Work Experience Requirements
for the Wharton MBA

Many MBA hopefuls ask how much work experience is required before applying to an MBA program or to be considered a competitive candidate when applying to business school. At Wharton, there is no requirement or minimum amount of work experience required before applying. Applicants can get a sense of the work experience and background of our most recently admitted class by checking out our Class Profile.

Average Work Experience for Wharton MBA

How much work experience do most accepted students have? Is there a particular type of work experience Wharton seeks?

The average student has worked for five or six years between graduating from college and entering the MBA program. The Wharton MBA program does accept early career candidates with limited or no experience who exhibit strong managerial and professional potential. Our Admissions Committee looks for individuals who exhibit professional maturity. In other words, we evaluate work experience not in terms of years, but the depth and breadth of an individual’s position, his or her contributions to the work environment, and level of responsibility and progression.

Wharton looks for diversity in the professional backgrounds of its admitted students just as it does in all other parts of our applicants’ profiles. No one industry is favored over another, and experience in a Fortune 500 company does not have higher value than experience in a small business or public institution.

Best Ways to Get Work Experience Before Your MBA

When an MBA program is in your future, it’s important that you think strategically about the type of jobs you take as you build your work experience in preparation for the MBA application. For the Wharton MBA program, we look for candidates who work well in a team environment and who are able to build strong relationships. Your resume should show the impact and influence you have in the workplace. While you’re gaining work experience, build out a well-rounded resume by being selective in the roles you take and being a part of competitive projects within your role. Be sure to seek out opportunities to lead, even if you’re not in a formal management role.

Tips for Adding Work Experience to Your Application

Your resume is an excellent opportunity to provide extra details and color to the information you’ve already submitted via the application form questions. Typically, Wharton MBA applicants organize their resume into four sections: Work Experience; Education; Leadership & Activities; and Interests. No matter which way you organize your resume, be sure to keep it all to one page when applying to the Wharton MBA program.

Under the Work Experience section, show us your career progression through your job titles and responsibilities. We prefer to see your current role at the top of the resume, and we recommend only listing 4-5 bullet points under each role you’ve held. Remember, you’re applying to business school, not your next job. We don’t need to see every project you’ve worked on, just those that highlight accomplishments you’ve achieved, quantify your work and showcase any significant projects.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

Does graduate education count as work experience?

While we recognize the value of graduate academic work, we do not count academic work as professional work experience.

Does time spent in the military count as work experience?

Absolutely. The service provides many rich and varied opportunities for professional growth and development. Military candidates are evaluated based on the same criteria as other candidates, including the nature and scope of the work, the skill sets required, work progression, and general leadership and management skills developed.

Does time spent in the Peace Corps, on a Latter Day Saints’ mission, or other voluntary assignment or internship count as work experience?

Certainly. As with all work experiences, we are interested in the skills acquired on the job and level of progression (measured by scope of responsibilities, job title, salary).

I am still an undergraduate student. How can I increase my chances for admission?

Work experience is not required when applying to the Wharton MBA program, although many of our successful applicants do join the program with around 5 years of work experience.

For current undergraduate students who are motivated and exhibit strong leadership and managerial potential, we recommend checking out the Moelis Advance Access Program. Admission to the program is contingent upon successful completion of the undergraduate degree. For current Penn  undergraduates, the Moelis Advance Access Program provides a guaranteed deferred admission pathway for undergraduate seniors accepted into the program.

When preparing for the Wharton MBA program, consider that the stronger your quantitative background, the better prepared you will be to take finance, statistics, accounting, economics, and other quantitative courses offered in our curriculum. For example, calculus and/or statistics are good foundation courses. We do accept students without this type of background, but we like to see evidence of a capacity to handle these types of topics (e.g., strong quantitative GMAT scores, strong academic performance in quantitative subjects). We are also interested in your history of involvement in extracurricular activities, community service, and hobbies.

I have less than your average four years of work experience. Is this a disadvantage in the admissions process?

Each year, we welcome several early career candidates (individuals with 0 to 3 years of professional work experience) into our program. We are more interested in the skills you have acquired to date, including leadership and management opportunities, than the number of years you have been in the workforce. We consider both the skills you have demonstrated to date and your future potential.

Check out our most recent Class Profile for additional context on the background and work experience of this year’s accepted class.

Is an applicant at a disadvantage without previous coursework in business?

No. Many students at Wharton have not had business courses prior to entering the program. Generally, 40% of our class consists of people with liberal arts backgrounds. Pre-term offers incoming students an opportunity to “brush up” on their quantitative skills before classes begin. Candidates are also encouraged to complete introductory courses in calculus and statistics prior to entrance, since much of the course work requires quantitative skills. Please go to Non-traditional Backgrounds for more information.