Too Old? The Average Age MBA Data Revealed — The Admit Lab

Philippe Barr, PhD
12 min readMay 2, 2023

Are you considering getting your MBA? If so, then you’re probably wondering what the average age of an MBA student is. After all, should you be worried about going back to school at a later stage in life? The truth is that it’s never too late to pursue your goals and dreams — even if they involve getting a Masters degree!

In this blog post, we’ll dive into a discussion on the real-world answer to “how old is too old for an MBA” and provide some motivating insights on why taking the leap could lead to success both professionally and personally. So grab yourself a cup of coffee and get ready as we reveal the surprising data behind who is obtaining their MBA…and at what age!

Age Range of MBA students

Many business schools don’t disclose the average age of their MBA classes anymore, but they still have a number in mind. The average is just a statistical measure and there are definitely students younger or older than the average in MBA programs.

The average age MBA prospective students start school can vary based on factors like program type, location, and industry. In general, however, MBA students tend to be in their late 20s to mid-30s. According to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the bulk of MBA prospective students in 2022 were from 25–30 years old. International business schools like INSEAD and London Business School report an average age range of 29.

That being said, there are also plenty of MBA students who are in their 40s, 50s, or older. In fact, some schools like the MIT Sloan School of Management have a significant percentage of students over 40 years old.

The average age of business school graduates being around 29 can be attributed to the fact that business schools prioritize the needs of businesses and aim to produce graduates that are attractive to top firms and companies. Business schools’ admissions committees prefer candidates with a moderate amount of work experience — not too much, and not too little. At top schools such as Harvard Business School, the ideal range tends to be around five years of experience for MBA students.

What is the significance of the number 5 in terms of work experience and business school? Business schools perceive 5 years of work experience as the ideal amount for students to both contribute to classroom discussions and hands-on learning experiences, while still maintaining an open mind and a willingness to adapt their ways of thinking.

The top business schools accept applicants with varying years of experience, similar to the way they accept applicants of different ages. Based on previous years’ data, the average age of MBA students at top business schools is around 28–29. However, this doesn’t mean that if you’re 25 or 32, you’re automatically disqualified.

Career Goals and Work Experience

One of the main factors to consider when deciding on the age to pursue an MBA is career goals and work experience. Most students who enroll in MBA programs have already worked for a few years and are seeking to attain higher management positions. They often see an MBA as a way to accelerate their career growth and climb up the corporate ladder. Therefore, the average age of MBA students tends to be between 27–32 years. However, this does not mean that you cannot pursue an MBA before or after this age range. It all depends on where you are in your career and what you hope to achieve with an MBA.

Choosing the Right Time

One significant factor in determining the right time to pursue an MBA is figuring out what stage of life you’re in. Factors like family commitments, career goals, and financial stability all play a role in deciding when to hit the books. On the other hand, factors like personal motivation, readiness for change, and a desire to learn and grow are equally crucial to consider. Choosing the right time is a balance between all of these factors, making sure that you’re in a place where you can commit fully to your studies while still ensuring that you are investing in your future.

Another factor that plays a role in deciding the age to pursue an MBA is life circumstances. Many students choose to pursue an MBA when they are in a stage of life where they have fewer personal commitments and responsibilities. For example, students may choose to pursue an MBA right after college or later in life when their children are more independent. Additionally, some students may choose to pursue an MBA in later years to focus on a career change or start a business. It’s important to keep in mind that your personal circumstances should also be taken into consideration when deciding on the age to get an MBA.

Financial Stability

Another important factor to consider is financial stability. Most MBA programs are expensive, and students need to have a certain level of financial stability to be able to afford the program. Therefore, some students may choose to gain more work experience to save up for the program before enrolling. Others may choose to work while pursuing their MBA to offset the cost. If you find yourself in a position where you can afford an MBA program, then you can consider pursuing it at any age.

Learning Style and Curriculum

Age should also be considered in terms of learning style and curriculum. Younger students tend to have a more flexible approach to learning, while older students may prefer a more structured approach. Additionally, MBA programs differ in curriculum, and some may be more suitable for students with a certain level of work experience. Therefore, it’s important to research different MBA programs and find one that fits your learning style and career goals.

Why age shouldn’t matter

While the idea of going back to school with younger students might seem intimidating, it’s important to remember that age is just a number.

Firstly, pursuing an MBA is an opportunity to expand your skill set and challenge yourself, regardless of age.

Secondly, a diverse age range in the classroom can bring unique perspectives and experiences that enrich the learning environment for everyone. MBA programs value professional and life experiences, and hence they encourage diversity in their cohorts. Older MBA students can leverage their work experience, industry connections, and matured skillset to add value to classroom discussions and contribute a fresh perspective to the coursework. This can lead to better networking opportunities, increased job prospects, and potential leadership roles.

Thirdly, many employers value the maturity, wealth of experience, and strong work ethic that older MBA candidates can bring to their organizations.

MBA Programs are Designed for Working Professionals

Most MBA programs are designed for working professionals, and hence they offer part-time, weekend, evening, and online courses, to name a few. This means that you don’t have to quit your job or your family commitments to attend an MBA program. You can juggle your job and your studies by taking courses during your off-hours. The flexibility of MBA programs makes it easier for people of all ages to pursue an MBA.

Benefits of an MBA at different ages

The benefits of pursuing an MBA are different depending on what stage you’re at in your career. If you’re a recent graduate, an MBA can help you accelerate your career and gain skills that are hard to develop in the early stages of your profession. For those in their 30s or 40s, an MBA can help you pivot into a new industry or make the leap to senior management positions. And for those who are over 50, an MBA can help you stay relevant in your industry and connect with professionals who can help you achieve your objectives.

