An MBA recruiter explains why it doesn't really matter if you work or not before business school

Should you work before business school, or head straight there from undergrad?

Brian Precious, author of “Get In, Get Connected, Get Hired: Lessons from an MBA Insider,” and former recruiter for MBA programs at Oregon State University, Purdue University and University of Illinois, says, “It depends.”

Ultimately, both options can be valuable and useful, he writes. But there are some specific advantages to each.

“If you know an MBA is in the cards for you no matter what, it may be best to work for a while,” he writes.

If you work before business school, you can:

  • Use the combination of academic and professional experience to “leverage” your MBA to switch fields, whether your new path is related to your old one, or completely new
  • Bring real-world examples and experience to classroom discussions and group projects

However, Precious writes, “if you are close to graduation and want to expand your career options, going right into a quality MBA program can be a smart career move as well.”

If you go straight into an MBA, you can:

  • Transition more easily into graduate school without leaving “academic mode,” as opposed to taking the GMAT and going back to school after spending years in the workforce
  • Stand out from your peers early in your career, as with your MBA you’ll have knowledge of business, leadership skills, and experience working on group projects

“An early-career student may also focus more easily on the holistic MBA experience; older students, by contrast, often have to juggle work, family, and other commitments in conjunction with their studies,” Precious writes. It really just depends on what works best for you.

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