How do MBA admissions folks determine who's over the hill?
March 4, 2011 4:16 PM   Subscribe

How old is too old for an MBA?

I just turned 28, would apply for fall of 2012, and thus be 29 when starting business school. I am concerned that my age harms my admissions chances, particularly at top schools that are starting to skew towards younger classes. FWIW, I earned an (engineering) master's degree, attending school full-time right after my undergraduate degree, so I actually only have 4 years of work experience.
posted by zamboom! to Education (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Age discrimination is illegal in the US
posted by zippy at 4:19 PM on March 4, 2011

i would say once you are in your mid-to-late 40s, it's not worthwhile to get an MBA. You're fine.

Many programs publish the average age of their entering classes. 27-28 is pretty much average at top programs.
posted by deanc at 4:22 PM on March 4, 2011

I was 33 when I got my MBA. Honestly the degree is wasted on anyone younger than 30.

Having said that, I think you'd likely fare better at a engineering-oriented MBA program. They'd likely be more understanding of the time taken to get a MASc or MEng or whatever you have.
posted by GuyZero at 4:23 PM on March 4, 2011

You don't have anything to worry about. Two recent business school grads I know were just about your age, if not older, when they started their MBA (UT Austin and BYU).
posted by puritycontrol at 4:24 PM on March 4, 2011

At 41, I'm wondering that myself, and I think I'm leaning towards not worth it at this point. At 28, you're fine.
posted by willnot at 4:28 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mother started a part-time MBA program at 45, and finished it at 50. She seems to think that it's helped her, both in terms of new knowledge that she's been able to bring to her current job and in opening up other opportunities should she want to change jobs.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2011

I process tuition reimbursement (amongst many other things) at work - plenty of people in their late 30s are getting MBAs. In fact, I don't have anyone going for a professional degree that isn't at least 30.
posted by SMPA at 4:33 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find a school that isn't geared towards kids fresh out of high school, and it should be fine.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:44 PM on March 4, 2011

I work in a business school.

We see students on all ends of the age spectrum in the MBA program. We have students right out of college. We have students who worked for a few years and decide to go back. We have students who've been working for nearly a decade whose employers are paying for them to receive an MBA, and we have people who are decades out of college.

Most recently, a professor I work with had a father in his fifties and his two sons, both in their twenties, in one of his classes.

If anything, you are on the lower end of the average age of students in our MBA program.
posted by zizzle at 4:51 PM on March 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I believe some schools prefer applicants with real world experience. 29 is definitely within the prime range for a B-school applicant. I started at 28 at a top school; no problem.
posted by Kevin S at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2011

I know a guy who's 74 who's just been confirmed for his PhD. I know at least two academics in my School who finished their PhDs in their 50s in order to become lecturers. If you want it, go get it. How long does it take? 3 years? In 3 years, you've got a choice, you could be 32 with a MBA or 32 without one.
posted by b33j at 6:39 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

2nding Kevin S. You're right in line for B-school. You should work before attending.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:45 PM on March 4, 2011

Age discrimination is illegal in the US

I believe this is true only for employment (not student admission), and then only for people 40 or older. (At least federally; individual states may have more widely encompassing laws.) But as to the original question, an MBA is a very common go-back-to-school-after-years-or-decades-in-the-workforce degree.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:45 PM on March 4, 2011

MBA programs LIKE people that can bring real world work experience to the classroom and that have been out in the working world for a while. You're about average for what my MBA class was. I was 26 when I started the program, and while there were several people my age, we were on the younger end of the spectrum. The majority of people were in their 30s. The class below mine had people that ranged in age from 22 to 65. So you're definitely fine.
posted by echo0720 at 6:59 PM on March 4, 2011

My boyfriend is 32 and is about to graduate from him MBA program. From what I've noticed it seems like most of the people in his classes are around his age.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:16 PM on March 4, 2011

Average age starting my program was 29.
posted by theflash at 7:28 PM on March 4, 2011

The main concern about going to MBA school (and professional schools) older is that one will have less time to enjoy the higher earning power such degree purportedly confer. Given that most people take out loan to pay for MBA school, to be able to pay back that loan and have enough time to enjoy the extra earning is certainly sensible.

That said, you are still very young. Plenty of productive life ahead for you; and I'm sure you will make an excellent MBA student. More experience generally are preferred anyway.
posted by curiousZ at 9:21 PM on March 4, 2011

I happen to know a number of people who started business school right around your age. One of whom is at Harvard.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on March 5, 2011

As far as getting accepted and fitting in at business school goes, 29 is fine.

Whether it's fine for what you plan to do afterwards might be another matter. If you're after moving into specific consulting or finance firms that hire lots of newly minted MBAs, be sure you fit the profile they're looking for.

From what I've seen, a lot of older people that do MBAs tend to end up going back to broadly the same kind of career they had pre-MBA.
posted by philipy at 3:53 PM on March 5, 2011

Top MBA programs require at least some work experience and some even require a minimum of 4 or 5 years experience before your application would be considered. So you're in a great age range to start a program.

I just finished my MBA at a top 20 program last year. I started when I was 28 and finished at 30, I was the youngest person in my class.

In my opinion look for a school that requires at least a couple years of work experience. A lot of what you'll get out of the MBA comes from the interactions with other students, the more experience they have they the better those interactions will be.
posted by sortimat at 6:32 PM on March 5, 2011

Adding a bit to my original answer, in the US, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits consideration of age (with limited exceptions) for any school that takes Federal funds. This law is enforced by the Office if Civil Rights.

So to answer your original question about whether age will harm your chances of admission, legally, any school that takes Federal funds (including grants) can, in most situations, get into trouble for taking the applicants age into account.
posted by zippy at 11:08 PM on March 8, 2011

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