How an Executive MBA Can Help During and After a Military Career

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An Executive MBA can provide career benefits for military personnel both during and after their service.

One of the great benefits of joining the military is the wide array of job training opportunities available.

So, is seeking an advanced degree worth the time and effort for military personnel? The answer is an unequivocal yes. In the military, as in every other field, better prepared candidates are tapped for promotion, and a graduate-level degree can be a steppingstone to higher-level positions. An Executive MBA, in particular, can prepare military personnel for a number of key roles that might not be top of mind when considering military functions, but which are essential to the smooth running of the massive military machine. Additionally, an Executive MBA positions military personnel for business success after leaving the military.

One option for obtaining an advanced business degree, either before or during military service, is Washington State University’s Executive Master of Business Administration Online. An online Executive MBA degree prepares military personnel to take advantage of EMBA career opportunities during their military service and afterward.

Weighing the Options of an EMBA

An advanced business degree offers a number of obvious short- and long-term career benefits. Still, for active duty personnel and veterans, both the degree and the university have to pass the “is it worth it” test.

Specifically, they scrutinize such considerations as:

  • Quality. Military students expect a program with a superior reputation and a commitment to rigorous academics and student support. Washington State holds the number 18 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Best Online MBA Programs.” The university is also recognized as a Military Friendly School for 2020 and is ranked number 13 on the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans” list for 2020. The Carson College of Business also made the Military Times list of “Best for Vets: Business Schools 2020.”
  • Value and affordability. Education is an investment. Online students can qualify for a variety of loans, grants, scholarships and other forms of financial aid to ensure that an EMBA is within reach. In particular, military students at Washington State may be entitled to financial help through the Veterans Administration Post 911 GI Bill. Tuition assistance is also available for active-duty personnel. The WSU Office of Veteran Affairs is available to provide information, answer questions, and process veteran tuition benefits for eligible students.
  • Time and energy. Cost-benefit analysis is crucial to both military personnel and businesspeople. Military students want to be sure an EMBA will pay off in terms of career benefits, either while they are still active or after they leave the service.

During a Military Career

What exactly are the benefits of an Executive MBA for military personnel? In a recent article, the website lays out several key ways that an EMBA helps lay the groundwork for military career success.

  • Business leadership skills. First and foremost, an EMBA provides a deep look at the advanced principles and practices essential to contemporary business operations. Real-world business exposure helps students develop executive-level strategic expertise, cross-functional leadership abilities, and an entrepreneurial outlook.
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills. The development of analytical and critical thinking skills is an important part of EMBA programs. This training is a huge advantage in managing the type of large, complex operations that often occur in the military.
  • Problem solving. Problem solving is another key component of EMBA programs. Students are regularly asked to study difficult situations, analyze them, and suggest solutions or actions to mitigate the problems. The goal is to prepare students to manage the complexities of real-world, high-level management. In the military, like anywhere else, this ability is enormously helpful.

Shane Sullivan, a former Navy pilot, points out a fourth advantage: learning the language of business. “[My EMBA] provided the Rosetta Stone of translation points,” he says. “I had a lot of leadership and training [but] I just didn’t know how to communicate that to any potential companies that they were potentially looking to seek to hire me. [You’ve got to] be able to speak the language.”

Military Job Titles

The website Today’s Military features a section for exploring career options within the military – including multiple military job specialties where an advanced degree such as an EMBA would not only improve performance but also make candidates stand out from the crowd for promotion consideration.

  • Financial Manager. Personnel who qualify for this position typically have an education in finance, accounting, or a related field. They are responsible for directing and coordinating financial management functions. They advise leadership on matters related to programming/budgeting, cost analysis, finance, and accounting. They may be asked to serve as general managers overseeing financial units, where their responsibilities might include establishing performance standards and security procedures.
  • Business Operations Planning Analyst. Successful candidates usually have an education in finance, business, or management. Their job is to apply business expertise to improve military operations using analytical tools and techniques. They identify problems, then make recommendations to reduce inefficiency and develop solutions for a variety of issues.
  • Logistician. Military logisticians make sure that equipment and people are where they need to be at all times. This job is a staggering organizational challenge that requires the ability to consider all possible information and contingencies while working closely with multiple branches of the service.
  • Acquisitions and Contract Manager. Acquisitions and contract managers usually have a background in finance or accounting. This detail-oriented position requires personnel to evaluate and award contracts, analyze and approve purchase requests, perform cost analyses, and generally coordinate tasks involved in planning and running military procurement programs.

