Posted on Friday, November 28, 2008
Unlike for most educational courses, for an admission to an MBA course, almost without exception, one will needs at least three years of work experience in a managerial role. This figure can be even higher in some cases. It is a rare institute indeed that will accept very recent graduates to its MBA programme and this is usually done only for the most exceptional and talented students.
Why is work experience important?
There are a few reasons, which benefit both the school as well as the student, why you need to have experience under your belt before enrolling for an MBA programme.
Firstly, without experience, you cannot be sure that you are cut out for and genuinely interested in a career in business. Even if you do then you need to be aware of the field are you best suited for and your long-term goals. With the time as well as the financial commitment (some courses cost over US $100,000 if you factor in the sabbatical from your earnings as well as the costs of the course, relocation and so on) you will need to be absolutely sure that you are doing the right thing by pursuing an MBA degree.
Additionally, when participating in the case studies and peer group sessions that an MBA course consists of, you will be able to play a constructive and creative part in the discussions amongst people who, most likely, have spent quite some time in a managerial position.
Nunzio Quacquarelli, Managing Director of QS is one of the many experts who urge caution against opting for an MBA without any work experience. According to him, "Even if you are an exceptional student, and schools are fighting over themselves to offer you a place in an MBA programme, we advise against this simply because you won't be able to extract the most from your experience at the school. You won't be in a strong position to know exactly what you want, and to contribute fully to the programme. For your MBA course, experience is imperative."
Business schools, like the companies who employ MBAs, are also fighting a 'war for talent' and are in fierce competition to recruit the best candidates. In this respect, business schools spend considerable resources tracking down and recruiting the most appropriately talented individuals. This equals a higher success rate for their MBA graduates into the world's top companies, greater prestige for the school and, ultimately, a positive cycle of excellence the same as any other business would aspire to, including the opportunity to charge more for the education they offer.
While your academic background is critical - a good first class degree and GMAT scores to even be considered for the best courses - it is your personal qualities and work experience that will increase your prospects of being accepted for an MBA course. During case studies for your marketing module, for instance, you will need to bring your experience to the table and pass on your knowledge and expertise of your industry to your peers.
The world's top business schools believe that diversity of work experience, as well as background and nationality, breeds an atmosphere of international 'peer-learning'. You will benefit as much from your peers as from lecturers while pursuing an MBA.
However, the fad is towards an increasingly younger MBA intake. Statistics from the QS MBA Applicant Research 2007, where almost 5,000 aspiring MBAs were surveyed, show that the average age of people entering MBA programmes was down to 26.8 on average in 2007 (25.9 in Asia) compared with 28 in 2005. Incidentally, the average work experience among Indians is a little over two years, compared to the USA where people have a little more than five years of pre-MBA work experience.
Simon Stockley, Dean of the full-time MBA programme at Tanaka Business School at Imperial College in London concurs, "Though the average experience for an MBA at Tanaka is seven years, the trend is increasingly moving towards lesser experienced students because people want to graduate younger and get on with their careers. Since it's a global marketplace, people feel that they need to get their MBAs younger and still have time to relocate. However, it is also true that applicants of the right quality for us are also getting younger."
A career in business may not be a necessary prelude to pursuing an MBA, though chances are that your application will be unsuccessful if you do not have any work experience. However, if such is the case and you want to directly gain an admission into graduate business programmes, a master's is more likely to be the route for you. If you've had a few years of work experience and you want to move to the next stage, check then an MBA is definitely what you should be looking at. You can also personalise your selection of the best business schools in the world, according to the criteria that are most important to you by searching QS Search and Scorecard on
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