MBA after 30


Many MBA applicants who are over the age of 30 (or closer to 40) ask these questions:

  • ‘Is it too late to enroll in a full-time MBA program?’
  • How do B-Schools evaluate MBA applicants over 30?’
  • ‘Should I even apply to a full-time MBA program if I’m over 30?’
  • ‘Will my age force me to choose between an Executive MBA or a part-time MBA?’
  • ‘Should I go for an MBA or an MS?’
  • ‘Am I too old for an MBA?’


Most of these older applicants ask these questions in regards to regular American 2 year full-time MBA programs. There are many 1 year MBA programs with a student body whose average age is close to 30. In fact, a few 1 year MBA programs have a student body with an average age that is greater than 30. However, a statistical and psychological bias applies with 2 year MBA programs with regards to people who are aged 30 or over.


Why do those over 30 consider enrolling in a 2 year of 1 year full-time MBA program?


30 somethings enroll in MBA programs for the same reasons that their younger counterparts do. They want the experience that a full-time MBA program offers students. They also want to earn more once they do earn their MBA degrees. Finally, most of these students want to belong to an exclusive MBA alumni network.

Many 30 somethings may have familial or other obligations that may force them to seek higher-paying jobs. These people find that an Executive MBA program doesn’t offer the same Return on Investment (ROI) that a full-time regular MBA program does. However, many of these people do keep Executive MBA programs in mind as backup options.

These older students often have higher-paying jobs that may be difficult to leave to enroll in a full-time MBA program, many Business school admissions boards are not thrilled about accepting 30 something students either. Why?


Why do MBA programs have very few students who are over 30?


The reason why 30 somethings are not found in large numbers in regular full-time MBA programs is because of the psychological bias that was mentioned earlier. This bias stems from the following assumptions:

  • Older MBA students will have a harder time finding jobs. This will negatively impact the business school’s job placement statistics and numbers. These stats and numbers are a very important factor in terms of MBA rankings.
  • Older MBA students won’t have that high of an increase in salary if and when they are offered a job after graduating from the MBA program. Since schools whose students have higher starting salaries after they graduate are often ranked higher, this is a major issue for many of the nation’s and world’s elite business schools.
  • Many feel that 30 something students will be far more mature than their 20 something peers. Therefore, overall mingling will be difficult for the students.
  • 30 somethings often have family commitments (like taking care of young kids.) This makes them tend to prefer enrolling in Executive MBA programs.
  • Opportunity cost- many 30 somethings may not be able to afford losing one or two year’s salary when they also have a home mortgage and their kids’ college educations to pay for. Also, because they’re older, they’ll be giving up a much higher salary than their 20 something peers would.


How can you improve your chances of being accepted into a full-time MBA program if you are a 30 something?


You may be tempted to formulate a plan of action that will increase your chances of being accepted into a full-time MBA program if you’re an older applicant. This is probably especially true now that you know about the common assumptions that inform the psychological bias that discourages many 30 somethings from enrolling in full-time MBA programs.

A good start to forming this plan of action lies in seeing how many of the admissions’ officers concerns and questions (listed above) you can answer in your MBA applications as you are going through the process of being admitted.

For one thing, you need to come up with a much stronger storyline than your 20 something peers would need to, you especially have to do this when explaining your career goals and plans once you graduate. Some factors to consider are the jobs that you want to land once you get your MBA degree and how getting an MBA degree would help you accomplish that.

These may be typical questions that the Business School’s admissions committee will ask you. However, you need to be innovative and creative in answering these questions. Also, make sure that these answers are solid and logical. Be sure to do the same when formulating your application strategies.

Remember that if you have a half-baked storyline or a storyline that’s not considered mature for your age, this will hurt your admissions chances by strengthening the Business School’s bias against you. You need to build your case for acceptance and not hurt it!

You must help them understand that maturity, wisdom, and knowledge come with older age. You also have to help them understand that your advanced age also means that your insight, knowledge, and experience are enhanced. This will help you land a much higher-paying job than a 20 something would be able to upon graduation.

You should also explain how exactly you can help your younger classmates learn and mature more. The last point is important since elite business schools tend to value the power of peer learning.

Third, since placements for ‘senior citizens’ is a concern for B-Schools, you can take down their worries about placing you down a notchby:

  1. Showing them that you are comfortable in your current role and are not looking at placement support (doesn’t mean you don’t use the placement opportunity later on)
  2. Sharing that you have solid inroads into the corporate world and have an extensive network that will be enough to find you a job aligned with your interests.
  3. You could also mention entrepreneurship as a reason you want to do an MBA.


Is it too late to do an MBA at age 30 or older?


You need to know that most MBA schools don’t discriminate on the basis of age when deciding whether or not to accept applicants. Instead of imposing mandatory age limits, most MBA programs tend to have a minimum in terms of the years of work experience that people must have before applying.  In fact, many business schools prefer to accept older applicants with many years of work experience.

