In a way, military service is the perfect way to prepare for a business career. You learn technical skills, how to manage your time efficiently, and how to work with others towards a common goal. If every aspiring business professional had that kind of discipline, companies across America could net record profits.
The transition from military service to a successful business career, however, isn’t always that straightforward. Many business-minded veterans pursue Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees to expand their skill sets. But other than looking good on paper, what can going from the military to MBA studies actually do for veterans? Which veteran MBA jobs offer the most opportunities? And, most importantly, how do veterans even pay for business school in the first place?
By Sam Medley
- How a Post-Military MBA Can Prepare Veterans for Business Leadership
- 5 Top MBA Specialties For Post-military Careers
- How Veterans Can Maximize Their MBA Investments and Minimize School Debt
- Find MBA Programs That Fit Your Post-military Career Plans
How a Post-Military MBA Can Prepare Veterans for Business Leadership
If you’ve completed a four-year undergraduate program and spent time in the military, spending more time, money, and energy on school might seem impractical. There are plenty of jobs available that don’t require a graduate degree, so what’s the point of delaying your career any longer?
While many people can benefit from getting an MBA, transitioning from the military to MBA studies can help veterans in particular by:
- Enhancing their earning potential. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, MBA grads can earn 22% to 40% more than people with bachelor’s degrees.
- Supporting their transition into civilian life. Business schools can help veterans apply their MOS’s to business careers. Someone who served as an Army IT specialist could have a great working knowledge of military software, but not necessarily know about the latest business technology. Earning an MBA with an emphasis on IT management could bridge that gap.
- Offering networking opportunities. Military-friendly MBA programs often include networking events that connect veterans with veteran-owned businesses and the larger business community. That way, they can meet a cross section of like-minded post-military professionals and experienced civilian business administrators.
- Offering flexible course schedules. Even some of the best online MBA programs for military veterans only take one to two years to complete. Most can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. This can allow veterans to either earn their degrees as soon as possible or focus on reconnecting with loved ones.
- Minimizing financial commitments. Before the advent of online business schooling, pursuing a degree often meant relocating, paying for student housing, and investing in other things that don’t exactly relate to learning about business administration. Now, they can get advanced degrees from fully-accredited yet affordable business schools online without unnecessary costs. In addition, there are a wealth of financial aid and scholarship programs tailored to helping veterans succeed.
When students take advantage of these benefits, a Master of Business Administration degree can become more than an expensive piece of paper. It can be a toolkit that enables them to become successful leaders in today’s economy. In fact, many veterans have already gone the military to MBA route and built thousands of businesses from the ground up.
According to a 2020 Census Bureau survey, there are over 332,000 veteran-owned businesses in the US. They represent almost every sector of the economy from real estate to mining to entertainment. So for veterans who want to use their business degrees to become entrepreneurs, there’s hope for success and a large support network available.
5 Top MBA Specialties For Post-military Careers
Every branch of the military has military occupational specialties (MOS’s) or specific job titles for different members of the US Armed Services. Likewise, some military-friendly MBA programs offer specialities for veterans who want to go into specific industries. Each one comes with its own average salary and potential career opportunities.
Supply Chain Management and Logistics
Supply chain management is just as crucial to the business world as it is to military operations. To maximize profits, companies need to get the right products to the right places at the right time. An experienced logistics manager can save companies millions and avert supply disasters.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the supply logistics industry will grow by 30% through 2030. According to the BLS, about 8% growth is average. For veterans with MBAs and real-world logistics experience, supply chain management could become a long, lucrative career.
Nothing runs without cybersecurity. Credit card companies, banks, and online retailers would all crumble over data leaks. While IT security teams must be full of tech-savvy professionals, they also need to be guided by leaders who know how to apply security measures to every facet of a business.
Because of this, cybersecurity experts earn a median pay of about $102,000 per year according to the BLS. But they also say that the typical entry-level cybersecurity technician only has a bachelor’s degree and less than five years of relevant work experience. An MBA-holding veteran who worked on Department of Defense cybersecurity projects could be positioned to hold an integral role in almost any company they choose.
Economists often help top executives make decisions and solve problems based on consumer data and market trends. Like Army financial management technicians, they offer educated advice about everything related to budgeting and expenses.
The median pay for economists in 2021 was about $105,000 annually. Some work in-house for corporations while others work in their own consulting firms. For veterans who want to start their own financial advising agencies, getting an MBA in economics could be a crucial first step.
Computer and Data Science
In today’s world, artificial intelligence runs everything from video streaming services to financial planning software. For that to be possible, AI programs need data and lots of it. Computer and data science engineers mine that data, analyze it, and build sophisticated automated programs around it.
As of 2021, the median yearly wage for data scientists was reported to be about $100,000. But as more companies rely on programs built on data science techniques, there could be huge growth potential for veterans with data science MBAs and experience.
Marketing is the heart of all consumer-based businesses. A successful marketing manager helps teams come up with new ad campaigns, find new profitable markets, and is a driving force behind customer satisfaction.
For a veteran who worked in public relations or communications, getting a marketing MBA could be a great way to translate those skills to the corporate world. At about $153,000, marketing managers have one of the higher BLS-reported median yearly salaries. Using the GI Bill for MBA programs focused on marketing could mean a huge return on investment.
How Veterans Can Maximize Their MBA Investments and Minimize School Debt
No matter what program a veteran chooses, MBAs are financial investments. It’s a ratio of pay in versus pay out. While online MBA programs can help students avoid debt in general, former and current members of the military can skew the ratio further in their favor.
Veterans and active-duty service members can use the GI Bill to pay for tuition and other costs like housing, testing, and textbooks. The two most popular types of GI Bills are the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD).
Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA may pay up to 100% of in-state public business school tuition directly to the school on behalf of the student. Some veterans and active-duty service members may even qualify for housing and school supply stipends. It can also help students cover private school tuition, though this amount is capped at a set amount for every school year.
With the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, qualified veterans receive a check for a set amount of money. It’s paid directly to them and based on factors like length of service, education level, and the type of education a student wants to receive. Veterans who don’t qualify for 100% Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits may be able to get more out of the MGIB-AD.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
Post-9/11 GI Bill funding is calculated using in-state tuition. That means veterans who qualify for 100% benefits may still owe tuition if they attend private, out-of-state, or foreign schools — institutions that generally cost more than in-state schools. Schools enrolled in the Yellow Ribbon Program can help them cover those uncovered costs.
Basically, the Yellow Ribbon Program is a financial partnership between a school and the VA. When a Yellow Ribbon school offers financial aid to an active-duty or veteran student, the VA will match it, doubling the amount of aid the student receives.
Military MBA Scholarships
Just because someone got a bachelor’s degree, entered the military, and pursued an MBA years later doesn’t mean they’re excluded from scholarship opportunities. In fact, some business schools have scholarships specifically for veterans and active-duty service members.
Arizona State University, for example, offers nine scholarships for military members and their families. Before choosing an MBA program, students with military experience may want to research these kinds of grants and merit-based scholarships (scholarships based on GPA, letters of recommendation, essays, etc.).
Find MBA Programs That Fit Your Post-military Career Plans
Running a business, whether it’s an established company or your own exciting startup, often requires book smarts and real-world experience. MBA grads with military experience are in the unique position to have plenty of both. They’re ready to lead, ready to innovate, and ready to make things happen.
If bringing your military experience into the boardroom sounds like a career path you’d love to explore, start by researching some of the top online MBA programs available to veterans and active-duty service members. Weigh the pros and cons of different programs, research how to finance an MBA degree, and become the efficient, forward-thinking leader any business would be happy to call their own.