Work experience for MBA

While it was once common for students complete their undergraduate degree and then go directly into a graduate-level program, this has changed in recent years, particularly in business. As GoGrad points out, many students take a year or more off between their undergraduate and graduate-level higher education.

Taking some time off can give professionals the opportunity to build real-world experience and clarify the career route they’d like to pursue. What’s more, having some work experience can be a considerable asset when starting a graduate program, especially in business.

If you’ve already achieved your undergraduate degree and have been working in business or another sector, your work experience might be a sign that you’re ready for the next level of higher education.

How your work experience can benefit your grad school application

As Investopedia contributor Adam Hayes points out, while success in academics is a top factor for graduate school admissions offices, this isn’t the only element decision-makers consider when examining applications. In fact, work experience can make a big difference, particularly for business-focused degree programs that center around real-world results.

In some cases, graduate programs are designed for individuals who hold a bachelor’s level degree but have worked in a professional setting for a while and are seeking the next progression.

“[M]any schools value relevant work experience in their decision-making process,” Hayes writes. “[A]dmissions know that academic records will be stale and put a much heavier weight on work experience and the professional networks applicants bring to the table.”

People in professional dress working with papers, coffee, and glasses nearby.

Even individuals who have work experience outside the field of business can consider this hands-on learning an asset. Nikhil Varaiya, graduate program director at a California business school, told U.S. News & World Report that he sees applications from professionals with experience from big name companies including Google, Amazon, and General Electric. Although this experience certainly provides an edge for applicants, other types of hands-on learning catch administrators’ attention as well.

“Other things … such as work experience can tilt towards a favorable admissions decision,” Varaiya noted. “For example, if somebody has worked, let’s say, in the Peace Corps for two years, they may not have worked for an employer, but I find that very compelling.”

Why work experience is important: Is now the right time?

There are a few telling signs to look for in your own work experience that can signal it’s a good time to consider earning an MBA.

You’ve reached the three-year mark

While there is no concrete rule when it comes to the amount of work experience that’s best to prepare for an MBA, Varaiya noted that he prefers three to five years. In fact, only in very rare cases does Varaiya approve applications for students coming directly from an undergraduate program.

“In general, I say that because I think if they have worked for three to five years, they have a better sense of what a graduate degree is going to do for them, so they would be better prepared,” Varaiya told U.S. News & World Report.

If you have three or more years of work on your resume, it could be a sign that you’re ready for the next step.

You’ve already demonstrated career progression

Amanda Karr, student enrollment services executive director at another California university, told U.S. News & World Report that she seeks applicants who not only have experience, but show career progression. This is another reason why Karr and other admissions officers appreciate the ability to examine candidates’ multiple years of job experience. A candidate who remained in the same role may not make as much of an impact on MBA program decision-makers as a professional who began in an entry-level position but subsequently rose through the ranks.

This makes an upward trajectory in your work experience another telling sign that an MBA is a smart investment for you.

You have your sights on a more advanced career role

Building off the above point, if your work experience has put you on the path toward a high-level and advanced career role, a master’s-level degree could be the element to enable you to earn that position. A Master of Business Administration degree provides the skills and knowledge necessary to prepare professionals for an array of career opportunities, including roles like chief marketing officer, chief information officer, chief financial officer, logistics director, and more.

To find out if you’re ready to apply for an MBA, check out the program requirements of the University of Alabama Collat School of Business. Reach out to one of our expert enrollment advisors today for more details about the Master of Business Administration online program.


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U.S. News & World Report