How Work Experience Impacts MBA Admissions

Professional work experience matters a great deal while applying for an MBA program. As an admission requirement, most of the reputed business schools globally prefer a few years of work experience from applicants. However, please note that this may not be a prerequisite for all business schools.

Often applicants wonder why professional work experience is so highly recommended for an MBA program. The answer is simple – The MBA program primarily focuses on management and leadership skills and is designed to prepare students for a hands-on corporate environment. Prior work experience makes it easier to understand and appreciate the learnings better.

Application Review

Application Review

At the review stage of your MBA application, admission officers assess your resume paying close attention to your work experience. They generally evaluate the work experience on the following factors:

  • Professionally what were the challenges faced during the employment?
  • How were they perceived – as a hindrance or opportunity?
  • What was the applicant’s contribution to solving those issues?
  • How did the organization benefit from those solutions?
  • What have been the learnings from the entire experience?

Evaluators essentially look for evidence of leadership skills, which is an important factor. As an exception, if one does not have any work experience or is limited, participation in extracurricular activities should be included in the resume to give the reviewers an understanding of one’s interests and activities undertaken to make a contribution to the community.

Kind of Work Experience

Work Experience

Professional experience may come from any sector. No specific kind of professional experience is sought after. The MBA program is designed to build upon a student’s management and leadership skills, hence, it is open to all functions and industries. An MBA program deals with all aspects of a corporate job – teamwork, management, networking, communication, interpersonal skills, project management and more. Students with prior work experience will always have an advantage over those who would like to join the course right after college.

Competitive Advantage

Competitive Advantage

As MBA programs are based on an experiential learning model, students have to take and adjust to a hands-on learning approach. They are presented with real-world case studies where they have to think like business leaders to solve the problem. Someone with no work experience may have a longer learning curve compared to those who are exposed to the way the corporate world functions. In such an environment, students with work experience are able to align their learning goals better with the curriculum. They have their past work experiences to draw references from to further enrich their understanding of a particular subject or an aspect, giving them an edge over those with little or no work experience. Their interaction with peers and faculty is more focused and at a deeper level.

Clear Goals

Clear Goals

Pursuing MBA with work experience is beneficial at many levels. Diverse experience at the workplace helps one understand various corporate roles requirement function-wise. This brings clarity on where one’s interest lies and areas to improve upon. Studying for an MBA with this clarity helps students focus better as they are able to align their study goals to their requirements. The learning curve is much shorter and the output is to their satisfaction, suited to their needs. Workplace experience makes students independent in their approach towards their studies while doing the course, which acts as an advantage, especially during class discussions and projects.

Easy Transition

Easy Transition

MBA programs are known to be competitive and rigorous in their approach. The curriculum is designed in a way to make it a close representation of the real-world. The goal is to help students learn and acquire skill sets that will support them in performing better in their future jobs. Students with prior work experience find it easy to adjust to a study environment that is based on corporate world requirements. Those with no work experience find it difficult to adjust to a fast-paced environment like this, as the pace of study in grad school is often more relaxed and less competitive.

Develop Softskills

Develop Soft skills

The corporate environment exposes one to various skillsets beyond subject and domain knowledge that play a vital role in career progress like communication, interpersonal and networking skills. These soft skills are an absolute must in a global economy. Students with work experience are well aware of this fact and hence are able to pay serious attention to this aspect during their course of study in an MBA program. Subject knowledge aside, as one progresses in a career, it is soft skills that make enigmatic leaders stand apart in a crowd of uninspiring corporate leaders.

Peer Interaction

Peer Interaction

Group activities are an integral part of any MBA program, which makes the learning experience more dynamic. Interacting with work professionals from various industries and organizations, students learn a lot from each other. During team projects, different perspectives and approaches coming from seasoned professionals add enormously to one’s knowledge and understanding.

Higher Pay

Higher Pay

Post completing the MBA program students with work experience are often offered higher salaries than those who have no work experience. Though this may not be applicable to every case as other factors such as grades and other course-related performance matter too. However, hiring companies take prior work experience into consideration while deciding on designations and salaries. Typically companies do not hire MBA graduates for entry-level positions, they are hired for the next level up, and hence MBA graduates with work experience are given a preference. Generally speaking, students with prior work experience is in a better position to negotiate for a higher salary, post completing their MBA graduate program.

Save Money for Future

Save Money for Future

Pursuing an MBA program from a reputed business school can be expensive depending on its type and university location. Planning ahead is always recommended. Apart from a student’s profile, finance is one of the most important deciding factors in realising this goal.

There are several finance options available such as bank loans, scholarships, etc. However, if one plans ahead by saving for the purpose, it becomes a lot easier to pursue the goal. While earning prior to joining an MBA program, one can start to save a part of their salary for future use. The money may come in handy while handling various expenses related to MBA admission and study.



At work, everybody networks and make friends. This network can be useful in many ways while pursuing and post your MBA program. Your network can act as a group of trustworthy people you know, whom you can turn to, for mentorship, recommendations when required, or even look for job opportunities when the need arises. Students pursuing an MBA right after grad school may miss out on this big advantage.

If you are planning on applying for an MBA program, we recommend you take some time to think and weigh your options right.

While an MBA degree can work wonders for your career, approaching it in a planned manner will make your experience much more rewarding.

While it is not a mandatory requirement at all business schools, data shows that all reputed business schools globally recommend applicants to have some work experience before they apply for an MBA program. On average 3 to 4 years of work experience should be enough.

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Is it better to apply for MBA after gaining work experience?
Work experience exponentially increases the chance of an application acceptance. Applying for an MBA after gaining work experience is definitely recommended.

Why is work experience required before applying for an MBA program?
An MBA curriculum is designed to teach management and leadership skills. With prior work experience, students are able to grasp the learnings a lot quicker and better.

What kind of work experience is required for an MBA program?
MBA programs are open to all industries and sectors. Students with varied work experience join the programs. Example – Finance, Healthcare, Military, Retail, Technology, Human Resource, Manufacturing, Marketing, etc.

How much work experience is required to apply for an MBA degree?
Generally speaking, 3 to 4 years should be enough. There is no defined period. To get a better understanding, go through the past work experience class – average numbers given on university/college websites.

Does your own business count as work experience while applying for an MBA program?
Yes, it can count as work experience if one presents his/her learnings properly backed with evidence.

Can I not apply for an MBA program if I don’t have work experience?
Work experience is not a mandatory requirement. If you do not have any work experience, highlight your participation in extra-curricular activities including any social work.

How is work experience assessed during the application stage?
The admission committee looks for evidence of leadership and other relevant skills & learnings from the work experience.


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