Pre-MBA Internships: The New Normal? 6 Reasons to Get on Board With The Trend!

By: Celine Tarrant


There’s no denying it — pre-MBA internships are here to stay. On top of the many employer-sponsored experiential opportunities (which nearly 20% of admitted students participate in), many candidates are choosing to pursue full-time internships that they seek out independently. As of 2014, this group represented about 14% of the incoming classes. While some feel that they are just another pseudo-requirement on the ever-growing list of things for top MBA candidates to do, there are plenty of good reasons to quit your current job early (if you can afford to) and pursue one.

1. You’re a career changer.

Some 87% of top MBA grads make a career change in terms of industry or function. If you fall into this camp, a pre-MBA internship in your desired field can help boost your credibility, especially if your prior experience was vastly different from what you want to pursue.

The other bonus for would-be career changers is the opportunity to test out what you think you want to do before you commit — without needlessly “wasting” your valuable summer internship. You may think a startup role is your dream job, only to find that it’s not for you. That’s a lesson worth learning sooner rather than later.

Celine: This was my main reason for pursuing a pre-MBA internship. Having only ever worked in a corporate environment, I felt like I really needed startup experience before my MBA to make sure it was the right fit for me!

2. You have a big experience or knowledge gap.

If you’re heading into a top MBA program with a major skill or knowledge gap that is stressing you out, an internship can be a great way to get exposure to new things in a relatively low-risk way. Especially in a self-sourced, informal internship, companies may be willing to let you sit in on meetings or learn about new areas if you are offering to add value in some other way.

For example, if you come from a PR background and land an informal internship at a tech startup, you can trade your PR skills for the opportunity to get exposure to product management, fundraising and startup operations. It’s an easy way to get your feet wet!

3. You’ve never worked in business before.

If you’re coming from a sector outside of the business world, there are some things you just won’t learn in school. Critical soft skills like navigating office politics, managing upwards, getting buy-in for your ideas and how to work in teams (work teams are way different than school teams) can only be learned on the job. Once you get to school, you will have to handle recruiting and meeting with companies for class projects and already knowing the how-to of getting things done in business will go a long way.

4. You want to get outside your comfort zone.

Going into a top MBA program will undoubtedly push you outside your comfort zone. If you’ve been in the same company or job for several years, you may find yourself in a cushy spot that you’re not quite willing to get out of just yet. Diving into a new challenge via a pre-MBA internship is a great way to get you back on your A-game before heading to school. You will feel uncertain and out of balance during most of the MBA so you may as well get a head start on coping with constant change while you are still in control!

5. You want to differentiate yourself.

If you got into a top MBA program, arguably, you’re already a unique, dynamic, interesting person, so a pre-MBA internship definitely isn’t going to make or break you. However if you do pursue one, it can differentiate you from your peers in a few ways. In addition to the obvious fact that you are gaining relevant skills in a field that you want to pursue, it also sends signals about your go-getter skills. If you actively sought out an opportunity on your own and convinced a company to take you on, it shows that you have good networking and influencing skills and that you know how to use them.

6. You can’t afford to (or don’t want to) travel.

A lot of incoming MBA candidates take off on amazing adventures around the world during their pre-MBA summer. If that’s an option for you — great! If it’s not, either because you can’t afford to or because you want to spend time with loved ones (especially for those moving far from home for their programs), an internship is a great way to make use of your time and potentially earn some money. It’s also a good choice if you crave structure and the idea of empty summer days stresses you out.


Have you pursued or are you pursuing any sort of pre-MBA internship? Do you have any questions about how to secure a pre-MBA internship? Let us know in the comments!