The answer is surprisingly, not always. But mostly, yes. It means that work experience is an added qualification and does carry some weight like the GPA, GRE score and other application documents. But work experience is not mandatory. So a student without experience is not a disadvantage. But if someone has relevant work experience, they they would probably get extra points and might be preferred over another applicant with a similar profile otherwise but no work experience. The critical point here is relevant work experience.
What does relevant work experience mean?
Not all kinds of work experience will enhance a candidates profile. It is the experience accumulated in the same field for which the candidate is applying. So for example, if a candidate is applying for Mechanical Engineering, experience in the mechanical engineering industry will help but the experience as a radio jockey probably won’t. Another thing to consider would be length of experience – 1-2 years are a good period to be considered.
Should I pursue MS right after college or wait and get some work experience first?
This completely depends on the candidates profile. It would definitely be possible to get a better quality and high paying job after completing MS from a good university. So a candidate may not want to waste time by trying to gain any kind of work experience before pursuing his MS. Work experience can help in getting into high ranked universities. So if a candidate's profile is not upto mark to get into top universities, the candidate might choose to get some relevant work experience before applying to universities."
If I have a good job offer in hand, should I still apply for my MS?
If the master job is something that any candidate would dream for, for example an offer from Google, then it would rather make more sense to take up the offer rather than pursuing higher studies. But this is a most unlikely situation where a candidate gets his dream job just when he is just out of college. The candidate then has to measure if this job would take him closer to his dream than what an MS would do and also would it enhance his profile. For eg., if you are from IIT with a great offer, then working makes more sense because even if the candidate would want to pursue higher studies, this work experience would enhance candidancy much more.
Applicants with work experience do not get significant advantage in the admission process, at the end of the MS program, they stand much better chance of landing a coveted job. Also, the experience may help find a student part-time job and internship during the study.
Students with work experience can gain more out of the education and enjoy being students again after being away from academics for a while. This is a subjective statement. The experience you gain at work in general can help adjust in a new country and culture.
There are no big disadvantages of applying with work experience. Unlike some people think, people with five or even ten years of experience are not discriminated against. In other words, it is ok to have ten years of experience – your application will not be rejected due to very high experience (or older age). There are minor hassles, like getting transcripts or letters of recommendation, but those can be managed.