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What is the Average Age to Get an MBA?

average age of an MBA graduate

Your boss has an MBA from a top business school. So does your boss’s boss. As does, needless to say, the CEO of your company.

You want to move up the ladder more quickly. Or maybe you’d like to make a career switch. For these or many other good reasons you’ve decided you want to get an MBA at a top business school. But you may be wondering when to get an MBA. Are you too old? Or too young? Do you have too little work experience or too much?

The average age to get an MBA

These days, many business schools avoid sharing the average age of their classes in their class profiles, giving the impression that all ages are welcome. However, the truth is that most do have an average age in mind. So what is that magic number?

The average age of entering MBA students at the top US business schools is 27-28 years old. That has held fairly steady for several years. The Harvard MBA average age is on the younger end at 27, with an average of 4.9 years of work experience.
That puts the average MBA graduate age at 29 or 30.

Does this mean that if you’re 25 or 32 you should consider yourself out of the running? The answer is a resounding no! An average is precisely that — just an average of a class comprising different ages. Take Columbia Business School for example: while for the class entering in 2025 the average age was 28, that same class included students from 22 to 40 years old!

Why is the average age for an MBA student under 30?

One of the reasons that most MBA students are under 30 is that fewer people who are 30 and over apply. Why is it that older candidates are reticent to apply to business school? The opportunity cost of studying full-time is a factor; they may be thinking about how many years they will be out of the workforce without a salary during that period. If you assume that the salary of a 32-year-old may be substantially higher than that of a 25-year-old, it’s easy to understand why taking two years off from the workplace and financing an MBA may cause some potential candidates to pause. They also may have a family and other responsibilities that make a degree too disruptive

Recruiters want young MBA graduates

Another reason why the average age hovers around 28 is that business schools are extremely focused on serving businesses and ensuring their graduates are recruited by the top firms and companies. For candidates thinking about switching to strategy consulting, investment banking or private equity, the reality is that the likes of McKinsey and Goldman Sachs recruit associates and analysts primarily in their mid-to late 20s. That helps firms keep their staffing costs down and supplies them with a stream of young employees with the freedom and energy to work long hours and travel extensively.

How much work experience is ideal?

How many years of work experience is best? 

Along with age naturally comes the question of work experience. For an MBA how many years of work experience is optimum? If you’ve only been in the workforce for one to two years, will you have enough experience to compete for admission to a top MBA program knowing that you’re up against more experienced candidates? On the other side of the spectrum, if you’ve been in the workforce for eight years or even more, will the admissions committee consider that extra experience a strength or a liability?

For top US schools, the sweet spot is five years of work experience among MBA students at the top schools such as Harvard Business School. Keep in mind that this means five years by the time the program starts, not when the candidate applies (which may be up to a year earlier). 

Why is five years the magic number? Because with five years of work experience, business schools consider that you have enough experience to actively contribute and enrich classroom exchanges and experiential learning activities, but not so much experience that you have little to gain from the program and from your fellow students.

The good news is that, like age, there is a wide range in the number of years of experience among people accepted to the top business schools.

Can you still get an MBA after age 30?

Doing an MBA program, whether it’s a one- or two-year program, is a significant commitment both financially and personally. Can you — and should you — get an MBA if you’re over 30?

Doing an MBA program, whether it’s a one- or two-year program, is a significant commitment both financially and personally. Can you —and should you — get an MBA if you’re over 30?

An MBA is still one of the best investments you can make in your career, for the short and the long term, regardless of age and years of experience. That is why every year candidates aged 30 and up apply and get admitted to the top schools in the US and Europe.

If you are 30+ you will need to consider whether getting an MBA is viable from a financial and personal perspective. You may have a family or children to consider. And beyond the price tag (if you’re footing the bill yourself), you also have to calculate the income forgone over two years, which is more than for someone in their 20s.

There are different reasons people apply to business school at 30+. Some candidates have managed teams but want to develop their knowledge in finance and run a business unit. Some have successfully moved up in their organizations over the last eight-plus years, and their company is now willing to finance their MBA. There are military professionals transitioning to business who make great older candidates for an MBA.

And while some 30-year-olds wonder if they have the energy to go back to school, they quickly find that it is no more difficult for them than their younger classmates. And most people find that they thrive on the stimulation of being in a classroom again.

How old is too old?

You’re in your 30s, your 40s, or above and you’re thinking about doing an MBA at a top business school, but you wonder if you’re too old. And how old is too old? Really, there is no age limit. While many people in their 30s opt for a part-time program or an executive MBA (EMBA) in their late 30s or early 40s, there are always exceptions. (View our related blog, MBA Types: Which Program is Right for You?.)

Does it make sense though to do an MBA at a “more seasoned” age, or is it just a total waste of energy, time, and money? 

Look at it this way: Is there an age limit for learning and expanding your horizons? Of course not! Learning is an essential and never-ending pursuit on the path to excellence. People get MBAs at all ages and for different reasons. While older candidates may not see the salary increase immediately post MBA that younger students experience, the life-long benefits that come with getting an MBA at a top school are unparalleled.

