Work experience is an integral factor in MBA admissions. The average work experience at full-time MBA programs is about four years. But what exactly do admissions officers look for when it comes to work experience? US News recently discussed how work experience influences MBA admissions and why accomplishments are particularly important.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
While the average work experience for top MBA programs falls around four years, experts say, there isn’t a required number of years that admissions officers are looking for. Rather, business schools care much more about the quality of work experience over the number of years.
“Often applicants see the average years of work experience on admitted student profiles and think it is the magic number to acquire in terms of length of experience,” Emily Archambeault, former director of master’s admissions at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, tells US News. “We aren’t looking for a specific number of years of work experience, but rather the quality of work and professional maturity. For some applicants, professional maturity comes more quickly than the average and the growth they have in a short period of time allows them to be highly competitive in the admission process.”
Career progression is another aspect that admissions officers like to see.
“It is helpful to see progression in responsibilities which is often reflected in title changes, project leadership, or management roles,” Archambeault says. “This progression indicates to the Admission Committee that the applicant is growing their skillset, recognized within their organization for their contributions and leadership skills, and has the ability to continue growing into more senior roles post-MBA.”
Regardless of whether you get a promotion, experts say there are always ways to highlight career growth in your resume.
“Even within a flat organization with no title change, you can still show career progression on your resume,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says. “Review your accomplishments and see how you can portray them in a way that reveals your professional growth. Each time your responsibilities grew, you can describe it in a bullet point with the date.”
An impressive title at a prestigious company can be an advantage in the admissions process, but experts say accomplishments are more impressive than employer name.
Furthermore, Nikhil Varaiya, a finance professor at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business and the school’s former director of graduate programs, says a fancy title is only impressive if an applicant has the experience to back it.
“A VP title for somebody who has just worked two years would not be credible,” he tells US News.