Want to know how to apply to an MBA while unemployed? Is it possible to get accepted to an MBA program while unemployed? There are applicants who successfully get into business school while unemployed but be warned that applying to an MBA while unemployed is challenging. If you want to get into top programs, you’ll need to meet the work experience requirements, and being unemployed can tank your chances of acceptance. It’s not a guarantee, but there are ways to increase your chances of getting into a business school while unemployed if you’re willing to put in the work. In this blog, we’ll look at how to apply to MBA programs while unemployed, what you need to know about applying while unemployed and how you can ace your application and your MBA interview as an unemployed applicant.

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Article Contents
6 min read

How to apply to MBA programs while unemployed Why work experience matters for MBA How to ace the MBA application while unemployed Ace the MBA interview as an unemployed applicant Conclusion FAQs

How to apply to MBA programs while unemployed

While you certainly can apply to an MBA program while unemployed, you should be aware that applying to business school without being employed will have an affect on your application and on your chances of success. Considering the highly competitive MBA acceptance rates in the USA and the equally tough MBA acceptance rates in Canada, you will fall short when compared with other candidates if you apply while unemployed.

Many candidates do successfully get into business school while unemployed, and it is possible, but it means taking a few extra steps to strengthen your application. And, you’ll need to provide the admissions committees a very good reason to choose you, especially if you want to get into the best MBA programs in Canada or the US.

Top business schools don’t have a requirement that their applicants need to be gainfully employed but they typically have strict admission requirements when it comes to work experience. On average, applicants have 5 years or more of professional work experience, and admissions committees consider the value and prestige of your work experience. They also look at the trajectory of your career and whether you have shown career mobility. If you plan to apply to an MBA program without any career experience, you will most likely not be successful. If you plan to apply to an MBA while unemployed, your chances are significantly lower than other candidates.

The best thing you can do for yourself if you want to apply for an MBA is to first, consider why do you want to pursue an MBA, have a ready answer for why you are unemployed at the time of the application, and finally, keep looking for gainful employment while you prepare your application. You should always address the fact that you are unemployed in an honest and straightforward way, such as in an MBA cover letter attached to your application. Read some MBA cover letter samples for tips on how to write one.

Before we look at ways to improve your chances of getting accepted to an MBA while unemployed, we’ll discuss why work experience is so important to MBA programs.

Why work experience matters for MBA

Aside from your GPA, GMAT score and MBA admission essays, your work experience is the most important aspect of your application to any MBA program. Top programs receive thousands of applications, and if you’re the one unemployed candidate of the bunch, you won’t make the grade, so to speak. You won’t even be offered an interview to try and offset this weak point in your application.

The reason why being unemployed is seen as a red flag by MBA programs is that there’s an assumption that you are using the MBA program to find employment. MBA programs don’t want to be used to jumpstart students’ careers. Therefore, the work experience requirement is strict at the best business schools. Admissions committees want students who can benefit from what MBA programs offer. In short, MBAs are meant to be drivers of career advancement and professional development, not a way to guarantee you’ll get a job post-graduation. MBAs are meant to provide students the knowledge and skills they need to take their careers to the next level. To get accepted, you need to show you’ve laid the foundation of your career and have moved up as high as you can. To unlock this next level, you’re applying for an MBA.

MBA programs are also much easier, and more applicable to individuals who have worked in a professional environment. The skills you’ll learn in business school will be easier to understand and apply in your professional life if you’ve already worked and developed your professional skillset.

Being unemployed, even if you have a good reason, can sink your application before it gets off the ground. Therefore, its important to approach the MBA application while unemployed with a two-pronged strategy: keep looking for work and address your lack of employment in your application.

The first strategy is helpful because applying to an MBA program takes months, even up to a year. Chances are you will have found employment again before your application is complete. And if you find work after you submit your application, you can take the initiative to inform the admission committee that you’ve successfully found work again. If you don’t find employment, you will need the second strategy. If you don’t have a satisfactory reason for being out of work, the admissions committee will come up with their own answer, and it won’t be favorable to you.

