How My Nontraditional Background Is an Asset

Resources for Nontraditional Students

You don’t have to have a degree or background in business to study at Wharton. We value the unique perspectives of students with a wide range of majors and professional backgrounds, including nonprofits, government, the arts, communications, and medicine. Our graduates and alumni regularly enter the nonprofit and public service fields—some directly upon graduation, others after years in a traditional business career.

What is a Nontraditional MBA Student?

To be considered a nontraditional MBA student, you may have studied liberal arts, social science, engineering, law, or medicine; developed specialized skills; or earned an advanced degree in another field entirely. As a non-traditional student, you will not have formalized business training as an undergraduate, or from a corporate training program.

In our program, you will develop the basic business knowledge and skills required for a successful academic experience, and our Pre-Term courses prepare you for the first-year curriculum. In addition, our cohort system and learning team structure provide built-in support networks.

Nontraditional Academics at Wharton

We offer a business economics and public policy major, with fields of study in international policy, public finance, public/nonprofit management, business and government relations, and urban economic development.

You must take a required course on Ethics in Management, which is supplemented by integrated discussions on ethical business decisions across the curriculum. The Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research conducts leading research in business ethics and the relationship between markets and morality.

Other courses pertaining to social responsibility include:

  • Community Reinvestment
  • Environmental Management Law and Politics
  • Geopolitics
  • Management of Culture and Performing Arts
  • Nations, Politics, and Markets
  • Political Economics of the Public Sector
  • Privatization: International Perspectives
  • Urban Fiscal Policy
  • Urban Public Policy & Private Development

“Think big and think broadly about how you’ll apply your MBA”

Physician David Fajgenbaum used his to accelerate research for a deadly disease.

To further customize your course of study, you may take up to four graduate-level electives in other University of Pennsylvania schools, or complete a full interdisciplinary program with the School of Social Practice and Policy, the Graduate School of Education, the Law School, the Annenberg School for Communication; or the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, or Dental Medicine.

The John M. Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund for Public Service

The John M. Bendheim Loan Forgiveness Fund for Public Service was created in 2005 to encourage Wharton MBA graduates to pursue careers in the public and non-public sectors. Awards are based on commitment to the public and/or not-for-profit sectors, long-term career goals, and financial need. This program replaces the Wharton Public/Non-Profit Loan Assistance Program established in 2001.

Summer Public Interest Fund (SPIF)

SPIF, a student-founded and student-run program, makes it economically viable for Wharton MBA students to pursue summer internships in the nonprofit/public-interest sector. Many nonprofit opportunities offer minimal or no salary for the summer; SPIF supplements or fully funds these opportunities, giving you the ability to use your skills for the public interest with less economic hardship.

First-year students donate a percentage (usually 1%) of their summer salaries to SPIF, and the remainder of funding comes from corporate sponsors.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program (YRB) is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. We offer grant funds for veterans through the Yellow Ribbon Program and are committed to funding up to 50 students who are 100% eligible under the Post-9/11 GI Bill®. Eligible applicants may receive a maximum Yellow Ribbon Award of up to $10,000, which will be matched by the Dept. of Veteran Affairs (VA).

Clubs for Non-Traditional Students

Our 100+ student clubs and conferences play a special role for non-traditional students. Clubs may focus on a specific business/social issue, and membership facilitates a natural learning and networking environment. There are many opportunities for you to put your leadership skills into action by organizing high-level conferences and community outreach activities. This is especially important if you are using the MBA to transition to traditional careers.

Wharton Social Impact Club

The Wharton Social Impact Club represents an alliance of student clubs and interest groups focused on social impact issues. The activities cover a wide range of interests, from environmental sustainability and corporate ethics to social responsibility and nonprofit and public sector management. Through coursework, on-campus speakers and conferences, professional activities, and volunteer work, the Social Impact Club offers you the opportunity to pursue professional and personal interests in social impact fields while earning your MBA.

Wharton Veterans Club

The Wharton Veterans Club provides outreach to current and former members of the military who are interested in earning an MBA, as well as current MBA students and veteran alumni in the business community. Members of the Veterans Club facilitate your transition from the military to the Wharton community.