Recommended work experience for MBA applicants

Practical experience forms an important part of an MBA application. But what kind of work experience pays off best? An expert recommends management training rotations at established companies as solid preparation.


A common misconception among MBA hopefuls is the need to have an impressive job title at a high-profile company in order to get accepted to a top graduate business school, writes US News. But according to an MBA programme administrator this is not always necessary.

Nikhil Varaiya, director of graduate programmes at the San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business, conceded that whilst it was helpful to have worked at well-known companies like Amazon, Google or General Electric, a lot of different work experience could also be used to woo admission officers. "For example, if somebody has worked, let's say, in the Peace Corps for two years, they may not have worked for an employer, but I find that very compelling," he told US News.

Often the place where someone has worked is less important than the success stories that an applicant can recall from his time in the work force (ideally between three to five years).

Varaiya appreciates it particularly for example when business school applicants have been part of management training rotations at established companies as these applicants have experienced different areas in a business and know much better what career path might ultimately be the right one for them.

However, the expert also sees benefits from work at startups as these candidates usually have a well-rounded understanding of business and because their work demands versatility. Public service jobs in the military or government can also add leadership experience. "They are an attractive group for us, simply because these people are very disciplined, hardworking and take their responsibilities seriously," he told the US medium.