How to Navigate a Military MBA

Aug. 19, 2021

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The concept of attending graduate school while or after serving in the military might seem like a daunting task, but choosing to pursue an MBA could be one of the best decisions for your career.

There are plenty of options for military personnel to earn their MBA, from special financial aid packages to application requirement waivers to programs tailored specifically to actively serving military members and veterans.

Now, where to begin?

Choose the Right MBA For You

There are plenty of programs for whatever path you’re taking, whether pursuing an MBA while serving, transitioning from military to civilian life or choosing the best option as a veteran.

Things to consider when selecting an MBA program include:

  • career goals
  • learning style
  • schedule

The Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona values the service and experiences of our men and women in uniform. We welcome military applicants to all our MBA programs, each of which features a strong military community fostered by small, collaborative classes. We also offer scholarships for veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as an application fee waiver. In addition, the GMAT is waived for veterans and active-duty military personnel with a 3.0 GPA or higher from a regionally accredited not-for-profit institution.

We are a top program for military-connected students in the United States. The University of Arizona is ranked #18 in the Military Times' Best for Vets: Colleges 2020 rankings (third in the West) and seventh nationally in the Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans, according to U.S. News & World Report.

It is important to consider your other commitments when selecting an MBA program. Will you study while continuing to serve? If so, Eller’s Online MBA delivers the most flexibility, allowing you to learn from anywhere 24/7. If you can attend in-person, select the program by location and frequency of meeting that suit you. Eller’s Full-Time MBA and Evening MBA meet in Tucson while the Executive MBA meets in Phoenix and the Professional MBA meets in Chandler.

Online MBA

Digital learners should opt for an online MBA.

The Eller Online MBA program offers a blend of academic growth and schedule adaptability. The program offers six starts per year and allows you to finish at any pace that works for you—completing your degree in as little as 14 months by taking multiple courses at a time or complete it in two and a half years by taking one course at a time.

Evening MBA

If you are looking for a traditional classroom experience, an evening MBA would be a great fit for you.

The Eller Evening MBA program is perfect for professionals who are working but are ready to stretch their skill set. This program is structured for just one six-hour evening session per week, plus an initial four-day launch session and a ten-day global business experience. Participants are surrounded by classmates who are also working professionals by day—and will gain insights and camaraderie from that shared experience.

Professional MBA

Designed with working professionals in mind, the Eller Professional MBA program allows you to complete the curriculum mostly from home and on a flexible schedule. Sessions are held in bi-weekly skill workshops with your classmates, held in the Price Corridor hotspot of tech sector growth in Chandler, Arizona. The 21-month experience culminates in an educational trip to Silicon Valley.

Executive MBA

If you are a seasoned professional looking to enhance your understanding of business to move into the C-suite or perhaps join a board, then an executive MBA would be a great fit.

The challenges you’ll encounter in the upper levels of business leadership are complex and nuanced—in fact, there’s never just one factor on the line. Therefore, Eller Executive MBA program courses are uniquely structured to weave multiple aspects of business together rather than teaching them in one by one in isolation. Our curriculum is a unique hybrid of online courses and monthly in-person classwork.

Full-Time MBA

If you are early in your career and want to transition from the service to the public sector, a full-time MBA is a great pathway.

In the Eller Full-Time MBA program, you will select a concentration or a dual-degree. Dual-degrees within the Eller College are available with no extra time added.

Apply and Get Admitted

Depending on which school and program you choose to apply to, there will be different requisites that will need to be met in the application process. 

This can include a variety of requirements:

  • GMAT/GRE test scores
  • Professional resume
  • A professional recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • An interview

For the Eller College of Management, actively serving U.S. military personnel or veterans who hold a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA from a regionally accredited not-for-profit institution are not required to submit GMAT/GRE scores.

Financial Aid Options

Many programs offer military-specific scholarships and/or financial aid packages specifically designed for veterans and active-duty military personnel, like the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The University of Arizona is a Yellow Ribbon School—under this program, degree-granting institutions of higher learning in the United States volunteer tuition funds not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Participating schools pledge to cover a percentage of the remaining expenses not met by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and the VA will match that percentage dollar for dollar. The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses not met by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is on a first-come first-serve basis and is limited to 200 graduate applicants and 200 professional program applicants to the university.

If you are interested in this program at the University of Arizona, applications are submitted automatically in the Veteran Certification based on your residency and Post-9/11 GI Bill status.

FAQs

Can the military finance MBA?

The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays in-state tuition and fee charges at public schools. You can receive up to 36 months of benefits, including:

  • Tuition and fees: If you qualify for the maximum benefit, the bill will cover the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees.
  • Housing: For three-quarter and full-time students, the bill will base your monthly housing allowance on the cost of living where your school is located.
  • Books and supplies: You can receive up to $1,000 per school year.
  • Moving expenses: In qualified cases, a fund will be provided to those moving at least 500 miles.

The specific amount you’ll receive will depend on how much active service you’ve had since September 10, 2001. The bill calculates this amount based on a percentage of the maximum benefit.

Do MBA schools like military experience?

A military background is known for developing leadership and self-discipline—traits that can help students excel in grad school. Many military personnel become hard-working, focused students with unique world perspectives, often demonstrated in the career progression on their resumes and in their stories of overcoming challenges found in their essays. Long story short, the answer is yes!

Does an MBA matter in the military?

Many service members turn to higher education to advance their careers and gain skills to help others in and out of uniform. Here are four out of many military jobs in which earning an MBA can prepare you for success:

1. Business operations and management analyst

2. Financial manager

3. Acquisitions and contracts manager

4. Logistics officer

What student veteran organization offerings are available to veterans in the MBA program at Arizona?

The Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) Center is a hub of information and support for student veterans at the University of Arizona. The office is centrally located on campus in room 404 of the Student Union Memorial Center and is staffed by trained student veterans who have transitioned to the UA and are knowledgeable about the campus.

Both current and prospective students can find a variety of helpful programs at the VETS Center, including three college-credit, general education courses that will help you convert your military training and experience into lifelong success skills. The Center also offers academic support, peer support groups, counseling, work study programs, job-hunt support and more.

What makes our MBA programs military/veteran-friendly?

The application fee is waived for all actively serving and veterans. All actively serving and veterans admitted to the professional MBA programs receive a 10 percent scholarship. Because our programs are small, all students receive a great deal of attention from faculty and staff. 

What type of support is available for current military members who are in the MBA program?

In addition to the services offered by the VETS Center, we offer one-on-one career coaching and academic tutoring to all our students. Our goal is to help you succeed, no matter what your background is or how you want to learn and grow.

Hear from our Military Community

“I have transitioned from the military to the civilian world, and the MBA program is also allowing me to work in teams that I am not accustomed to. I believe that getting out of my comfort zone and working in these teams is building my leadership abilities and teach me how to work with diverse groups from different cultures and professional backgrounds.”

John Yanesh ’19 MBA (Evening), former Air Force and Air National Guard

“Graduating with an Eller MBA became a guiding beacon for me. Eller is full of passionate people who are doing their absolute best to help you succeed, no matter where you are. Even though I was thousands of miles away from Tucson, I still felt included in the community and was constantly reminded by Eller faculty that I was on the right track.”

JP Arnaud-Marquez ’20 MBA (Online), former Air Force, deployed in Afghanistan

“I wouldn’t have been able to succeed without the support of my professors and my cohort. As I was transitioning out of the military, I knew I wanted to be a part of a community—something larger than myself. My community at Arizona filled that void. When you become a Wildcat, you are a Wildcat for life.”

Dane Ahlmark ’20 MBA, MHM, former Air Force


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