How to Meet MBA Admission Requirements: A Step-By-Step Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Getting a master's degree in business administration can open the door to an exciting career, new skills, and a better annual salary. But, are questions about MBA requirements holding you back? Discover the steps needed to apply to your top MBA programs.

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Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can open the door to an array of exciting career opportunities and new skills in a wide range of industries. If you're interested in pursuing this educational path, but aren't sure where to start, learning about MBA admission requirements can help you get a better idea of what you'll need to do to make this exciting career move.

The precise requirements you'll have to fulfill when applying to an MBA vary from one program to another. But, there are some common overlap requirements that you should know about. Below, we outline the most common steps you need to take to be considered for an MBA program. 

1. Earn a bachelor's degree.

You will need to have earned a bachelor's degree prior to applying for an MBA program. While some candidates major in business-related fields like marketing, management, or finance, don't let a degree in engineering, music, or liberal arts stop you from applying to an MBA program. Business schools consider candidates from all fields as long as your undergraduate degree is from an accredited college or university.

2. Get relevant work experience. 

Most MBA candidates begin their program after acquiring several years of work experience – even though many schools don't usually require applicants to have any specific work experience. If you've supervised employees or volunteers, or have any kind of leadership experience, that's even better. When considering prospective MBA students, admissions officers look for qualities like personal growth, self-discipline, and leadership skills

To get work experience in advance of getting an MBA, try starting with an entry-level job in a business-related field. As you build up your career over the next few years, look for opportunities to develop your skills and advance your responsibilities.

A few examples of entry-level positions you might consider pursuing include:

Read more: 10 In-Demand Jobs You Can Get with a Business Degree

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3. Submit an application package.

Officially applying to an MBA program starts with filling out an application form. On your application, you'll supply information like:

  • Your name and address

  • Names, addresses, and dates of colleges or universities you've attended

  • Degrees you've received

  • Your undergraduate GPA (grade point average)

  • Past work experience

  • Names and addresses of references 

  • Entrance exam (GMAT or GRE) results

Typically, the application form can be sent electronically. However, some programs allow you to send paper copies of your application materials. Be prepared to pay an application fee of about $250. Once you've completed your application form, you’ll follow these additional steps. 

Read more: Applying to College: Your Step-by-Step Guide

4. Craft thoughtful essay responses.

Admissions officers want to get to know you, but they also want to evaluate your writing skills. As part of your application package, an MBA program may ask you to write one or two short-form essays—typically 500 words or less—or a statement of purpose. Examples of essay questions or prompts include the following options:

  • Explain why you want to pursue an MBA.

  • Choose a core value and describe why it's important to you.

  • How will you enrich the diverse educational environment at our business school?

  • The business world is always changing. Explain ways that you adapt to change.

  • Describe a personal failure in your life and what you learned from it.

  • Who is your most important role model and why?

Successful essay responses are well-written and authentic. When crafting your responses, be thoughtful and sincere, and make sure to proofread your work carefully. 

5. Include your resume.

When creating a resume for an MBA program, keep the length to one or two pages. Always list work experience in reverse chronological order. This means your current or most recent job should appear first. Expand on a few of your most recent jobs, and list company names and dates for the rest. In addition to your academic background and work experience, make sure to add:

  • Honors and awards you've received

  • Professional licenses you've earned

  • Membership in college clubs and organizations like National Honors Society

  • Publications you've authored or co-authored

If you're sending your resume electronically, save it as a PDF file to avoid any formatting issues. 

6. Add your college transcripts.

All graduate programs require access to your college transcripts. Typically, you can send scanned copies of your transcripts as part of your MBA application package. If you're invited to interview with an admissions officer, you'll likely need to supply an official copy of your transcripts. 

Most MBA programs expect applicants to have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, and programs in top business schools often have higher standards. It's important to remember, however, that admissions officers look at your entire application package as a whole.

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7. Ask for letters of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation are very important items to graduate program admissions officers. Before asking for a letter of recommendation, consider what this person might say about you. As a good rule of thumb, ask for recommendations from people with whom you have worked closely like:

  • College professors or advisors

  • Current or former supervisors

  • Colleagues

To be relevant, don't reach too far back into your past to come up with references. Choose people you've worked with over the last 10 years or less.  

Read more: How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (Template + Tips)

8. Take an entrance exam and provide results.

Most MBA programs expect candidates to take a GRE (Graduate Record Exam) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) within five years of application. Although many business schools accept the results of either test, the two tests are different. 

The GRE can be taken for entrance into many types of graduate schools, while the GMAT is designed specifically for business students. Therefore, if you haven't taken an entrance exam, you may want to consider the GMAT. Be prepared to pay $205 to take the GRE or $275 to take the GMAT (and more for enhanced or additional score reports).

Read more: GMAT vs. GRE: Which Should I Take?

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