Is Work Experience Required Prior to Enrolling in Graduate School?

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Updated August 4, 2020

Many prospective grad students are left asking the question "How valuable is work experience prior to graduate school?". If you have already decided that you will be earning your Master's or your advanced MBA degree at some point in time, you may want to create an educational plan and decide just what path you want to take. Unfortunately, the path that is right for one person may not be right for the next.

Some individuals will apply to attend school for their terminal Master's degree immediately after they graduate with a Bachelor's degree. Others will choose to take a break from their studies so that they can get practical hands-on experience before going for an advanced degree. What you might not know is there is not always a choice. Read on, and find out when there is a experience requirement for a graduate degree.

Varying Requirements for Varying Types of Graduate Degrees

Whether or not you will be required to have minimal or extensive experience will depend upon the type of graduate degree you want to earn. If you are striving to earn a terminal Master's degree, there is generally no professional experience requirement. This is because the Master's degree is an advanced degree program that focuses much more on theory. This is especially true if you are studying science or health, where the emphasis should first be placed in the classroom and then in the real world.

If you would like to pursue a professional Master of Business Administration in a specific concentration, you may actually be required to have real-world experience. Not all MBA programs have a work experience requirement, but a majority of the reputable programs do. How much experience is required depends on the type of MBA program you attend. General MBA's require 2 to 3 years of experience and Executive and Professional MBA's require upwards of 10 years of management or executive-level experience. The programs that do not require experience will focus more on experiential learning, building practical skills as you learn.

Is it Better to Get Experience even Without the Admissions Requirements?

Entering the real world can still be beneficial even if you are planning on attending a program with no professional experience admissions requirement. In fact, some experts say that it is best for undergrads to immerse themselves in the field of study at a professional level before they apply to a graduate school because of the personal and the financial benefits in doing so.

Some look at this break as a breather and others look at it as an opportunity get a competitive edge to apply to a highly sought after program. Having just 1 to 3 years of experience will certainly help and could also lead to paid-for tuition from your employer's tuition reimbursement program. You may also find that you do not enjoy working in the field, and can then decide to pursue a different graduate degree.

Even thought you may still be completing your Bachelor's degree program, it is still important to think about your plans for graduate school. You should consider the steps that you will take after graduation well in advance so that you have plenty of time to prep your application for your advanced degree. Once you know the requirements for graduate school admissions, you can then decide if getting work experience is a must or a choice.

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