When I used to travel to applicant fairs to represent London Business School, I’d commonly be approached by candidates asking, “I want an MBA but don’t have any full-time work experience. Can I study at your school?” While the answer in that instance was “no”, the conversation never ended there. The discussion would then turn to the options for those who don’t meet the work experience requirement of most MBA programmes, but who have the desire to pursue graduate management study and start making their mark in the business world.
2 pre-experience MBA options
Two of the most commonly pursued paths for candidates applying for an MBA without work experience include pre-experience master’s programmes and deferred MBAs:
#1 Pre-experience/early career programmes
These terms are used interchangeably, but they both refer to those programmes that cater to recent graduates (“recent” meaning 0-3 years out of undergraduate). While this category started with the general management MiM (master’s in/of management), the portfolio of programmes now includes master’s in finance, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and data analytics, to name but a few of the courses you might find available at business schools today.
Applicants fitting into this category are commonly referred to as pre-experience or early-career candidates, and this market continues to grow; according to the 2017 Tomorrow’s Masters report by CarringtonCrisp, “67% of respondents were looking at a business master’s programme as an alternative to an MBA.” While pursuing a programme like an MiM doesn’t negate the need for the MBA later down the road (indeed you will find individuals who have both an MiM and MBA), these programmes are excellent options for recent graduates looking to start their careers in the business world.
There are a myriad of reasons as to why a graduate may want to pursue their studies now versus waiting to pursue an MBA – they may be looking to specialise in a specific area, such as finance or marketing early on in order to enter a specific function. Or they might be looking to “convert” their liberal arts or science degree into a business career. Whatever the reason, these degrees provide graduates with an excellent foundation and help students build the skills, knowledge, careers support, and network to get a head start in their career.
#2 Deferred MBA admissions
This may be slightly confusing considering the mention of MBA. What deferred admissions means is that you apply while you are in your final year of study (or just after) and before starting full-time work. If you are accepted, you receive a guaranteed seat to join after spending a couple of years in the working world.
These programmes are a great option as they offer security (yay, no having to worry about studying for the GMAT and writing your applications alongside your busy work schedule!) and add some clout to your resume (wow, already accepted to an MBA before even graduating? Impressive!). Of course, as with anything there are pros and cons, so it’s important to think about whether committing yourself to a deferred programme makes sense with your career aims, or whether you will need some flexibility and the ability to change path in those first couple of years after graduating.
Some programmes are open to students from any university (Harvard’s 2+2), and others are open only to the school’s undergraduate population (University of Pennsylvania’s Moelis Advance Access Program). There are also scholarship programmes, such as NYU’s William R. Berkley Scholarship Program, which not only provides early entry to their MBA, Tech MBA, or Fashion & Luxury MBA, but also full funding. Regardless of entry criteria or offering, these programmes are incredibly competitive, so you’ll need to prepare your best application.
For more information on applying for an MBA without work experience
If these options sound interesting, but you’re still unsure of whether it makes sense to study for a master’s now or wait to pursue an MBA, check out this podcast episode where we discuss the differences in the degrees and points for consideration.
While an MBA is the ultimate education goal for many, if you’re not yet eligible for an MBA because you have no work experience, but know you want to pursue a business master’s, you have options. Start researching and contacting schools to see what options are out there for you, and what can bring you closer to your dream of making an impact in business.
The important thing here to remember is that you CAN apply for an MBA with no work experience, but it’s not without its challenges. And Accepted can help! Explore our MBA Admissions Consulting Services and work one-on-one an experienced advisor who will help you create an application strategy that will get you accepted!Jamie Wright has more than eight years of recruitment and admissions experience at London Business School, and is the former Admissions Director for Early Career Programmes at LBS. Originally from the U.S., Jamie is now based in London. Want Jamie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch with Jamie Wright.