MBA options for applicants over 30

Recognizing demand for an older demographic to pursue management acumen, business schools pioneered the EMBA as option designed specifically for people in their 30s and 40s who want to continue working while pursuing their degree. (Compare an Executive MBA (EMBA) vs. the full-time MBA.) Many schools such as MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth and Duke University’s Fuqua offer programs which allow you to work and study across different continents over a period of roughly 18 months. Chicago Booth EMBA students are 38, with 14 years of work experience on average. The average age of MIT Sloan’s latest EMBA class is 41, with an average of 17 years in the workforce.

Older applicants need to be wiser 

Overall, if you’re in your 30s and applying for a top MBA, you need to be wiser and even more strategic than younger candidates in how you approach your application. You need to clearly explain why you are applying and pursuing an MBA now. You need to position your experience as a strong asset. And you must show the admissions team that with your maturity and background you will be a major contributor to your class and as a future alum.

With these factors in mind, what should you do as a 30+ applicant to help your chances of admission? Our coaches’ top tips are summarized below. 

Six ways to boost your chances of admissions as a 30+ MBA candidate:

Justify your timing

There may be logical reasons why you’re only now applying to a full-time MBA. Perhaps you’ve been fulfilling a military commitment, pursuing an advanced degree, made a career switch shortly after graduating from college, or were committed to a start-up. Some international candidates will be older because of the educational system in their native country or compulsory military service. Programs make allowances for these and other reasons, but you need to illuminate the circumstances in your application. Without a clear explanation, admission committees will make their own assumptions.

Convey logical and age-relevant career goals

Your career vision should be appropriate and realistic for an older candidate. In other words, don’t aspire to be a junior analyst at an investment bank when you already have a decade of work experience. Conveying  a compelling MBA career vision is even more important for older candidates, as the admissions teams will expect you to have an more solid plan than less experienced candidates. 

You need to convince them that you will not struggle with your job search and will be well employed upon or shortly after graduation.You don’t want to give the school concerns that you’ll be a headache for the school’s careers team and damage their job placement statistics.

Articulate a plan that’s logical and achievable given your profile, and that leverages the additional experience you bring. Your career vision is even more important if you’re older. Programs will expect a more concrete plan than they might be willing to accept from younger applicants.

Show you’re realistic about post-MBA plans

If you’re older and trying to enter a new field, be aware that you may have to start at a lower level and may not see a significant salary boost. Explain clearly what is driving you in this career direction. Moreover, you need to demonstrate how your work experience will translate into your intended field after graduation. While your ambitions may evolve during your program, you must outline a logical trajectory at application time. 

Underscore your fit with the student community

While communicating your excellent fit for a school’s culture and community is key for all applicants, it’s especially true if you’re older than the norm. Enthusiastically explain your plans to engage in the class and community and your commitment to a school’s shared values and ideals. Share examples of networking activities you’ve participated in and relationships cultivated. To reassure adcoms who may be concerned about older students meshing with a younger crowd, share experiences you have had successfully collaborating, networking or socializing with groups of mixed ages. 

Keep in mind that the fit issue is not just about how schools see you integrating into their full-time MBA community. It’s also about how you as a candidate feel about that fit. It’s an important question to ask before you pursue this route. Will you be happy to work in teams alongside twenty-somethings, some of whom might have minimal work experience? Or will you risk becoming frustrated at their different level of maturity, and feel that perhaps they can learn more from you than you from them?

If that’s the case, then we’d strongly encourage you to consider applying for an Executive MBA, or, if you prefer a full time format, consider MIT Sloan Fellows, Stanford’s MSx, or the LBS Sloan Masters, all intensive one-year programs designed for mid-career managers. In these programs you will find a peer group that may align better with your life and career stage.

Frame your extra years as a plus

Emphasize the value of the broader perspective, additional experience and greater self-awareness that you bring to the MBA program. Proactively address the point of why now is the best time for you to apply, and the positive impact and success you will have with the MBA to complement the rest of your experience.

Solicit feedback from admissions representatives

Before you apply, consider speaking to admissions representatives at your target schools to give you a stronger sense of fit and perspective to inform your application. There are ample opportunities to attend information sessions in-person or online that allow you to assess if one program would be a better fit than another based on your experience and background.

Bottom line

The bottom line is you’re never too old or experienced to get an MBA. The average age of a full-time MBA student is 28 years old but that is just an average. Talent is talent, andcountless 30-somethings have received their MBAs at tops schools in the US and Europe and reaped the lifelong benefits of doing so. With age comes wisdom, as they say.

Be sure if you are older and more experienced than the average to approach your application even more strategically. With clear and realistic career goals, strong grades and test scores, a track record of accomplishments, and a good fit with the institution, you have a strong chance of admission.

As always, the key is to put together a narrative that outlines the path you took through life to arrive at this point. Clearly state the forces that shaped you, your goals and ambitions, and how you will make an impact with your degree. This is where you make your distinctive experiences as an older candidate work to your advantage.

Let’s get you in

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA admissions directors and officers from top US and European business schools. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we can coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to a top business school, request a free consultation.

Want more advice?

View related articles by my Fortuna Admissions colleagues:

Fortuna’s Melissa Joelson is an Expert Coach and former INSEAD Director of Communications. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.



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