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Do you need a business background to get an MBA?

Can you get an MBA without a background in business? The answer is yes — and a non-business background can even help your application.
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Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributing Writer on

You want to apply to MBA programs, but you majored in social work, English, education, or another non-business major. You want to get an MBA, but you don't have business experience. Will that stop your chances? 

No! Many MBA programs seek out applicants with diverse backgrounds — and a non-business major may actually help your chances. 

Do you need to have a background in business to get an MBA?

So, can you get into top MBA programs without a background in business? Absolutely. MBA programs look for candidates with diverse backgrounds, including people who did not major in business or pursue a business career. 

Whatever your background, if an MBA will help you reach your professional goals, you can get an MBA. 

MBA programs set admission requirements. Applicants typically need a bachelor's degree, and some programs set prerequisite course requirements. 

However, you don't need to major in business to get an MBA. In fact, several non-business majors report higher acceptance rates than business majors. 

According to a 2018 analysis of acceptance rates at top programs, education, liberal arts and humanities, political science, communication, and social services majors were more likely to gain MBA admission than business majors. 

Some applicants start an MBA right after college. However, gaining work experience helps you get into selective MBA programs. Many programs prefer candidates with a few years of full-time work experience. Working in non-business careers provides experience that many programs seek out. 

Applicants without an educational or professional background in business may need to complete introductory business classes as part of their MBA. This requirement varies greatly among programs.

What do you need to apply for an MBA program?

Whether you're applying to in-person or online MBA programs, you'll need to meet admissions requirements and submit application materials. This section covers what you'll need to get into an MBA program.

Resume

The process for how to get into a top MBA program starts with a strong resume. While MBA admissions committees care about your undergraduate education, your professional experience also matters. Many programs set a recommended or required number of years of work experience.

On your resume, highlight your skills, experience, and achievements. Even non-business experience builds valuable skills for an MBA program. A background in retail sales, childcare, or manual labor can show an ability to work in teams, meet goals, and communicate effectively.

Undergraduate transcripts

All MBA programs will ask for undergraduate transcripts. But programs generally do not care whether you majored in business or another field. Instead, they review your transcript to see if you meet prerequisite requirements and whether you will likely succeed in graduate-level classes.

If you don't have a high GPA, you can still stand out. Ask your letter writers to highlight your strengths. Explain your goals and struggles in your essay. 

GMAT and/or GRE test scores

Most MBA programs ask for GMAT scores, and some also accept GRE scores. These standardized tests allow candidates to showcase their analytical and problem-solving abilities. 

If you don't have high test scores, you can still stand out with your transcript, professional experience, and letters of recommendation.

Programs may waive the standardized testing requirement for applicants with a certain GPA or professional experience. You can also earn an MBA online without GMAT scores. Some programs do not require test scores as part of the admission process.


Learn more about standardized testing


Essay

MBA programs often ask for an essay or statement of purpose. Applicants use the essay to showcase their experience and explain their reasons for earning an MBA. 

Programs also look for applicants with clear goals who have researched the program. Use the essay to explain why the MBA program will help you reach your goals.

The essay also gives you a chance to explain why your non-business experience makes you a good fit for the program. For example, you might bring a unique perspective that will balance your classmates.

Letters of recommendation

Most MBA programs ask for one to three letters of recommendation. These letters typically come from professors and supervisors. Your letter writers will assess your ability to succeed in an MBA program and provide background on your academic and professional strengths.

Consider your letter writers carefully. Choose people who will strengthen your application. And make sure to give them at least three weeks before the deadline to write the letter.

In conclusion

You can get an MBA without a business background. In fact, coming into an MBA without business experience gives you a unique perspective. 

Showcase your experience in the best light and confidently communicate your qualifications.

This article was reviewed by Alexandra Tapia, MBA

Alexandria Tapia, a blonde woman, smiles at the camera

Alexandra is a driven, high-spirited, unapologetically energetic, and optimistic person. She prides herself on her devotion to becoming a better business leader and overall human. 

Alexandra has reached many populations throughout her career. She's studied recidivism, helped prior criminal offenders reintegrate into society, and built trusting relationships while working at a homeless shelter. 

Her passion for education also shines through in her work. Alexandra taught younger children for many years but has since turned her focus to higher education. She loves collaborating to disrupt the education industry and creating and delivering programs that are unlike others — while building a better future for her clients and students. 

Alexandra Tapia is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

Last reviewed March 2, 2022.

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