college seniors.

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
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

11 thoughts on “Is Work Experience necessary for MBA?”

  1. Good Day Sir,

    I have a Higher National Diploma in Nautical Studies from Glasgow, I would like to know if I can give the GMAT exam? I am currently sailing as a third officer and have a rank experience of about 20 months.

  2. Hello Sir,
    I am currently pursuing B Tech in “Department of Metallurgy” from NIT Durgapur.I may get placed in companies like SAIL,Indian Oil,Vedanta,Tata Steel after completing my undergraduate course.Would these type of companies would be good for getting admission in top B Schools of USA?Also if I completed all other requirements such as good GMAT score(710+),2–3 years of work experience,completed 4–5 online courses in Edx,Coursera ?

  3. Hi Sameer,

    I have total experience of 5 years in IT. I want to do one year MBA in India.Which colleges and programs i should be targeting in India?

  4. 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.

  5. Hello Sir,

    This is Swapnil. I have working experience of 10+ years in IT industry. I have been working as software developer where I have been working as development/maintenance project in service industry. I always wanted to do MBA however due to always high work I couldn’t plan the MBA. I now want to do MBA however not sure how it will help me in my career further.

    I want to move out of software development profile & work beyond the development as every one is trying to become developer in IT industry. I want to work in domains [Insurance/Health Care/Any other than finance]. Can you please suggest which MBA I should go with? What college I should target? I am willing to do it in India only.

    Thanks in advance for response.


  6. Hello Sir.

    I have been working in accenture for past 7 years as SSE as Release Manager and L2 support. My CTC is 10 LPA. I have good academics and have been developed my college’s website for 2 year. Can you rate my profile suggest some add-ons.

  7. Hi Sameer,

    Hope you are doing well!
    I am graduate with experience of 5.5 years now ! not great at abjective studies but perfect at implied .. could you help with the career guidance , i wish to study now what course and field i should choose.!
    Please help.

  8. Hi Sameer,
    I have 9 years of experience in manufacturing industry including Automobile and Aerospace in INDIA. I don’t have any abroad experience. Currently I am working in one of the most reputed industry in Hyderabad (INDIA) in aerospace sector as Production Lead. I have a 10Lac CTC.
    I am planning to do Executive MBA in coming future. Whether it will be right decision to enroll for MBA or not. Need solution.
    10th – 67%
    12th – 55.4% (Mechanical) – 74%

  9. @Shaminder: Sure, you can take the GMAT. It’s valid for 5 years.

    @Rahul: Nothing wrong with the companies you have listed. But don’t look at it as a formula driven process. Focus on getting good quality experience.

    @Rishi and Swapnil: You can consider any of these top MBA programs in India:

    @Hari: Many finance their MBA using a combination of savings, loans and scholarships. Try getting a high GMAT score and get in touch with us if you need help with your application review.

    @Ajit: What you’ve shared is a general job description. This could apply to thousands of applicants from the IT industry. Start thinking about how you’ll differentiate yourself from the huge volume of similar looking applicants. That’ll improve your chances of getting noticed by admission committees.

    @Aastha: I have to admit I don’t know what you mean by abjective and implied studies.

    @Manish: Whether an MBA will help or not would depend on your expectations from it and career goals. You haven’t shared either of those. Wouldn’t be right for me to give an absolute yes or no answer without knowing those.

  10. Hello Sameer/MG,
    In the beginning i became stagnant with many doubts (work experience, funding, Complex application process and many more)on how to pursue my dream of mba in Abroad for months then i came to know about mbacrystallball through one of my friend so first of all great standing ovation applause for making this kinda website and helping us.And coming to my skeptical things about mba,I have read your articles about work experience and lot more,then i came to know the importance of long term planning, I’m the same typical candidate as you mentioned in your book “Engineering/IT/Male with exactly 15 months of experience in Information Technology and good academic records of first class distinction throughout my studies,To make myself unique among other candidates i have started building my curriculum vitae with the essence of leadership skills(my current job position is web developer and there is no chance to lead teams in less than 4 years of experience), business skills, communication skills through lots of MOOC in coursera,udemy,udacity. I m planning to crack gmat with 700+ alongside with CV enhancement.With all these details i have given i have two questions to ask,

    1.I have aimed to apply for Singapore MBAs(nus,ntu) the moment i have reached 2 years of experience,so what will be my acceptance possiblity with such IT experience,Resume and academics

    2. I would like mbacrystallball to be my mentor throughout my application process and what is the procedure for it.

    I’m gladly awaiting for your reply,thanks in advance.

  11. Sir my name is Nachiket Sharma and I am still in my 3rd year. My question is that if I start working in a company during my 4th year (not an intern). Would that be counted as work experience(Even if I am still studying)?


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