Meeting MBA Work Experience Requirements

Guide to MBA Work Experience Requirements

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MBA work experience requirements are the requirements that some Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs have for applicants and incoming students. For example, some business schools require that applicants have at least three years of work experience to apply to an MBA program.

MBA work experience is the work experience that individuals have when they apply to an MBA program at a college, university or business school.

Work experience typically refers to professional experience obtained on the job through part-time or full-time employment. However, volunteer work and internship experience also count as work experience in the admissions process.

Why Business Schools Have Work Experience Requirements

Work experience is important to business schools because they want to be sure that accepted applicants can contribute to the program. Business school is a give and take experience. You are able to obtain (or take) valuable knowledge and experience in the program, but you also provide (give) unique perspectives and experience to other students through participation in discussions, case analyses, and experiential learning.

Work experience sometimes goes hand-in-hand with leadership experience or potential, which is also important to many business schools, particularly top business schools that take pride in churning out future leaders in entrepreneurship and global business.

What Type of Work Experience Is Best?

Although some business schools have minimum work experience requirements, particularly for executive MBA programs, quality is often more important than quantity. For example, an applicant with six years of professional finance or consulting experience might not have anything on an applicant with three years of work experience in a unique family business or an applicant with substantial leadership and team experiences in her community.

In other words, there is not a resume or employment profile that guarantees acceptance into any MBA program. MBA students come from diverse backgrounds.

It is also important to remember that admissions decisions sometimes hinge on what the school is looking for at the time. A school might desperately need students with finance experience, but if their applicant pool is flooded with people with a finance background, the admissions committee may actively start looking for students with more diverse or even non-traditional backgrounds.

How to Get the MBA Work Experience You Need

To get the experience you need to get into your MBA program of choice, you should focus on the factors that business schools value. Here are a few specific tips that will help you outline an application strategy.

  • Your ability to work in a team environment is important in business school. Admissions committees want to evaluate your teamwork experience and capability. Make it easy for them by noting it in your resume or highlighting it in your essay.
  • Leadership experience is important. If you haven't supervised a team of people, seek out opportunities to "manage up" (i.e. create value for your company, get management to adopt your suggestions, etc.) at your job. And make sure you provide examples of your leadership experience in your application.  
  • Ambition is a requirement for MBA students. This can be demonstrated through career progression. Before applying to business school, you should try to progress in your career by getting a promotion or taking on increased responsibilities.
  • Business schools value achievements. Set personal and career goals, and then meet them. Get recognition from your boss or your company. Win awards.
  • Develop a well-rounded application. MBA work experience is just one aspect of an application. You also need to write a good essay, get strong recommendation letters, score high on the GMAT or GRE, and accomplish personal goals to make your application stand out among other candidates.
  • If you don't have the work experience you need, make sure your academic experience stands out. Get your undergraduate transcripts in order, ace the quant section of the GMAT; demonstrate your academic enthusiasm by taking business, finance, or quant courses prior to applying; and make sure your essays highlight your written communication skills.