Ask Kate: Years of Experience before MBA

Q: What is the optimal years of work experience one should have before attending a top MBA in order to maximize post-MBA earnings?

From what I understand, (correct me if I’m wrong), the post-MBA salary depends partly on how much work experience one had before an MBA.

For example, if an applicant who had 2 years of work experience is competing against a fellow classmate who had 5 years of work experience for the same position, the classmate with 5 years of work experience would probably be paid more. Is this correct?

Is there any advantage to applying for a top MBA with only 2 years of work experience under your belt?

yrs of experienceA:

Summary 4-5 years – but only if you get the right kind of pre-MBA experience: manage staff, run P&L, industry expertise….

If you’re hoping to work for one of the bulge bracket banks or large consulting firms there won’t be that much variation (within a firm) for the post-MBA position as you’ll all have the same title. Ranges are officially set and HR controls the process. People will get different offers – based on depth, not necessarily length of experience – but it is just as likely that the candidate negotiated a different offer.

Beyond that there’s too much variation to attribute different salaries to any one criterion. Work experience factors in at most places, but some will value military service and others will not or will discount it heavily.

In your 2 year and 5 year comparison, you are likely correct, however, if the 2-yr candidate is a rockstar and the 5-yr candidate is just “good,” I’ve seen offers be the flip of what you might expect. All things equal (and they never really are), the 5yr is likely to get an initially higher offer.

RE: advantage to applying with only 2yrs experience?

Usually not. Two years of work experience is usually when you hit your first “Wow this everyday job stuff sucks,” and the pull of carefree days in school becomes strong.

Adults (ppl over 30) know what you’re doing. You’re delaying the work of work. Very few, VERY FEW candidates are really qualified to be in a top MBA program with only 2 years of experience. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in – hey business schools need someone to pay the bills too – but only 2yrs work experience is rarely a wise move for your career. You are less likely to stack up against those with 4-5 years of experience so recruiting will be painful, and you’re less likely to contribute well in class so you’ll find it harder to get professors to connect you. Plus, eventually you’ll have to do the “work of work” and smart companies avoid hiring candidates who will flake out again in 2-3 years when work gets hard.



MBA Salaries are up, where?

1 thought on “Ask Kate: Years of Experience before MBA”

  1. What an efficient, forthright, ergo useful statement bearing all the aura of experienced authority! If I were asking that question, I’d absolutely follow your answer. Proud to have known you gain all that experience! (Tada)

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