Why Work Experience is Important for MBA Students

by A Guest Author

working-mba-studentsIn today’s challenging economy, jobs are hard to come by, especially for new grads with limited experience in the workplace. Some jobseekers who haven’t had any luck are tempted to head back to school instead, thinking that earning an advanced degree will not only help improve their chances of getting a satisfying, well-paying job, but also fill their time until a position opens up. It's an opportunity to re-tool while the markets are down and get a change from the regular 9-5.

Graduate schools around the country, including online mba school, have all noticed an increase in applications since the economic downturn, but experts caution against using graduate school as a replacement for a job or as a method of avoiding looking for a job altogether. In fact, because competition for the best MBA programs, such as that offered by Scranton University online, work experience has become a more important factor when it comes to admission decisions – and what you have learned working in the “real world” is actually helpful to your successful studies.

Making Your Classes Better

When you apply to graduate school in pursuit of a MBA in healthcare management or any other specialization, admissions departments evaluate your work experience as much as – if not more than – your undergraduate GPA and coursework and your GMAT scores, if required. Not only does a solid track record of steadily increasing responsibility show that you have the necessarily dedication and skills to succeed in graduate school, but if you have some work experience there’s a good chance that you have the necessary background in the fundamentals of the field and you’ll be able to contribute in a positive way to your classes.

Graduate admissions departments strive to create class cohorts of students that represent a broad spectrum of experiences and backgrounds, while also sharing foundational knowledge. This is especially important in programs in which students entering the program at the same time follow the same sequence of courses; if a student does not have any experience, he or she will fall behind, and be unable to contribute to the class learning environment as much as others will

And it’s those contributions – the sharing of experiences, tactics, strategies and ideas – that add richness to the classroom environment. Instructors and textbooks are certainly important components of any course or program, but in any subject, experiential learning and shared ideas bring the concepts to life and show their applications to a real-life situation. That kind of experience can only come from working before you attend school.

How Much Experience Do I Need?

The specific amount – and type – of experience that you need varies according to your program. Some programs have hard requirements for work experience, such as a minimum of two years in a position related to your intended program of study. Executive MBA programs, accelerated programs designed for upper-level managers and executives, often require applicants to have at least ten years of experience before applying.

In general, you should plan to have about two to five years of experience within a single industry before applying to business school. That is enough time to grow beyond entry level work, and gain a solid understanding in the fundamentals of the industry.

Keep in mind that admissions representatives tend to frown upon “job-hopping” or working at multiple companies within a short period of time. Changing positions due to a promotion, or because of a company-wide layoff is fine, but if you consistently leave jobs on a regular basis, graduate schools may question your commitment – and how well you actually understand your industry, since you have not worked anywhere long enough to get a solid understanding.

Getting Experience – Without Getting a Job

It’s the classic conundrum: you need experience to get a job, but need a job to get experience. In fact, you're most desirable to a company when you already have a job. It's similar to being in relationships. If you can’t find a job in your industry (and don’t overlook entry-level or peripherally-related positions with potential for growth), gain experience through volunteer work and internships. This experience will enhance your application to grad school, and help you build the skills you need to succeed once you are admitted to the program.

Getting some work experience before you apply to grad school helps you clarify your goals, builds your maturity and provides experience that you can draw from during admissions interviews and during class. So before you start filling out applications out of desperation to do something while you look for a job, consider other alternatives and enjoy a more fulfilling educational program when you do finally get to school.

About the Author:  After working in healthcare communications for six years, Charlotte Watson recently decided to seek her MBA in healthcare administration. Her projected completion is date is June, 2014.

This post was written by A Guest Author

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Miguel November 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Experience is certainly critical with nearly every postgraduate degree, but MBAs have some higher standards to live up to.


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