While you need to provide a good reason for unemployment while applying to an MBA, you need to provide a second explanation. Which is: why do you want to apply for an MBA? Admissions committees will ask every candidate this, and your answer needs to be something other than you applied for business school to fix the unemployment problem. In your answer, and you will need to provide one, you’ll have to demonstrate a desire for growth and advancement, both professionally and personally. You’ll back this up by showing you have taken initiative and have already earned some solid work experience.

Next, we’ll look at some ways to ace the MBA application while unemployed, what you can do to increase your chances of success and what strategies will be helpful in getting your foot in the door.

How to ace the MBA application while unemployed

Applying to an MBA program while unemployed is not prohibited, but it does make your chances of success much harder. Explaining unemployment is harder than explaining gaps in your employment or how to explain a low GPA in your MBA application. You’ll need to be straightforward about the circumstances behind your unemployment and provide a satisfactory answer as to what you’ve been doing in the interim. Lastly, you’ll need a very good answer as to why you chose to apply to an MBA program at this time and what the program will do for you. MBA programs want to know you’ll gain something meaningful from your time as a student, and that you’re not using the MBA degree to escape a bad job situation or lack of a career.

If you’re unemployed and have started your applications to MBA programs, you can use the following strategies to help you increase your chances of success.

Ace the MBA interview as an unemployed applicant

If all goes well and your application is successful, you’ll have to know how to prepare for an MBA interview. Rest assured, whoever is interviewing you will address your unemployed status, particularly if they made the decision to offer you an interview. This is likely because you are an otherwise worthy applicant, but the admissions committee wants to speak with you in person and get some answers to their questions, as well as learn more about your situation.

It is crucial at this point to ace the MBA interview and provide good answers. An MBA admission consulting service can coach you on interview prep with an MBA mock interview or by going over the types of questions you can expect. You should be prepared to answer all questions, but don’t shy away from questions about your unemployment or gaps in your resume, even if you now have a job.

Here’s a quick list of don’ts for your MBA interview!

Not sure what to expect at your MBA interview? Here are some MBA interview question types.


Appling to an MBA program while unemployed is a significant hurdle, but it can be overcome if you put in the effort. Most importantly, don’t shy away from addressing the situation with the admissions committee, keep looking for work and show the MBA programs you’re putting in the time to both find employment and better yourself. Getting into an MBA program while unemployed is quite difficult, but you have a better chance of success if go the extra mile.


1. How do I apply to an MBA while unemployed?

If you want to apply to an MBA program while unemployed, there are three things you should do: address your situation in your application, provide a very good reason why you are applying while unemployed, and keep looking for gainful employment during the application cycle.

2. Can I still apply to an MBA program while unemployed?

There are no rules against applying to an MBA program while unemployed, but keep in mind this can significantly decrease your chances of getting accepted, particularly to selective, top-ranked programs.

3. How do I address unemployment or gaps in my resume for an MBA application?

It’s best to address the situation honestly and neutrally. Explain the circumstances behind your unemployment and follow this up with what you have done to overcome this situation and better yourself personally and professionally despite being unemployed.

4. Is volunteering important for an MBA application?

Yes, volunteerism looks great on an MBA application, and it will be taken into consideration. Volunteering is a great way to show initiative and personal growth and can open up opportunities for networking and skill development.

5. Is work experience important for an MBA application?

Work experience is often a requirement to top business schools and is one of the most important parts of your application to an MBA program. MBAs are designed for individuals who have work experience and professional skills already to accelerate their career to the next level. Without work experience, you are very unlikely to get accepted to any MBA program.

6. Can you get into an MBA program without an interview?

While not all MBA programs will offer or require interviews, you should accept one if you are offered as an unemployed applicant. The interview is your best shot to convince the admissions committee in person to accept you despite your unemployment.

7. Can I get an MBA without business experience?

MBA programs do not have a requirement that applicants must have business experience or an undergraduate business-related degree. Applicants should have at least a few years of work experience, but this does not necessarily have to be business experience. 

8. Do internships count as work experience for MBA programs?

Typically, no, internships do not count as work experience for MBA programs. MBA programs consider the length of your employment history, your employer’s reputation, your years of experience and the professional skills you have, but usually do not count internships towards work experience.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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