College seniors: plan ahead for your MBA

In many disciplines, it is common for college seniors to pursue graduate studies immediately after completing their undergraduate degree.  This is the case for law and medical school as well as many types of master's and doctoral programs in the sciences and social sciences.  Conversely, students entering most MBA programs have between 3 and 6 years of full-time professional experience.

The graduate business curriculum requires students to draw upon their personal work experiences when discussing topics in class or analyzing case studies.  Regardless of the industry, work experience gives young professionals the opportunity to work in teams, begin to understand the "political" dimensions of the modern workplace, and take on formal or informal leadership roles from time to time.  All of these experiences give MBA students the perspective necessary to truly comprehend topics presented in core MBA classes such as organizational behavior, marketing, economics, and ethics.

Employers also strongly prefer to hire MBA graduates with significant pre-MBA work experience.  A recent employer survey conducted by the QS World MBA Tour indicated that only 29 percent of employers recruiting for MBA-level positions seek candidates with less than 3 years of full-time work experience.  Employers tend to prefer MBA graduates with 3 to 8 years of experience.

The Huffington Post recently ran an article written by Kara Apel, a college senior at the University of South Carolina, that I thought nicely summarized the reasons students should wait a few years before pursuing their MBA studies.  As she points out in the article, some students choose to pursue an MBA because they can't find a job and aren't sure what to do next.  Considering the investment of time and money an MBA requires, however, this is not a good long-term solution to the short-term challenge of finding employment.