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MBA Holders Increasing in Military Ranks

May 6, 2014 2:27 pm0 commentsViews: 539


A US Air Force pilot named Paul Townsend who was stationed at the Pentagon in 2012  passed over several part time MBA programs at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University recently. Townsend, who graduated from the Air Force Academy, knew that he was going to be restationed soon, so he did not want to start on an MBA program that required him to be on site. So, he decided to enroll in the online MBA program at Indiana University. He expects to graduate in the summer of 2014. After that, he and his family will move to Okinawa, Japan, for three years.

Townsend was excited about all of the non-profit, online MBA options that are available today. When he was looking for an online option a few years ago, most of the schools were for profit organizations, which he did not want to do.

Some top business schools are offering some business classes online with EdX and Coursera, but there still are only a few top rated universities that are offering MBAs online. Two of the highest rated are Indiana University and its Kelley School of Business, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with its Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Active duty military and other service members who are switching to civilian life have been one of the biggest groups that enroll in these online MBA programs. According to Susan Cates, from the online MBA program at UNC, the military is a big industry that the school is seeing students come from.

Servicemembers and veterans comprise about 25% of the 550 MBA candidates that currently are enrolled in online MBA courses at UNC. At Indiana, which has a total of 1070 MBA candidates, about 15% are from the military. Meanwhile, at WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, the number of online students from the military has doubled in the last four years, hitting a record 20% as of last fall.

At most top tier business schools, active duty military comprise about 1% of the class, and vets comprise about 5%. One of the biggest problems in the past for enrolling military was the lack of flexibility of the programs. Most military need to move every 2-3 years, so it has been difficult for many of them to be in one place long enough to earn a degree. But with online MBA programs growing, this is no longer the barrier it once was.

The number of applicants for these online MBA programs is sure to grow. About 1.5 million military members are going to enter the regular civilian workforce in the next five years. This is a result of the drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan, and also due to general military budget cuts. State universities are going to take the most advantage of the influx of new students This is because the updated GI Bill covers as much as 100% of all fees and tuition for students going to school in state.

Online MBA degrees in many concentrations may not lead to the big job changes and higher salaries that many traditional programs do. But, an online degree still can result in a 40% increase in pay for a graduate, compared to an 80% increase from a full time program. But one of the reasons for this is that people who enroll in online MBA programs usually have more work experience, so they come into the program earning more money than most people who attend regular business programs.

One Army officer named Amir Abu Akeel in TN is going to deploy overseas for a year. He selected the MBA program online at NUC because it has most of the same features as the regular MBA program. He also has attended various networking events on campus, and he is doing a research project for Boeing that also has required him to spend time on campus. But the Army officer intends to continue to take classes online when he is overseas. He could not have done this if he had enrolled at a regular MBA program.

With the proliferation of accredited, online MBA programs, more military professionals such as Akeel will have the chance to get a business education, no matter where they live.