Business Administration

Is a Pre-MBA Internship Worth it? Here’s When, and Why.

Is a Pre-MBA Internship Worth it? Here’s When, and Why.
Despite a pre-MBA internship’s many perks, your decision to seek one out for yourself boils down to opportunity cost. How do you want to spend your last bit of free time for the foreseeable future? Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly December 5, 2019

Like everything else in business, this one boils down to opportunity cost.

MBA/Business Programs You Should Consider

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Getting into business school is an accomplishment that’s worthy of so much more than a simple congratulations. After finding a program that suits your needs, skills, and interests, you proved your place in it with a strong undergraduate GPA and GMAT score. You may have also spent the last two to three—or even more—years in the workforce, gaining valuable professional knowledge and experience to make your application shine.

Chances are, you also spent time chasing down recommendations from former supervisors, managers, and professors to prove to your school’s admissions team that you have the leadership, teamwork, and analytical skills wanted in a candidate. Then there was your admissions essay, on which you worked tirelessly to create a comprehensive picture of who you are, what you’ve done, what you bring to the table, and what your goals are.

Did we mention that before all of this, you had to figure out exactly what those goals were? Nailing down what you want in a career is hard enough. You did that and then rose to the challenge of deciding whether the time, work, and easily headache-inducing cost of an MBA would not only secure your place in the business world, but advance it.

It’s fair to say that you deserve at least a little time to yourself before business school starts, whether it’s to travel, spend time with family, or sleep as much as possible, as often as possible. It’s not just the work you put in to get here that might encourage a pre-b-school honeymoon either, but what lies ahead. You’ll be pulled in a million directions once school starts. Career prep, classes, clubs, activities, orientation, networking—it will be a whirlwind, and you may feel as though you never have enough time to participate in all of it.

So, why are so many incoming b-school students opting to hit the ground running through pre-MBA internships? To answer that, let’s consider these questions first.

What is a pre-MBA internship?

Somewhat self-explanatory, right? Thanks to context, you know that pre-MBA internships happen before business school. They’re typically run by major companies in sectors spanning banking, private equity, venture capital, consulting, marketing, and even nonprofit work. Students heading to business school full-time most commonly pursue these programs to get a glimpse at how their industry functions and what roles an MBA plays in them.

Pre-MBA internships can last from four to six weeks and in some cases, even as long as three months. Students can also seek out intensive programs or “camps,” which tend to last a week or less.


“Should I Get A MBA?”

The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (source)

Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. (source)

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Who is the best candidate for a pre-MBA internship?

Since changing careers is relatively common among MBA students, this type of program offers many the chance to validate their professional goals and build experience with organizations they plan to work with after graduation. It also gives students a quick way to shape uptheir resumes with a new title or work experience.

Pre-MBA internships also have plenty to offer non-career changers, especially those who lack work experience that, later, may persuade recruiters that they’re serious about the field. Like career changers, these students can also use their internship experience to test-drive a company or industry in a low-risk setting before business school.

What are the benefits of a pre-MBA internship?

Aside from the advantages of testing out a career, it’s not common for students who do well in their internships to return to the companies they worked for another internship the following summer. As any business school graduate will tell you, that’s kind of a big deal. A summer internship is a critical opportunity for students to enhance their credentials and skills further. Better yet, it’s where many go from intern to full-time employee.

Pre-MBA internships that offer a less than suitable experience come with a valuable benefit too. By teaching students what they don’t like about a particular role or industry, they know to begin researching other paths that are better suited to their interests and skills.

There’s also a connection between the pre-MBA internship and b-school academia. As interns, students gain a better idea of how business theories work in the real world and why certain practices they’ll learn in the classroom will be necessary. Plus, once grad school starts, their experience can help them approach even the most tedious material as something that can provide them with skills for success.

What are the disadvantages?

Is it a good idea to avoid a pre-MBA internship? For some incoming students, yes. From a financial point of view, these types of programs usually don’t pay well, if at all. If you haven’t quite established where the majority of your MBA funding is coming from, you’re better off allocating your time before businesses school sorting that out. It’s possible that you’ll opt-out of a pre-MBA internship to continue earning at your current job, whether to ease the financial burden of tuition or pad your savings account before leaving the stability of a regular paycheck. Or both.

You may also find yourself giving up on the idea of a pre-MBA internship to take a break before the reality of your grad school program sets in. Maybe you spent the last several years working tirelessly at a demanding job and want to enter business school feeling relaxed and recharged. It’s also possible that you’re aware that period before your MBA program is generally one in which no one will expect you to be working like a crazy person. When was the last time that happened?

Despite a pre-MBA internship’s many perks, your decision to seek one out for yourself boils down to opportunity cost. How do you want to spend your last bit of free time for the foreseeable future? Whichever option you choose, try not to sweat it. Business school will be full of opportunities. This is just the first.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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