On Campus

How late is too late for an MBA ?

Manvender Singh | Updated on December 09, 2013

DECIDING to go to school a little late in life is difficult because there are other things to take care of.   -  The Hindu

Meet Aman Gandhi, a project manager in an IT firm. Aman has an exciting job profile but, at the age of 36, he now realises he will not be able to grow as fast as he thought he would and is considering an MBA to fast-track his career. He’s wondering whether it’s too late now to do an MBA.

Manish Lodha, a 32-year-old professional based in Sweden, has had a strong career progression so far and is currently working at the middle management level in a packaging company. Manish wants to reach a CXO position by the time he turns 40 and thinks that he won’t be able to achieve this target without an MBA. He’s not sure, however, whether it makes sense for him to go to business school — especially because he is married, has a 2-year-old and a mortgage to pay!

Anurag Dhiman, 35, earlier an officer in the Merchant Navy, is now looking to apply for a top MBA programme to transition to the corporate world. He has reasonable savings to fund his education but wonders if he will be able to get suitable roles after an MBA, given his non-traditional background.

The common link among these three candidates, apart from the fact that they are in their 30s, is that they are ambitious and have a vision for themselves that they think will be difficult to achieve without an MBA. “Am I late for an MBA?” is something that I get asked very often by candidates in their 30s.

Deciding to go to school a little late in life is a very difficult decision because you have a family and other responsibilities to take care of at that stage and that’s why it’s important to introspect about what your expectations from an MBA programme are and talk to alumni and current students at MBA programmes to find out about what an MBA can do for you and what it cannot.

But how late is too late for an MBA? In Stanford Graduate School of Business’s current class, where the average work experience is just four years, the oldest candidate has 13 years of work experience. The school categorically states that there’s no ideal age and no ideal amount of work experience it is looking for and that candidates should apply to Stanford GSB only when they feel ready for an MBA. If you’re in your early thirties, you’re not very late; in fact a good number of candidates at top schools such as INSEAD, IMD, etc., are in their early 30s; however, if you are in your late 30s, an executive MBA would be a better fit for you unless you can make a compelling case as to why you need a full-time MBA programme at that late an age. However, older candidates must be aware of the challenges they will face at business school and be very clear about what they want to do immediately post-MBA. Typically, recruiters expect MBA candidates to have 4-8 years of experience and someone in his 30s would not fit into the typical roles most recruiters offer, so one has to be very aggressive in job hunting.

How to win

You have to network aggressively with potential recruiters and show what value you will bring to the table with the greater work experience. If the recruiters can clearly see the value you bring to the table, they will often be willing to create new positions for you.

By the way, the oldest candidate in the last MBA class at ISB Hyderabad, where the average age is 27, was a 41-year-old doctor! So, although the odds of being accepted for a full-time MBA are stacked against you as you get older, it’s never too late to apply if you are convinced that an MBA is right for you.

( The author is co-founder of Aristotle Prep — an online test prep company for the GMAT and GRE that provides and publishes books across seven global locations for students in more than 60 countries.)

Published on December 09, 2013

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