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Military MBAs: An Attractive Asset to Businesses Everywhere

Business meeting between a team of professionals.

Many service members look to MBA programs as they transition from the military to civilian life. Already highly qualified because of their leadership skills, veterans apply for business school eager to enhance their strengths to become more attractive candidates for future career opportunities.

The structured environment of a business school allows for a smoother transition into civilian life. From the front lines to the front row, service members take their experience from the military and adapt it to real-life career scenarios. Those who have served in the military know how to make decisions in extreme conditions and understand what it takes to be organized, calm, and alert under pressure, but not all of them realize that these are traits of successful leaders both in the military and in the boardroom.

Among employers, the demand for veterans with an MBA is high. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Military MBA, military MBAs reported a 93.5 percent employment rate within a few months of graduation compared to a 62 percent employment rate for traditional MBA graduates.

In a recent interview with MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School's online MBA program, Tisa Head, executive vice president of human resources at Navy Federal, pointed out the value that companies place on recruiting MBA talent.

"MBA candidates have experienced rigorous academic programs, project work in a team environment, internships with industry leaders, and, in many cases, international business experiences," she said. "All of these experiences, in and out of the classroom, develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and team-oriented skills that enhance their overall business acumen and provide advantages in a very competitive job market."

Mark Reid also says he believes an MBA gives candidates an advantage. The executive vice president and chief human resources officer at USAA, which serves millions of military members and their families with insurance, banking, and investment services, Reid thinks MBAs are very employable.

"MBA graduates possess a unique advantage in that not only are they fluent in the language of business, they have networked with and had exposure to real business situations and challenges," Reid said in an interview with MBA@UNC. This, combined with the opportunities to work with fellow students from across industries, experienced faculty, and established business leaders, creates very attractive candidates.

The job market is strong: Nine out of every 10 employers surveyed by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the administrator of the GMAT, planned to maintain or increase the number of job openings for business school graduates in 2015. On a worldwide basis, about 84 percent of companies planned to add new MBAs to their workforce in 2015, up from 74 percent in 2014 and 62 percent five years ago, according to the GMAC. That high rate of hiring exceeds the previous peak of 82 percent set in 2005.

"The year 2015 may well turn out to be the best year so far this decade for job-seeking graduate business school students," according to the report. "Survey findings show that employer demand — and hence job opportunities — for graduate business students, across all candidate types, is on the rise this year both globally and by world region."

Not only are jobs prospects supposed to be on the rise, so too are salaries for business school graduates. The report found that more than half of employers surveyed will increase starting salaries for new MBA hires in 2015, either at the rate of inflation or higher. Currently, the median starting salary for MBA >graduates in the U.S. is $100,000, approximately $5,000 more than in 2014.

There is a clear demand for MBAs. Business school is a promising opportunity for service members adapting to civilian life to expand their career opportunities. The job market is competitive and an MBA can provide a much-needed advantage.

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