If you do not have practical experience, an MBA will not be fully beneficial to you and you will not be able to contribute to the class as required. However, MBA programmes do exist which focus on fresh graduates and emerging leaders, and which will accommodate you perfectly even if you have not yet had a full-time job.
How age range matters to you
It will be crucial to identify MBA programmes with an MBA age range (or average age) which fits yours. No doubt there is always something to learn from and to be contributed by both younger and older peers. It is essential that you are aware of your preferences about the age range of your MBA class and have solid arguments for your aspirations. Business schools usually select candidates based on the diversity and relevance of their background and experience to the goal and focus of the MBA programme, not their age.
MBA age vs. work experience
Schools do not usually quote age limits. Rather, they have requirements for the number of years of full-time relevant experience. Requirements might be simply for a minimum number of years, for minimum and maximum or just maximum. Most full-time MBAs require at least two or three years of full-time experience. To qualify for an Executive MBA you will usually need at least five years of professional experience or even some managerial responsibilities.
MBA age range
Depending on the educational system applicants come from, they might be eligible to apply for an MBA as early as 22, if they left school at 17, got their Bachelor’s degree in three years and worked for two years immediately after graduation.
When it comes to the upper age limits, then it is more a question of relevance of the MBA and return on investment (ROI). If you are close to your fifties and you have not yet succeeded in reaching your career potential, why do you think an MBA will help you? If you have been successful so far in management and business, why would you invest in an MBA? These are important questions you have to answer honestly.
If you find the right arguments, then it might be very relevant to do an MBA. If you are around your forties, you still have about 20 active professional years ahead and you can still grow into top positions or consultancy. So it is still relevant to do an MBA.
Check out: The ROI of MBA Programmes
Where to find MBA age data
Business schools provide detailed information that can help you identify the right fit of programme for your aspirations. When researching schools, look into the ‘class profile’ statistics on the schools’ websites and/or in their brochures. They will usually quote ‘age range’, ‘average age’ or ‘median age’ as well as years of professional work experience. You can also find data on the positions and sectors from which the students in the latest MBA class originate.
Checking the class profile data will be a first step for you to visualise your future peers. Thus you can consider how you can learn from them, how you will contribute, and whether this age group of peers, who will be your immediate business contacts, fit your career goals.
US vs European MBAs
Here are some statistics which might be helpful for your initial orientation. US business schools usually require just two years of full-time work experience. So, US MBA classes attract younger professionals and the average age in full-time MBA programmes is about 28 years. US programmes are traditionally two years long, so aspiring professionals tend to apply earlier in order to have more time to capitalise on their MBA degree.
Full-time European MBA classes normally have older students than those in the US. The average age is about 30-32 years. Students are usually more mature and have longer work experience. One of the reasons for this is that many European business schools require at least three years of full-time experience at the time of application. Also, the fact that most European MBAs are just one year (even 10 months) give more flexibility. This allows professionals to advance in their career before they rush back to business school for a business degree.
The bottom line is for you to think carefully about your preference in terms of the experience and age of the MBA class. What learning environment will be most nurturing to you? Do you prefer a more mature class or a younger group of professionals? Where do you see most opportunities for building beneficial business contacts?
Check out: How Do You Finance an MBA and Masters?