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How to Choose a Military-Friendly MBA Program

Are you a veteran interested in a Masters in Business Administration (MBA)? Are you preparing to retire from active duty, Guard or Reserve duty and looking at your business college options?

A Master’s degree in Business Administration is an advanced degree for career-minded business students and professionals looking to move to the next level in their education and careers. According to one college, the job applicant with an MBA potentially earns an additional $20k more in starting salary than those without one.

What is an MBA?

A Master's in Business Administration is a graduate-level degree that requires undergraduate work first (a bachelor’s degree) before you can begin classes in a MBA program.

Every school’s options for military MBA opportunities will differ in some way, but here’s a look at the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville's description of their MBA program as a place to start:

“Learn to analyze and interpret information valuable for formulating, communicating, and implementing business decisions with the Master of Business Administration.”

This MBA program offers “a broad knowledge in all core business functions and gain the critical information and skills needed to make effective managerial decisions. With no foundation courses required, regardless of your undergraduate background, prepare to take on leadership roles in virtually any business.”

MBA programs like this one can help you “Identify and define business problems and generate and evaluate alternative courses of action” as well as the “ethical implications of decisions.”

How to Choose a Military-Friendly MBA Program

The first step in choosing an MBA program is to decide which approach is right for you regarding attendance. Are you a working professional in need of a part-time or online program?

Do you have the ability to attend in person on a full-time basis? Your availability will help determine the right program for you, especially if you are still serving and subject to deployment, TDY, PCS, or mobilization.

The most military friendly MBA programs for officers and enlisted members alike is one that has flexible options for add/drop/incomplete issues related to deployments or other duty. You'll need to know the school's policies in this area should your military duties interfere with school.

Another factor in choosing your program is how it gets paid for. Are you using the GI Bill or other benefits? Does the school participate in the Yellow Ribbon program? Can you attend online, in person, or both?

Some states may offer veteran or military scholarships, grants, or other financial assistance. The key to finding the right MBA program for you? Find the school that offers the MBA options you need while accepting the military education benefits you earned with your military service.

When comparing schools, it pays to do a side-by-side review of multiple schools and see their differences. Review your online options, in-person class hours, and whether you can take evening or weekend MBA classes as part of that school’s alternative attendance schedule.

If you are already attending a college and want to move into MBA work after your undergraduate degree is complete, compare the school you are attending now to others you might want to try instead.

Is your best option to stay or to try a new school? The answer will differ for everyone. It really depends on your needs and goals.

Types of MBA Programs

Full-Time Masters in Business Administration

A full-time MBA program can take up to two years once the student enters the graduate program. This does not count the time taken doing undergraduate work, only course completion from the start of the graduate degree.

Much will depend on the school itself, and that goes for course descriptions and offerings, not just completion time.

Admissions requirements may also vary. For example, the official site for the University of Chicago’s program states, “To be considered for admission to the Full-Time MBA Program, you must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited US college or university or its equivalent in another country.”

Students may also be required to have acceptable scores on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). However, some colleges’ MBA programs do not require a GMAT or GRE for admission.

Part-Time Master in Business Administration

For many schools, the part-time requirements for admission and graduation are similar or identical to the full-time version. In many cases, it’s simply the schedule or the pace of learning that is altered in the part-time environment.

Schedules and other options will vary based on the school. Using the University of Chicago as our example again, we see this program offers both evening and weekend learning opportunities:

“The Evening MBA Program is a good fit for Chicago-area residents who are interested in weeknight classes. The Weekend MBA Program meets on Saturdays and enrolls professionals from the Chicago area and around the country. Both are designed for curious, high-achieving professionals who plan to pursue an MBA program while working full time.”

Another school, the University of Bridgeport, offers year-round learning options and an extended schedule for part-time students:

“Students can...take courses year-round, in an effort to graduate faster than the two years of a standard MBA program. At the University of Bridgeport, the MBA can be completed in as few as 18 months.”

Alternatively, the official website notes, “Students who are working professionals have the option to complete their MBA program within seven years, giving them the flexibility to earn their degree at a pace that works best for them.”

Online MBA Programs

Many business colleges offer online programs as either fully remote or hybrid in-person/online learning. The course structure of online MBAs varies from school to school as does the program's speed.

At the University of Bridgeport, the MBA curriculum minimum credit hours to graduate is 36 credits. Schedules for online courses may vary more than for in-person learning, and some colleges may require in-person testing, proctored examinations or final presentations where applicable.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA program is aimed at those who already have established careers and want to get a higher degree without giving up their daytime work.

Some colleges compress their learning into single days or weekend sessions to avoid work schedule conflicts. Depending on the college, an MBA earned in this manner may have the same requirements and criteria as any other MBA program offered by that school, but some may have different standards for the Executive MBA program.

There are in-person and online versions of the Executive MBA.

MBA Specializations

As with any major degree, such as medicine, law, and education, there are areas of concentration. If you seek an MBA, there are many specialties to consider, including, but definitely not limited to, the following:

Is an MBA Program Hard?

MBA studies are graduate-level work, so the challenges are definitely elevated compared to undergraduate business studies. Don't expect the path to be easy, but those who have made it to the graduate level know showing up and doing the work is 50% of the battle.