ROI

Finally, the return on investment (ROI) of an MBA degree is significant. An MBA degree can lead to a higher salary, better job prospects, and more career opportunities. Many students find that their MBA investment returns tenfold in the years after graduation. Therefore, don’t let the fear of being too old for an MBA hold you back from making an investment that could yield many advantages in the long run.

Is an MBA after 30 A Good Idea?

Is it feasible and advisable to pursue an MBA program after turning 30, considering the financial and personal commitment involved whether it’s a one- or two-year program?

Getting an MBA degree can be a great investment for your career, both in the short and long term, regardless of your age or level of experience. That’s why even people aged 30 and above apply and are accepted to the best business schools in the US and Europe every year.

If you are over 30 years old, you should think about the financial and personal impact before deciding to pursue an MBA. This is because you may have family or children to take care of. In addition to the cost of the program (if you’re paying for it yourself), you should also consider the income you’ll forego during the two-year period, which could be more than for someone in their 20s.

People who are 30 years old or older apply to business school for various reasons. Some candidates have experience leading teams but want to improve their knowledge in marketing and learn how to run a business unit. Others have been promoted within their companies for more than eight years and their organization is willing to fund their MBA. Additionally, military professionals who are transitioning to the business world also make great candidates for an MBA program.

Even though some individuals in their 30s hesitate to enroll in school due to energy concerns, they soon realize that it is just as manageable for them as it is for their younger peers. Additionally, the majority of individuals discover that they enjoy the mental challenge of being in a classroom again.

When Is It Too Late to Go for an MBA?

If you’re considering pursuing an MBA at a top business school and you’re over 30, you may be wondering if you’re too old. The truth is, there’s no age limit for pursuing an MBA. While many people choose to pursue a full-time MBA in their 20s and an executive MBA in their late 30s/early 40s, there are individuals of all ages who pursue an MBA.

There is no age limit when it comes to expanding your knowledge and skills. Pursuing education and learning is a crucial and never-ending process in achieving excellence. Individuals pursue MBA degrees for various reasons and at different ages. Some do it to fulfill lifelong goals while others aim to address certain skill gaps to ensure a successful and lasting career. Some people pursue an MBA to change careers. Although older applicants may not receive the same salary bump as younger ones, obtaining an MBA from a prestigious institution offers incomparable lifelong advantages.

For individuals in their 30s and 40s who wish to continue their work while pursuing a degree, the Executive MBA (EMBA) is another option apart from the regular MBA. Prestigious schools offer programs that enable you to study and work in different continents over a period of about 18 months.

Older Applicants Need To Be Strategic

To successfully apply for a top MBA in your 30s, it’s important to approach your application strategically and position your experience as a major asset. Your maturity and background should be highlighted to show the admissions team that you will be a valuable member of your class and a successful alum.

If you have a reason for applying to an MBA program later than usual, such as completing a military tour or committing to a start-up, be sure to mention it in your application. Some non-traditional paths can also lead to later applications. For example, international candidates may be older due to their home country’s education system or military service. It’s important to provide this context in your application as some MBA programs may make exceptions for these situations.

If you’re over 30 and applying for an MBA program, it’s important to set realistic expectations for your post-graduation job plans. This might mean starting at a lower level, especially if you’re changing careers, and potentially not seeing a salary increase right away. Keep in mind that your career goals should match what’s realistic for someone with your level of experience — don’t expect to land a job at a top consulting firm if you’ve been working for over 10 years. It’s important to avoid giving your chosen school any reason to doubt your ability to find a job after graduation.

Develop a realistic plan that utilizes your relevant experience while incorporating any additional skills you have acquired. As an older candidate pursuing an MBA, it is crucial to present a strong career vision that demonstrates your ability to succeed in the job market after graduation. Admissions committees may expect older applicants to have a more concrete plan than younger applicants, so it is essential to assure them that you are well-equipped to secure employment soon after completing the program.

To increase your chances of getting into the school, ensure that you clearly explain why you are a good match for its community. Highlight your involvement in community activities, as well as your passions outside of work in your essays. It’s also important to research the school, make connections with admissions representatives, and attend information sessions for both full-time and EMBA programs.

Explain to the admissions team how your extra years of experience will benefit you and why pursuing an MBA now is a perfect time.

You’re Never Too Old to Chase Your Dreams

Finally, and most importantly, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. Age is just a number, and it shouldn’t be a limiting factor in pursuing your passion and goals. Some of the most successful people in the world started their careers at an older age. So, don’t let age be a barrier to your education and career ambitions. Remember, it’s never too late to start something new.

Learning is a lifelong process, and it should never stop. Pursuing an MBA degree at an older age can be a fulfilling and enriching experience for you. It can help you stay relevant in your industry, expand your horizons, and provide you with a sense of accomplishment. It can also inspire others around you, particularly your children or grandchildren, to pursue their dreams.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can see that the average age of someone earning their MBA is increasing. There is no right or wrong way to acquire a degree; it’s all about taking steps toward impacting your career in a positive way. Before diving into any level of education, it is important to research and compare opportunities and make the best decision for you and your future goals.

Working with an MBA admissions consultant can also help you understand what path may be most beneficial for accomplishing your professional goals. Investing in yourself is one of the most encouraging steps you can take so don’t delay in getting started on your MBA. We put countless hours into researching and compiling this data to share with our readers-we hope this information was helpful! Finally, remember to reach out if you need more help exploring resources for earning an MBA; check out our MBA services today.

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Philippe spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Philippe has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on May 2, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/