After a Military Career

After separating from the military, those with EMBAs can expect to find themselves at a distinct advantage when competing for corporate positions. Some of the skills and experiences obtained during military service are difficult to come by in the non-military world and are highly prized by potential employers. identifies three particular areas where ex-military EMBA holders tend to excel:

  • Leadership skills. Military personnel are highly trained in leadership and are often expected to direct the activities of large groups of people to achieve specific goals. Additionally, they may be called upon to do so in extreme and stressful circumstances—sometimes quite literally life-or-death situations. Civilians are less likely to have the same depth or breadth of experience.
  • Time management. Military discipline often results in excellent time management skills, which is a huge advantage in the business world.
  • Cultural perspective. A military career may take people to foreign countries and may require them to work and interact with people of different cultures. This type of experience is invaluable in today’s global work environment. “In the military, I worked with many different types of people and saw some unique perspectives. That’s one way my Navy career really benefited me,” says Sullivan.

In a recent interview, Dustin Winkelman, who was a medic and later a licensed practical nurse in the Army, and who was deployed to Iraq, sums up his experience this way:  “No matter what my role [in the military] was, no matter what my job title was or rank was, I was a manager, I was a leader, I was in operations, I was coaching, teaching, mentoring, training, and providing guidance, all with the intent of making an organization better and achieve its mission. If that’s not business, I don’t know what is.” explains the impact of these talents and others on the post-military EMBA’s career search. “Because many MBA candidates do not have the leadership experience of those coming from military backgrounds, they may begin their post-MBA careers in a narrow functional area, rather than as managers; however, the background acquired through the military, combined with an MBA, often leads to management positions immediately upon separating from the service (and, according to a recent study, starting salaries in excess of $100,000 annually),” the site says.

Military-Only Benefits

As if these advantages weren’t enough, ex-military personnel also enjoy a host of exclusive opportunities and programs in the business world. The website Mergers & Inquisitions lists a few options for post-military EMBA holders:

  • Veterans on Wall Street. This consortium of five banks (Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America) has made a commitment to support the veteran community. The organization hosts a conference each year and also runs networking events where veterans can meet potential mentors in the business world.
  • American Corporate Partners. In this program, job-seeking veterans are paired up with mentors in their specific area of business interest. They meet with the mentor once a month for conversation and advice and the mentor also introduces the veteran to contacts in the field.
  • Veteran Jobs Mission. The Veteran Jobs Mission is a coalition of more than 200 private-sector companies that have pledged to employ former service members. Participants include companies such as JP Morgan, Deloitte, Amazon, and Cisco. A veteran with an advanced business degree is more likely to get an interview at these highly desirable companies than a non-veteran candidate.

Whether students choose to put their degree to work within the military or parlay it into the post-military position, earning an Executive MBA is one of the best possible ways to boost a career.

About WSU’s Executive Master of Business Administration Online Program

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business delivers one of the top-ranked Executive MBA programs in the nation. WSU offers an online Executive MBA curriculum designed to equip students with the tactics, knowledge, skills, strategies, and other MBA resources utilized by today’s high-profile business leaders.

For more information, visit WSU’s Executive MBA Online website.


Recommended Reading:

Military Member? Here’s How You Can Earn Your MBA and Transition Into Civilian Life

Non-C-Suite Career Paths for Executive MBA Degree Holders

Student Veterans Bring Tenacity and Leadership to Washington State University Campus



Training opportunities in the military – The Military Wallet

Benefits of a graduate degree –

Career: Financial Manager – Today’s Military

Career: Business Operations Planning Analyst – Today’s Military

Career: Logistician – Today’s Military

Career: Acquisitions and Contract Manager – Today’s Military

After a military career –

Military-only benefits – Mergers & Inquisitions