The fact of the matter is that having some work experience prior to pursuing an MBA is almost always a good choice. MBA programs are largely designed to capitalize upon the knowledge the students bring with them to the classroom. In fact, not long ago universities nationwide almost always required a candidate to be able to demonstrate some degree of field experience for them to even be considered for admittance into their programs.
The average total years of work experience for students enrolled in present day MBA programs is 4 years, and 3-5 years of work experience is normally recommended by most admissions offices. Of course, just what exactly constitutes work experience is up for debate. Some students enter a program with as little as one year of work experience while others might have well over 10 years of experience. Some MBA students gained their experience working for large corporations, while others worked for smaller companies. This variation in previous work experience often helps to facilitate engaging and informative classroom discussions.
There are other benefits to gaining work experience prior to enrolling in an MBA program. In the first place, individuals with work experience may be more likely to find on-campus employment. Second, the more work experience you have the more mature you may be in your work ethic and style of learning. Third, the more experience you have, the more you may be able to interact with professors and peers on a deeper level. Finally, your work experience might help you to develop a solid plan for your future. You will already be familiar with where you want to go because you have already been there. This knowledge may help you focus your academic endeavors in a way that helps you frame the way you engage the classroom material.
Of course, there are also drawbacks to entering into an MBA program after investing time and effort into building your career. Individuals who choose to take time out from their current position to pursue an MBA are foregoing wages they would have otherwise collected, and depending on a person’s retirement plans, they may not be able to capture the full return on investment that stands to be gained from earning an advanced degree. It is up to the individual to define the point in their career when earning an MBA makes the most sense for them. This “sweet spot” may be when the person feels they have enough relevant work experience to fully engage in coursework, but are planning on working for a number of years after they earn their degree so they have the opportunity to take full advantage of the potential professional benefits. As you take the time to determine when the best time to earn an MBA degree is for you, keep in mind the knowledge gained during your MBA is largely dependent on a full understanding of the material and its possible application.
Written by University of Pennsylvania graduate and freelance writer Kevin Hughes and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of GradSchools.com. If you are interested in earning an MBA, find out here