A Master's in Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most sought-after degrees in the business world, promising a significant salary increase and a quick passage up the corporate ladder. No matter what industry you work in, an MBA can give you an edge over competitors when aiming for a promotion. So how do you know when you're ready to take this important career step?
Technically, there's never a bad time to start the journey towards getting an MBA, but success rates differ depending on age and work experience. In some rare cases, a student will go straight into their MBA program directly after graduating, but this is encouraged only under exceptional circumstances. More often than not, universities prefer their MBA candidates to have at least three years of work experience in a real-world business environment.1
There’s not one single type of MBA student. People decide to earn MBAs for many different reasons. Common reasons include:
- Changing fields
- Advancing with their current employer
- Changing employers
- Growing their professional network
- Broadening or updating their skills
- Improving their marketability
Different types of MBA programs have evolved to meet the different needs and life situations of students, and the average age of MBA students varies across schools and MBA program types.
So What's the Right Amount of Work Experience?
Unlike a typical undergraduate degree, MBA programs tend to be less theoretical and more focused on practical examples in the business world. This is a key reason that universities prefer a mix of students with experience from a range of backgrounds and industries. These students tend to bring fresh ideas and new examples of how businesses operate on a day-to-day basis.
So don't worry if you feel like you may have missed the boat, rest assured that businesspeople of all ages are ideal candidates for an MBA. You don't even have to take time out of your job—with modern online university courses, you can earn an MBA in your spare time from the comfort of your home.
What's the Average Age of MBA Students?
Recent data shows clear differences in the years of work experience and average age of MBA students in full-time, part-time and executive (EMBA) programs.
Full-time program students average about 27 years old when starting their MBA programs. This fits in with the three to six years of work experience most graduate students have before starting their MBA. Most full-time U.S. MBA students have an average of five years of work experience.2
The flexibility and convenience of part-time and EMBA programs attract older students, who may already earn good salaries and have more extensive family commitments. The average age of MBA students in part-time programs is 29, and they average six years and seven months of experience. EMBA students average nearly 39 years of age on program entry and have an average of almost 15 years of experience.3
Because MBA programs integrate peer-to-peer learning, universities strive to admit diverse students and create MBA cohorts with various experiences.4 Extreme age differences between students may create a cultural mismatch, but effective communication across cultural differences is a widely sought soft skill that business schools seek to develop.5
The COVID pandemic accelerated changing perceptions about online education. Online MBA applications spiked in 2019-2020, and many more people realized their value. Online programs not only allow greater flexibility in scheduling coursework but also minimize geographic barriers to attendance.6
What Are the Pros and Cons of Certain Ages?
Technically, there is no specific age that is any better or worse to earn an MBA. The average age of MBA students is just that, an average. It doesn’t determine what age you should be when you enroll. What's more important is the amount of work experience you have, your qualifications and career goals, and whether you have something unique to offer the course. The best MBA programs have a wide variety of students of all ages from all walks of life, each contributing their own knowledge and experiences to the class.7
Younger students tend to lack the insights and worldliness of older, more experienced candidates but usually have more up-to-date knowledge of modern business concepts, particularly in technology. MBA candidates with only two to three years of work experience likely graduated with exceptionally high marks and chose to get started on their MBA early. Where they lack real-life business experience, they will likely bring strong theoretical and academic knowledge to the course.
Older students tend to bring a wealth of real-world experiences to an MBA course, offering practical knowledge that can only be learned from years working in a corporate environment. Much of how business is genuinely conducted in the corporate world cannot be taught in a classroom, so these insights are crucial to a well-rounded MBA course.8
However, if it has been eight years or more since they graduated, older students might find they struggle with some newer concepts found in today's university curriculums. Fortunately, they can work with younger students to trade their invaluable life experience for help with learning the more modern concepts. In this way, we can see how both younger and older students contribute meaningfully to an MBA class.
Secure Your Future Now With an Online MBA
If you're ready to take that important next step in your career, you can't beat an MBA for its powerful career-broadening opportunities. Whether you plan to start your own company or one day become CEO at your current employer, an MBA will teach you everything you need to know about running a business.
If you're concerned about the financial and career implications of taking time off work, never fear—with an Online MBA program, you can do classes when it is convenient for you and never miss a day in the office. No matter your age or work situation, an Online MBA from Seattle University can help you to achieve your dreams of corporate success.
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2016/03/08/why-older-mba-applicants-need-to-be-wiser
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from poetsandquants.com/2019/11/27/average-age-work-experience-at-top-mba-programs
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/how-much-work-experience-do-i-need-for-mba-programs
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from mba.com/explore-programs/choose-and-compare-programs/how-old-is-too-old-for-business-school
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-job-skills-report/
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2020/11/aacsb-quick-take-survey-on-covid-19-business-school-enrollment-impacts
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, poetsandquants.com/2018/03/22/improve-your-mba-odds-if-youre-30
- Retrieved on August 1, 2022, crackverbal.com/mba-after-30/