The Ultimate Guide to Work Experience Requirement for MBA Abroad

Rachit Agrawal
Modified on 2018-02-24 in MBA
Read time: 5 mins

Source: Fulbright Belgium, Luxembourg and EU

One of the most important requirement for the MBA schools is work experience. In fact, more importantly, it is the right type of work experience, that is with relevance to your intended course. However, there are some lucky one who make to the top MBA schools without work experience. But, you would want to do things the right way. So, what should ideally be the nature or quality of the experience so as to win you an MBA admission? or What type of work experience is required for MBA abroad?

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What’s the Right Amount of Work Experience for MBA Applications?

The most common MBA query is, How much experience is good? So, here we shall discuss the most sought after US programs that have just the right requirement, that is,5 years. Note that this is experience when you will enter/start the program. Here are some of the many known M7 business schools-

1. School (M7)-Harvard
Average incoming experience (yrs)-3-5
Average Age (yrs)-27

2. School (M7)-Wharton
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5
Average Age (yrs)-28

3. School (M7)-Stanford
Average incoming experience (yrs)-4
Average Age (yrs)-28

4. School (M7)-Columbia
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5
Average Age (yrs)-28

5. School (M7)-Chicago Booth
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5
Average Age (yrs)-27.9

6. School (M7)-MIT Sloan
Average incoming experience (yrs)-4.8
Average Age (yrs)-28

7. School (M7)-Kellogg
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5.2
Average Age (yrs)- 28

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Not just in the US, we spanned through the European programs as well. Here they are-

1. School- INSEAD
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5.7
Average Age (yrs)- 29

2. School- HEC
Average incoming experience (yrs)-6
Average Age (yrs)- 30

3. School- LBS
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5
Average Age (yrs)- 29

4. School- IE
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5
Average Age (yrs)- 29

5. School- Oxford
Average incoming experience (yrs)-5.1
Average Age (yrs)- 28

6. School- Cambridge
Average incoming experience (yrs)-6
Average Age (yrs)- 29

7. School- IMD
Average incoming experience (yrs)-7
Average Age (yrs)-  31

This suggests that for the Europeans, the requirement exceeds the previous one with at least a year.  The next problem is that most of the European programs are less than 2 year long programs too. So, the calculations then suffer in the end. In addition, MBA after 30 is usually a gamble almost all across the globe.

In context of the range of experience, the average works and there is no pressure to conform to norms.

What is ‘Good’ Work Experience for B-Schools?

After the ‘how many years’ part, we’ll have to burst the bubble and reveal that all experiences are not considered equally by all B-Schools. Then what do they evaluate? Here’s more insight for you to understand things better,

Leadership experience

By leadership, your formal leadership experience is put in question. Here, of course, quality supersedes the quantity of work you have done. In addition, the prime focus is your leadership and the managerial qualities that shine through that work experience. The focus is one the impact that you have created/delivered – for your clients, your organization, society or to yourself.


Another of the soft aspects which is really tough to characterize, but we’ll try with a few examples here too. In any job, one needs soft skills and technical skills. The key is to assess and showcase how many skills your work has provided which are transferable – both for your MBA classroom and beyond.

Professional Maturity

One could say that this is a sub-layer of leadership. This is an attribute which shows how well you’ve developed personally as a result of all those years of experience you’ve piled on. It is for instance the ability to manage conflicts in geographically spread teams or the poise of dealing with teams having folks from all over the world.

Now, few common questions/scenarios on the quality of experience,

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Big company vs small company experience: Which is better?

A big global brand can definitely get you instant recognition. Thus,the adcom would not have to think twice about the quality/nature of experience in the profile.Things are different if you can bring in a lot more at a smaller firm or even a startup. If working at a small company ticks the box on some/all of these, then go for it.

Family business experience?

In the eyes of international MBA programs though, family business experience is definitely considered. Then,depending on what you’ve done there, could even be meatier than a traditional role at a big firm. If your family business is a huge and known immensely things are easier.However, the onus again lies on you to bring life to your experience and detail out all aspects of it that you manage.

Will business schools consider my internship experience?

The deciding factor for internship work evaluation is the nature of internship as well as the particular school you are applying for. It is not counted as experience, if you’ve done something substantial as part of it, you can and should always showcase this in your application.

Does part-time experience count?

In the case of internships, it is always good to show these and more importantly, explain what you gained out of it/impact you created. The essence is what you accomplished from the work you did and your achievements; but only secondly.

Will too many job changes hurt my MBA application?

How about job switching and only an average work experience, how does that count; if it does? The answer is yes, t does matter and can portray this can show lack of commitment/clarity. In case the reason behind your career moves are clear, it would only be a slight handicap.

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About the Author

Rachit AgrawalRachit believes in the power of education and has studied from the top institutes of IIIT Allahabad, IIM Calcutta, and Francois Rabelias in France. He has worked as Software Developer with Microsoft and Adobe. Post his MBA, he worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group across multiple geographies US, South-East Asia and Europe.

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