When you start your MBA journey, the application process can feel like a maze. What are the MBA admission requirements at your target schools? What does the MBA admissions process look like?
Luckily, whether you’re applying for a full-time MBA, an online or part-time MBA, or an Executive MBA program, the requirements are similar.
The main difference is you’ll likely need a lot more career experience to successfully apply for an Executive MBA, and one-year MBA programs in the US might require you to already have a business background.
The typical MBA requirements are:
- Work experience (MBA: 2-3 years; EMBA: 5+ years)
- Bachelor’s degree
- Recommendation letters
- Proof of English proficiency (e.g. TOEFL)
In our BusinessBecause MBA Application Guide 2021-22, we guide you through the key components of a successful MBA application, with exclusive insights and application tips from leading business school admissions experts.
We also list the latest full-time MBA application deadlines for the world’s top business schools.
Here’s an overview of the key MBA requirements from our guide:
Work experience is one of the MBA entry requirements that varies across program types. There are some MBA programs that are applicable to candidates with little or no work experience, but most will ask you for at least a few years of experience to meet their MBA eligibility criteria.
Full-time MBA programs typically require 2-3 years of work experience.
If you’re applying for an Executive MBA program, you’ll be required by most schools to have a strong level of work experience, usually more than 5 years. Students in the London Business School Executive MBA classroom have an average of 12 years' work experience.
Online MBA programs vary, with some programs requiring students to have only one year work experience, and others up to six, according to the BusinessBecause Online MBA Guide 2021.
Business schools require you to submit a copy of your undergraduate degree transcripts. Most schools look for a bachelor's degree, or international equivalent, from a recognized university.
However, this does not have to be specifically focused in business. Many schools are open to and actively encourage applicants from non-traditional MBA backgrounds.
While there is rarely a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement for MBA admissions, you should look at the average GPA and GPA range for the MBA class you’re applying to and assess your chances.
The GMAT is the leading standardized admission test for business schools. It tests your verbal and quantitative skills and measures your suitability for an MBA.
The GMAT test is a computer-adaptive test—it gets easier or harder as you answer the questions, depending on whether you get an answer right or wrong. Scores range from 200 to 800.
When you’re trying to figure out what is a good GMAT score, the best thing to do is research the average GMAT score at your target schools. The GMAT score range will also give you an indicator of whether you fall within the score range of the typical candidate at the school.
Your GMAT score is valid for five years, but if you’re not happy with your first score you can always take the test again. You can take either the test center version of the GMAT or the equivalent GMAT Online exam.
You’ll also need to upload your CV. But just like a job application, to stand out you’ll need to craft a winning MBA resume.
Your starting point should be figuring out what qualities your target schools look for. Then, build your resume around your chosen school’s values and culture.
Your MBA resume should:
→Avoid industry jargon. You’re resume audience is admissions officers, not industry-specific experts.
→Explain gaps in your work experience.
→Talk about extracurricular activities. You’ll want to focus on things that demonstrate leadership and teamwork and/or highlight individuality and diversity.
→Be concise. Most schools prefer one page.
→Focus on the bigger picture. For each role highlight how you grew in each position, additional projects you took on, promotions or awards you received, and impressive milestones you reached.
Schools will typically ask you for two MBA recommendation letters. Suitable recommenders include:
→Line manager (current or former)
→Colleagues you’ve worked with closely on projects
→Clients or suppliers
→Someone who’s seen you in a leadership role outside of work
Your letters of recommendation are your chance for your quality to shine through from an outside perspective. You should choose people based on how well they can describe your skills and leadership potential, rather than their level of seniority.
You should work closely with your recommender, and explain your reasons for pursuing an MBA, and your future plans. You should explain the process to them, and how they can tie your key attributes to the attributes your target schools value highly.
Your MBA application essays are your chance to tell business schools your story. You should focus on your personality, experiences, interests, and suitability to your target programs.
Essays are typically centered around your career goals and how a particular school’s MBA program will help you achieve those goals. Some schools are now asking you to consider the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic.
Example essay questions:
Harvard Business School: What more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?
London Business School: What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School program contribute towards these?
UCLA Anderson: How have recent events influenced the impact you would like to make in your community, career, or both?
HEC Paris: Imagine a life entirely different from the one you now lead, what would it be?
The biggest mistake you can make in your MBA essays is sending a template essay answer to multiple schools.
You should tailor your essay answers to the school you’re applying to. If English isn’t your first language, don’t worry. The essay is less about testing your ability to write in English and more about assessing your fit for the program.
Some schools—including INSEAD, Kellogg, and MIT Sloan—will also ask you to submit a recorded video essay where you’ll be required to introduce yourself and answer questions out loud.
Proof of English proficiency
An English proficiency test only falls under your MBA entry requirements if you attended an undergraduate institution where the sole language of instruction wasn’t English. You’ll need to sit one of the following English language tests:
→Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
→International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
→Pearson Test of English (PTE)
After you’ve submitted your online application, you’ll need to ace the MBA interview to secure your spot on your dream program. This might be face-to-face or via video.
Typical MBA interview questions include:
→Why an MBA?
→Why our business school?
→What are your long-term goals?
→How will you add value to the MBA program?
You may also need a Covid vaccine to study an MBA.
Many business schools in the US now require you to be fully vaccinated to start life on campus. You will need to be vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization (WHO).
The situation is more fluid in Europe and Asia, with schools adopting a wait-and-see approach. However, the best advice would be to check with the admissions staff at the schools you’re targeting and monitor the situation as it changes.
The MBA eligibility criteria can seem like a lot. By starting your application and having a clear idea of the various MBA requirements you can stand the best chance of success.