According to the average age of new students at Harvard’s MBA program was 27. That said, more than 10% of the students had at least 7 years of work experience. Some students even had as much as 17 years of full-time work experience. Many other schools offering elite MBA programs like Columbia and UCLA gladly accepted students who were in their 40s. However, the average age of students in 20 of the top MBA programs was 28.

It’s interesting to note that all of these schools have students with more than 10 years of work experience. MIT and Sloan have students with more than 15 years of work experience.


So you can be admitted into an MBA program if you are 30 or over, but what should you do after this happens?


Well, the best way to answer this question is to compare what you want to get out of your MBA degree and education and what you want to do with your degree after graduating with the options that an MBA degree and education really offer you.


  1. Will you be able to find a job with a higher starting salary after you get your MBA?

How great of an increase in salary can you expect after receiving your MBA degree?

Well, it depends on what you want to do in terms of a career after you graduate. It also depends on the industry that you want to work in and the level of managerial position that you want to land. However, in general you can expect to earn anywhere from $20 to $70 K more after you get your MBA degree.

            Now if at 30, you are already at $70-80K, this does not mean you will not land a substantial raise after an MBA, but it may not be through campus placement as recruiters have a certain ballpark within which they want to hire from campus. If you do get a raise, it may be 10%-20% as your base salary is already high, while other students get 50-80% increments, since their salary is comparatively less.

The percentage increase does not matter, as long as what you take home. What is worth considering is should you wait for the promotion or increment at your existing job or get an MBA? While both may bring a 10-20% raise, the MBA will pay across multiple years, by enabling functional and role shifts, while without an MBA your career may not rise beyond a point.


  1. Will an MBA degree get you the role that you want?

Your goals and aspirations after an MBA should be aligned and achievable.

If you are 30 years old and have 8+ years in marketing and suddenly want to shift to private equity, well that is a leap no MBA will enable you to make.

On the other hand, if you are looking for shifting from a below the line or activations profile to a marketing generalist role, then an MBA can surely open the door to such a role for you.

Moot point – a complete role change at 30 is a challenge. Quite like Bollywood then, where once you are a hero or villain you are typecast forever. 


  1. Can I afford an MBA degree?

You’ll be making a huge investment in your academic, professional, and personal lives by getting an MBA degree. Keep in mind that the total cost of attending the top-50 programs starts at $80K and can cost as much as $200K. But you have to take other factors into consideration. These are the salary that you would have earned if you had stayed at your present job (you’ll be giving this up). You also have to take the value that an MBA will give your career over the course of your working life into consideration. Remember that this value can’t be calculated over the course of a few years.

Other factors to consider are if you can afford to pay for family costs, and a car and home mortgage while not earning an income and taking on extra debt to finance your MBA education?


When an MBA after 30 makes sense & when it doesn’t


  1. Stagnation / mild course corrections

If you want to stay in the same function, or make mild alternations in your journey while staying in the same core function an MBA can make sense even after 30.

We are talking about changes such as IT to IT Consulting, Digital marketing to Above the line marketing, Doctor to Hospital Management, Army to Operations Management.


  1. Growth into senior management

If senior management roles in your company necessarily need an MBA, then you can consider an MBA to be eligible for top roles. The aim then is not immediate payoff, but payoff over a longer term.


  1. Knowledge gain

This can be a good reason to pursue an MBA as an MBA make you into an all rounded professional well versed with all aspects of business. The importance of this cant be overstated in today’s business world where cross functional teams collaborate on work frequently.


  1. Entrepreneurship

An MBA can be excellent way to network, find future co-founders, and understand business in a structured manner before going into the deep end.

Why not just invest the money into business instead of pursuing an MBA? Aren’t there plenty of businessmen without degrees? Ambani isn’t an MBA after all?

All valid questions, however it’s a matter of probability. Can you be a successful businessman without an MBA? Certainly.

Is the chance of succeeding in business improved with an MBA? Certainly!


Alternatives to a full-time MBA program

You have many options if you don’t want to attend a full-time MBA program but still want to continue with your education. This is especially true if you work full-time and want to advance further in your career. These options span the range from Executive MBA programs to specialized Masters’ degree programs. The following table summarizes the key differences in these programs:


SR NOParameterFull-Time MBAExecutive MBASpecialized Masters in Business programs
1ImmersionComplete (full-time and campus-based)Partial (part-time and only on the weekends.) (it’s classroom-based but can be held on or off campus)complete
2Networking opportunitiesBestLimitedGood
3Previous work experience requiredNeed 2-5 years of work experienceNeed at least 5 years of work experienceIntended for fresh graduates with 1-2 years of experience
4Alignment with goalsFor those who want to switch careersFor those who want to progress further in their careersFor those who are developing business and management skills
5Average cost$80-120 KGenerally more than most comparable MBA programsLess than the cost of full-time