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Can a Student Opt for an MBA Program without Work Experience?

The article explains whether it's advisable to opt for an MBA program without work experience.

Kavitha Vijeyavelan

The top B schools are populated with students who have had some sort of work experience, prior to their MBA. The top B schools require applicants to have at least two years of work experience.

The Masters of Business Administration or the MBA is the ultimate study option that students can take up for a good career and salary boost. When it comes to business management, employers really look for this stamp of accreditation for many high positions. 
If you have been looking to take up an MBA program and have been unsure if you can apply for one even without any experience, read on and let us take you through a few pointers.
It is believed strongly that prior work experience is mandatory for any MBA program- as students with experience bring value to the MBA classroom experience. This is why MBA admission departments emphasize so strongly on you acquiring a wide range of experience in the business world, before you step foot in the classroom. 
MBA degrees are very much oriented towards gearing up its students to entering management roles, straight on graduation. In such cases, it works out favourably for the students and they would have their prior experience and the MBA as a strong foundation for some high-level management roles. 
Many top MBA programs offered by top notch institutions such as Wharton, Kellogg, and Harvard require students to have professional experience. Though it varies, most of the current available full-time MBA programs prefer students to have a minimum of one to two years experience, i.e. full-time work. On average, the amount of experience that students are required to have to enter top-tier business schools is generally three to five years.
How long should you ideally wait prior to the application? This completely depends on the quality of your professional role. The kind of questions you should be asking yourself are if you have made any significant impacts when working in the company, if you’ve been recognized for your efforts on the job or what your role has taught you. If you really don’t have a solid amount of experience and you want to start with your applications anyway, you should ask yourself if your profile is strong enough to compete against those who may be applying with experience.
Mostly, top B schools are populated with students who have had some sort of work experience, prior to their MBA.  It is found that 60-65% of the student population comes from some sort of investing, financial, or consulting background. Harvard Business School recommends 2-3 years of work experience and so does Kellogg. A class at Harvard Business School comprises of people from a variety of industries. Let’s have a look at how many come from what kind of work background: 
  • High Tech/Communications - 7%
  • Investment Banking - 11%
  • Investment Management - 4%
  • Manufacturing - 8%
  • Military - 3%
  • Non-Profit - 6%
  • Other Financial Services - 5%
  • Other Services - 8%
  • Venture Capital/Private Equity - 15%
  • Consumer Products - 5%
  • Healthcare/Biotech - 6%
  • Consulting - 23%
During the academic year 2012-13, Wharton had only 2% of its student population with less than two years of work experience (full time). This is only 15 out of 8,300 of its applicants- that is a 1:533 probability ratio! 
Going back to your earlier question, “Can I opt for an MBA even if I have no work experience?” The answer to this is yes! MBA programs are changing and different ones are designed to meet different needs. These kind of MBA programs are usually referred to as early career MBA programs. These are for recent college graduates and students with one to three years of experience. As an early career MBA student, you don’t have to wait to acquire years and years of professional work experience.
This, in a nutshell, is how the MBA program works the globe-over. The choice of work experience is absolutely in your hands- so choose wisely.
Begin your MBA journey now, with us right here - go through some of our course listings on MBA programs and get started right away!
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