How Much Relevant Work Experience Do I Need to Gain Admission and Get the Most out of the MBA?

Aug 30, 2013
Tags: Admissions Process, Work Experience

John AlbaneseSubmitted by John Albanese, director, Full-Time MBA Program, Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College

MBA candidates come in all shapes and sizes, proverbially speaking. Most programs will be looking at your professional experiences when evaluating your application, but not necessarily looking for “relevant” experiences. While you certainly will find MBA students in your class with substantial backgrounds in traditional fields such Finance, Marketing, and Accounting you may also find many other students – perhaps even the majority – from professions outside of these areas.

Download FREE GMATPrepWhat Admissions Committees Are Looking For

An admissions committee will not be evaluating your resume as if you are applying to a specific job. We are not hiring you, but rather trying to determine the skills, responsibilities, accomplishments, and professional maturity you have developed over time and whether they tell us something about your readiness to distinguish yourself among MBA peers. You may intuitively see these qualities in a candidate who is a CPA, equity analyst, or market researcher. But what about someone who has worked in a development agency fighting urban poverty, a director of independent films, or a construction project manager? If any of these latter MBA candidates – provided they also possess other strong academic credentials, GMAT scores, essays, etc. – aspire to make a career transition into a more traditional MBA field or advance in their current field, these professional experiences may be assets that you would want to emphasize rather than dismiss. In other words, tell us how you believe they are relevant to your career goals.

The MBA Is Not a Vocational Degree

Being well-rounded is a good thing, not only as an aspiring MBA candidate but more importantly for your own professional growth. Most employers do not expect your past experience or business school education to make you into a subject matter expert or specialist; training specific to the internship or job will occur on the job.  But they do expect MBAs to be well-prepared, have the ability to master challenging and often ambiguous situations, and come up with creative solutions to problems. From that perspective, you can see how you can build a competitive set of credentials by drawing from varied professional and academic experiences.