Is my current work experience good enough? How can I get the right experience to make me an ideal applicant? How much do I need to have?
Navigating the MBA application process is complex—especially when it comes to work experience. Unlike a GMAT score or GPA, there is no number that really tells us how much (and what kind) of experience an applicant needs to be successful. In this blog, Collegiate Gateway will help clear the fog and shed some light on this enigmatic aspect of the MBA process.
How much work experience should I have?
While the amount of work experience one should have varies from school to school, students at top business schools typically matriculate with at least two to three years of full-time work experience. According to Harvard Business School, the average time between undergraduate and business school is four years, and at least 30 percent of matriculated students worked for two to three years prior to business school. However, students should be aware that quality matters more than quantity – more work experience does not necessarily equate to better chances at admission. According to Mae Jennifer Shores, Director of Admissions at UCLA/Anderson, “The depth and breadth of work experience are more important than the amount of time or number of years spent working.”
What types of work experience should I have? Do internships count?
Students at top business schools usually have work experience that is in the form of full-time, paid positions. Collegiate Gateway has spoken with top admissions offices from Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, and found that full-time paid training programs, such as apprenticeships or job shadowing, have the same value as other types of paid employment.
For applicants who wish to apply to MBA programs immediately after college, internships can be a great way to show dedication towards a career path or to highlight accomplishments. However, Graham Richmond, graduate and former admissions official at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School notes that “admissions officers do look at [internships] as a part of the applicant’s profile, but given that most applicants also have full-time, paid positions to showcase, they often take a bit of a back seat.”
No matter what their experience, it is important that applicants assess their professional profile and the roles they have taken on. Were you proactive? Did you take on leadership roles? What were your contributions? What was your impact? These are all important questions to ask – a person with less experience, but more responsibilities under their belt may be considered a stronger applicant. Professional experiences are only assets if you are able to emphasize how they are relevant to your career goals.
What field of work makes me the best candidate for an MBA?
MBA applicants come from all different types of background – there is no “correct” profile that one must adopt to be qualified. No specific background is required for the degree – in fact, business schools aim for a well-rounded student body. This often means that those applying from an oversubscribed profession (such as Finance, IT, or Consulting) may have to work even harder to stand out in an applicant pool. In a survey conducted by TopMBA in 2012 on the employment background on candidates, only 16.3% of candidates came from a financial services background and 11.6% from consulting, with the other 72.1% coming from various other fields.
Most business schools have pre-requisites, so students may be required to take general mathematics, accounting, finance or similar courses before starting their MBA program. Applicants with an undergraduate degree in a business-related field are more likely to have completed pre-requisites for the MBA program and may bypass additional course load. But for those without such a background, these classes will help student learn concepts that will adequately prepare them and ensure that they succeed in the program.
How important is work experience?
MBA admissions are a multi-faceted process, and there is no single factor that will make or break an application. When assessing an applicant, there are many aspects that are considered: GMAT scores, undergraduate GPA, caliber of undergraduate institution, coursework, degrees earned—all these factors play a part. Additionally, candidates are also evaluated based on their leadership, ability to work in teams, emotional intelligence, and other non-quantifiable characteristics. Admissions counselors are looking for a candidate who is well-prepared and ready to master challenging tasks. It is up to you to draw from your experiences and build the credentials that can show that you are ready to take on an MBA program.
Choosing to pursue an MBA is a major career decision, and there are many components of the application process to take into consideration. Collegiate Gateway is always happy to help! Please feel free to contact us.