Typical MBA Candidates
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Typical MBA Candidates

Pursuing MBA

Popular stereotypes of MBAs—the buttoned-down suit or ruthless CEO portrayed in the movies—may be entertaining but are hardly real. 

In fact, we know from years of experience is that there really is no such thing as a "typical" MBA.

With today’s global spread of the MBA degree and the wide variety of business schools, there are millions of MBAs who represent different nationalities and cultures, different career paths, and different backgrounds. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education showed that MBAs studying in the United States were more diverse than students in any other graduate program. So, who are MBAs? Could you be one of them?

In general, MBA candidates have determined an MBA is likely to further their personal and career goals and have found the right school and program for them. And the admissions staff at their school has decided that their experience, qualifications, and goals show a strong possibility for success as MBA grads.

There’s no magic formula for the perfect undergraduate major, set of academic achievements, pre-MBA work experience and extracurricular accomplishments, essays, interviews, or references. Nor is there a common career goal or industry in which they aspire to work. What MBAs have in common is motivation, self-knowledge, realistic career goals, and a desire to learn and grow.

Pre-MBA Work Experience

Talk to MBAs, and you're likely to meet one who has:

  • Worked in investment banking (well, maybe two)
  • Run a nonprofit company
  • Worked in sales
  • Worked as an engineer
  • Been a policy analyst for a government organization
  • Worked as a consultant
  • Worked as a copywriter for an ad agency
  • Designed websites
  • Worked as a compensation analyst for a corporation
  • Been an auditor
  • Worked as a researcher or an economist 

The MBA is right for all these people—as long as they show management talent and a track record of performance in their pre-MBA work, the two things employers look for in new MBA hires.

Academic Preparation

Because MBAs are such a diverse group, all college majors are acceptable preparation, with a few additional considerations:

  • Not all schools have the same undergraduate priorities. Some may favor technical undergraduates, while others may favor language majors who are minimally bilingual. Still other schools want both.
  • You will need certain quantitative and analytical preparation for most programs, such as calculus, statistics, and economics. If you did not take these courses in college, MBA programs may require you to take some courses before you enroll, so you'll be ready to do well in the core curriculum.
  • Academic performance does matter, but how performance is judged will vary from school to school. Some schools will give consideration to difficult majors (such as engineering) or prioritize candidates from particularly competitive schools. The combination of your academic achievement over a period of time and your GMAT® score gives MBA admissions staff a good sense of your academic preparation for the MBA.

MBA Career Goals

Take a look at the goals of various MBAs –you’ll quickly see how versatile this degree really is in preparing candidates for a range of fields and industries. If you've used the CareerLeader online self-assessment, you know that there are distinct MBA career paths. To figure out how your experience could help further your progress toward a specific career goal, consider whether you have the skills and abilities required of someone in your desired dream job. Then find out how many graduates are placed in your targeted profession by the school(s) you like.

When to Get Your MBA

Most MBA students are ages 25 and 34, but many people go for an MBA earlier or later. Many decided to apply only after knowing that they had enough career experience and insight to set practical goals and how their MBA investment would pay off personally and professionally.

Every job has a plateau, where your skill level reaches its limits; this is when the MBA can help you get to the next level. Only you can determine when it’s the right time for you to go back to school, in terms of your learning curve and your finances.