Share this post

When putting together an MBA application, highlighting your work experience can be tricky. Do you feel you have enough work experience on your resume? Is your experience the ‘right’ kind? Confused about what should be included and ignored? Does it feel a lot like a test no one prepared you to take?

This article is designed to answer as many questions about the process as possible.

In this blog, we will discuss:

1. Is work experience mandatory for an MBA?
2. Will I earn more money if I have work experience?
3. MBA or MS, Decisions – Decisions!
4. What constitutes work experience?
5. What does not count though?
6. How much work experience – Required vs Recommended
7. The trickiest question – Quality
8. Webinar on Work Experience in an MBA Application

What kind of job experience is required for MBA?

Have you taken the GMAT before?

Is work experience mandatory for an MBA?

The question generally asked by all the MBA aspirants is whether or not work experience is mandatory. The short & simple response is – NO. Zero or a little work experience will not impact your ability to earn an MBA degree.

There was a time when a resume with no experience meant a direct rejection; however, changes and reformation have yielded options and programs for students who want to go straight from earning their undergraduate degree to enrolling for an MBA.

There are several MBA programs, which require varied work experience, ranging from zero work experience to 3+ years of experience in the relevant field. You need to find what works for you and your goals. You should, therefore, evaluate your aspirations and not rush into an MBA but rather prepare for this exciting journey.

Will I earn more money if I have work experience?

Prospective students often inquire as to whether or not they can earn as much with an MS, MEM, or MSc as they would with an MBA. The answer to this is – yes, but it is a conditional “yes.” Earning potential is comparable, as long as the school you attend is a “top university.”

Non-MBA venues to consider, such as a program in MEM, MS Finance or Accounting, can be invaluable to future management positions. Non-MBA options can thus be used as stepping stones to gain experience prior to obtaining an MBA. Programs like the MSc in Management procured at a top school such as HEC Paris, Manchester Business School, Oxford, LBS, ESADE, and LSE are solid precursors to an MBA.

For those sure they are ready to go after an MBA, some choices open to you include schools in India and outside.

An Indian B-School that allows you to apply with a reasonable GMAT of 690 and no work experience is SP Jain – Mumbai. The School offers a 2-year program designed to give the experience you will need. Another 2-year program that gives you the tools required while you earn an MBA is through a top Italian Business School, MISB by SDA Bocconi, which offers the “Mumbai track.” During the program, students spend the first year in Mumbai while in the second year, students study on campus in Italy.

Programs offered solely outside India are plentiful and innovative as well. We’ll cover three such unique opportunities for undergraduates to apply and be accepted into a 2+2 program. To qualify, you would have to be in your third year of undergraduate study. Once accepted you will be mentored throughout the remainder of your course and work for two years, earning the experience through the guidance of the college Professor mentoring you. At the end of these two years, you join the MBA class at their location. Universities offering a 2+2 program are Harvard, SUNY Buffalo, and Stanford.

In addition to those programs, there is the “Silver Scholar Program” at Yale University, which offers a comprehensive path to an MBA. Oxford offers a 1 plus 1 program which includes using the first year as a building block for studying basics, thus gaining valuable insight prior to the actual MBA program. Other colleges that offer an accelerated or early career MBA program include Rutgers, ISB, YLP, Chicago Booth, Carnegie Mellon, Tepper, and UIC.

Opening the door further reveals more opportunities – you can simply apply to a good mix of non-MBA and MBA programs that are geared for students with 0-2 years of work experience.

MBA or MS, Decisions – Decisions!

The question becomes – which path is better; Attend my MBA directly after school or perhaps gain some work experience before the MBA degree.

There are many B-schools, in India and overseas, that accept MBA applications without work experience. However, top business schools in the world give preference to applications with good work experience.

Well, this is for every individual to decide whether to go for experience or not, but the fact is – if you have little to no experience, and while not required, it is beneficial to gain experience leading ahead to an MBA.

For the question, how much work experience is good enough? We would say – work experience of 3 years and more is enough to get you through a good B-school in the world.

What constitutes work experience?

What counts as a ‘work experience?’ What is included, and what is discounted? Does it have to be in the field of your Bachelor’s degree or specifically in management?

These questions keep a person worried and wondering. However, the answer is as simple. Any job after your full-time Bachelor’s degree is counted as work experience, regardless of the field or position. While leadership roles are a plus, if you do not have any – it is not a negative.

What does not count though?

The work experiences gained during your undergraduate studies, internships you completed as an undergraduate student, and article ships. To stress this, jobs of any kind – volunteer work, training, and internships do not count as work experience if they were performed while you were completing your undergraduate studies and volunteer work. Volunteer work is not applicable during or post-bachelors either.

If you have performed a 3-year articleship in part or wholly post-earning your undergraduate degree, the portion that comes “after” graduating does count.

Gaps in your experience are acceptable; however, you will need to provide valid reasons why you were not employed or why you shifted companies. When tallying your months or years of experience with gaps in your employment history, the general rule of thumb is that it counts as continuous “IF” the gap is under 3 months – anything over, and you will need to discount those months.

How much work experience – Required vs Recommended

After the question – do I need experience, the other question that plagues students is, how much work experience is required for an MBA degree?

For this, you will need to check individual MBA schools that offer the program(s) you are interested in. One requirement you will need to meet is the amount of work experience they specify.

Some universities have 1-year programs which are strict on how much work experience is required or cut-offs. This is an avenue better suited for students with over 5 years of experience as those are geared toward a faster pace of students with the knowledge that comes with experience.

In India – the IIM Universities (across the board) all have required cut-offs which vary from 5 to 6 years. While in the UK, Schools specify a minimum of 3 years of work history. The cut-offs are strictly adhered to. Therefore, if the school says you require 60 months of employed history, and you have 59 months 3 weeks and 2 days, you will not be accepted into their program – they do not make exceptions to this rule.

Though, there is good news – there are schools that have dropped the ‘cut-offs’ and ‘required’ exposure, and now ‘recommend’ a specified amount of work experience. Opting to study in Europe, Asia, or Australia will allow you to get into an MBA program even if you fall short on the required experience. These top schools endeavor to look at quality alongside quantity to factor whether or not they should accept or reject you.

The trickiest question – Quality

We have all heard the phrase: Quality over quantity!

But what exactly makes up quality work experience for the MBA hopefuls?

It is not where you worked or the field so much as how well-rounded your experience is and how you stand out compared to your peers.

The goal of the committee is to fill the class with perspectives and diversity. The first glance they take is into the applicant’s field, as they do not want to fill the room with only Software Engineers as that would generate only one viewpoint and no variety. The next look is more in-depth, where the applicant’s career graph is measured against their peers. The committee will also evaluate the applicant’s essay and LORs to glean the best candidate for each spot in the program.

A well-written LOR or essay becomes an asset, while just jotting or listing can be the undoing and leave you on the sidelines. A quality essay will show what you have accomplished and how your feat stands out compared to your fellow applicants.


The bottom line is that the committee reviewing and selecting applicants is set to answer one question: Will this candidate be a successful alumnus?

So, whether you have experience – be it a little or a lot, it does not weigh as much as what your experience has done for you. Another thing that matters is how you convey the significance of your work experience to the committee. An applicant who has taken the time to include details that show where and how they have excelled will stand a greater chance of obtaining that vied seat in the program over one who has a lot of work experience but not the range of exposure.

Webinar on Work Experience in an MBA Application

Additional Resources –

Share this post