MBA programs fill their applicant pools with an unlimited variety of professional backgrounds, so are you aligning your background with your target school’s reputation, or is your strategy to mix it up?
Schools like MIT Sloan or Georgia Tech Scheller have more than 50% of their applications coming from undergrad engineers working in the high tech industry. Schools like Chicago Booth or Wharton see a large percentage of finance majors in their applicant pool, many hailing directly from Wall Street analyst positions or well-known commercial banks.
While it can be a good approach to align your profession with your MBA program, know that it matters more on the backend than on the front end.
So if your goal is to work in the finance industry, it’s great to go to Wharton or Chicago. If you’d like a job with Amazon, then Sloan or Scheller are good choices. But don’t think your prior work history needs to direct your school choice. In fact, it can sometimes work to your advantage to apply to a school where your background is not as common.
If you think about it, it’s just common sense and deals with supply and demand.
As a finance major, you are one of many thousands of other finance majors vying for Wharton. If you are an engineer, you will find a long line of similarly-skilled folks in front of you at Sloan. These schools and others like them (think Kellogg for marketers or Stanford/Haas for entrepreneurs), who have specialties and reputations which proceed them, are bombarded with applicants who feel their background is a “perfect fit.” But these schools also want to diversify the classroom with experiences outside the narrow band of their known expertise.
If you assume a top school can often get you just about any job you can fathom, you might consider mixing it up a bit on the application choices.
So if you are an engineer, why not apply to Wharton? If you are a finance geek, then give one of the West Coast schools a try. As long as your target school has a good career services center and deep resources for helping place graduates where they desire, your “alternative background” could be just the thing to get their attention. In the realm of application deluge, these mega schools love to see something different in the pool. Maybe you can be strategic about making yourself into someone who can stand out in the process.