MBA: No Experience Necessary?

One question has been a reason of frequent debate – pursue MBA just out of college or after gaining a fair bit of work-experience. Nowadays, many MBA aspirants are entering business schools straight out of college, without having any work experience. We asked a few such students and the major reason they gave is that they did not want to bring an abrupt break in their lives and go back to school, rather they believe it’s better to get done with your studies in one go and then start with your professional lives.

While majority of  international M.B.A.s still have at least five years of work experience under their belts, more applicants are considering business schools earlier in their careers—in some cases, without any work experience at all.

People younger than 24 are the fastest-growing group among those who take the Graduate Management Admission Test, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. From 2004 to 2009, their numbers grew an average of 24% a year. In 2010, roughly 40% of applicants to full-time M.B.A. programs had less than three years of work experience, the council says.

Some business schools have embraced the trend, easing their requirements for work experience or even creating programs specifically for younger applicants. At the same time, some professors and administrators are worried that this inexperience will cause a hindrance to the job prospects on graduation.

Youth-Centric Programs

A surge in applications to business schools by people who have little or no experience, has prompted schools to start specific programs for them. The Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola University Maryland launched the Emerging Leaders M.B.A. It’s an accelerated, 12-month degree designed for recent college graduates.

“These students are looking to jump-start their careers,” says Karyl Leggio, Ph.D., Sellinger’s dean. The students’ time will be split among classroom studies, field studies in Silicon Valley and Barcelona, and internships. “We provide real-world experience to help accelerate their careers,” since they don’t have the years on the job that older M.B.A.s do, says Dr. Leggio. “It’s sort of internships on steroids.”

In other cases, schools are accepting students while they’re still in college, for admission after a set period of work experience. For instance, Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program guarantees accepted undergraduates a spot in a future class, as long as they graduate and get two years of approved work experience. In its inaugural year, the school received 630 applications for the class of 2013 and admitted 106.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business also has a deferment program. Students can apply for admission while in their senior year of college and can choose a start date of one to three years after they graduate.

Talent Acquisition

“Fundamentally, we are in a market for talent,” says Derrick Bolton, director of admissions at Stanford’s business school. “When you see really talented people, you want to lock them in.”

Some companies believe a younger graduate is likely to have more-reasonable expectations than an older graduate would for his or her first job out of business school, which would appeal to recruiters who complain about 30-year-old newly minted M.B.A.s demanding outrageous salaries and expecting to run the company from day one.

Harvard Business School designed its 2+2 program to yield a different kind of diversity. The students accepted through that program in its first year, for enrollment next fall, included only 3% who studied business administration as undergrads; the rest studied engineering, natural sciences, humanities or social sciences. By comparison, about a quarter of the students entering the school this year were business majors in college.

Is this actually beneficial for students?

A lot of professors, administrators as well as recruitment consultants believe that students’ real-world perspectives are a big part of the learning process. Professors often agree that  students with work experience make better contributions to classroom discussions and hence make the most out of the M.B.A.

Five years ago, SMU started the MBA Direct program, for applicants with little or no work experience. In each of the past few years, they have admitted only a handful of candidates directly out of college.

This year, not confident that they would land jobs at graduation, they admitted none.

Conclusion

The question will always remain a cause of debate. Personally, I feel it is important for students fresh out of college to gain some amount of practical experience and then take up an M.B.A. education. It might take a few more years initially, but it will definitely help in the long run.

About Prateek Panda

Prateek is an entrepreneur with a passion for business and business studies. He loves reading, photography, music and is a technology journalist too. He runs a tech news and startup review site, TheTechPanda.com. You can know more about him at About.Me/PrateekPanda

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