Early Career MBA

Are you a recent college grad considering the MBA? If so, an Early Career MBA program might be a smart choice. Unlike traditional and executive MBA programs, Early Career MBA programs are designed for students with one to two years of professional work experience (most MBA programs expect applicants to have spent more time in the workforce).

The Early Career curriculum, hands-on applications, and career services are all geared to help students accelerate their careers and re-enter the workforce with a more competitive skill set .

What are the key benefits of an Early Career MBA program?

Completing an MBA early in your career can make sense. Early career MBA graduates enjoy higher starting salaries than those with just a BA. With more years to reap the financial and professional benefits of your MBA, the return on investment can be the greatest early in your career.

With an Early Career MBA you can:

  • build your résumé through projects and internships with real companies while you complete your MBA degree.
  • get the in-depth knowledge and cross-functional understanding of management needed to succeed in a professional position.
  • develop the behaviors and skills, such as communication and leadership, that employers seek.
  • gain the help of tailored career services to identify your professional career goals and support your job search.

What should you look for when selecting an Early Career MBA program?

1. A "true" Early Career MBA

Keep in mind that many schools admit recent college graduates into their traditional MBA programs, but a true Early Career MBA is specifically designed to meet the needs of students who are seeking their first professional position or career change early in their career.

For example, on Early MBA program at Willamette University Atkinson Graduate School of Management has a long history of providing early career learning experiences. According to Judy O'Neil, the Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at the graduate school, their Early Career MBA "provides experiential hands-on learning, projects, internships, a strong core curriculum that helps students understand the integration of the functions of management, an opportunity to build depth of knowledge in one or more areas of interest, teamwork, leadership and career management skills–all the tools students need to attain their first professional position or career change."   Likewise, the Early Advantage MBA program at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business offers its students MBA-level internships and volunteer opps with nonprofits in the community. Little to no work experience is required to apply.

2. A curriculum that incorporates in-depth, hands-on experience

Early MBA programs offer courses that emphasize hands–on experience with working in teams, providing professional consulting services to client organizations (public and non-profit), professional behavior, and strategic career management

3. Established, active mentorship programs

Find out if alumni are engaged with current students. What types of speakers and executives are brought to campus and how often? Is there a mentor program? At both Williamette and Rollins, for example, incoming students are paired with successful professionals in a variety of industries. Students also have the opportunity, through interactive panels, speakers, treks and special events, to speak directly to alumni and other practitioners in key areas of interest.

4. Strong career services and placement

Career development and preparation is especially important with an Early Career MBA. Ask the school about internship opportunities and job placement services. Internship opportunities should be open to students pursuing new industries and job functions. Career services should include counseling and resume and interview skills building. Through networking activities, students should be taught the art of developing and keeping a strong professional network. .

5. Insight from current students and graduates

There is no better way to understand if a particular program is right for you than by talking to people who went through it. Visit the campus and talk with current students. Schedule an interview with alumni in your area. Ask a graduate how the Early Career MBA benefited them.

What is the profile for a typical Early Career MBA student?

Professional work experience is not required, but there are key characteristics that admissions officers look for in an applicant. Here is a typical profile for an entering Early Career MBA student.

  • Looking for a traditional, full-time, 2-year+ study experience
  • Has a bachelor's degree, with a major in any area of study. You don't need to major in business to get an MBA. Schools often look for a variety of major backgrounds that build critical thinking, reasoning and writing skills.
  • Experience leading or working within an organization. This experience can come from part-time work, volunteer activities, student clubs and organizations, or other experiential projects.
  • Exceptional academic credentials, including strong undergraduate GPA and GMAT scores.
  • Strong references from previous managers, supervisors or professors.

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