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How to Earn a Post-Military MBA
Military members and veterans represent one of the fastest-growing groups of new college students. The number of veterans going to college rose 67% from 564,487 students in 2009 (when the Post-9/11 GI Bill came to fruition) to 945,052 in 2012 (the latest year for which data is available).
Of that number, 48% are in undergraduate programs and 32% in graduate school. The remaining are in doctoral, certification or licensure programs.
And while earning a bachelor’s degree is a great first step, earning a master’s degree has fast become the gold standard for advanced careers.
Today many MBA programs don’t focus on leadership. Instead they concentrate on business strategy: how to identify issues and analyze problems, and how to create and present recommendations to solve found issues. But that’s only half of the equation.
The other half is the execution of the recommendations, and that usually involves working with people at some point in the process.
Military experience teaches you how to execute on plans and hones leadership skills, so veterans with MBAs are the whole package.
For service members and veterans ready to learn at the graduate level, the many military-learned skills match very well to a number of popular master’s degrees:
• Master of Business Administration (MBA)
• Master of Business for Veterans (MBV)
• Master of Education (M.Ed.)
• Master of Public Policy (MPP)
• Master in Management (MiM)
• Master of Science in Leadership (MSL)
• Professional Science Master’s (PSM) Programs, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)
• Master of Arts
• Master in Science
Funding a master’s degree is expensive, but there are resources available. For example, many service members are now coming out of the military with at least two GI Bills - usually the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and Post-9/11 GI Bill. By exhausting their MGIB entitlement first and then switching over to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, veterans can get up to 48 months of education benefits - enough to fund a four-year degree and at least part of a master’s degree.
While serving, most of the military branches offer transition assistance (TA) to their members. By taking full advantage of this benefit, military members can earn a four-year degree while on active duty, thus preserving more of their GI Bill benefits to fund a graduate degree.
More information about education benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is available at the official U.S. government website at benefits.va.gov/gibill.
Even with tuition assistance, Top-Up and the GI Bill, additional funding is usually needed to help pay the tuition costs of a master’s degree. Fortunately, there are myriad scholarships available that don’t require payback.
Listed below is a small sampling of scholarships available to military and veteran students seeking funding for a master’s degree:
• AFCEA Educational Fund, afcea.org/site/?q=foundation/scholarships
• Colorado State University Global Campus U.S. Military Active Duty/Veteran Master's Degree Scholarship, csuglobal.edu/cost/tuition
• Ladies Auxiliary of the Fleet Reserve Association, http://www.la-fra.org
• Pat Tillman Foundation, pattillmanfoundation.org
• The Graduate Incentive Scholarship (GIS) Program, scholarships.collegetoolkit.com/scholarships/awards/graduate_incentive_scholarship/1015.aspx
Besides the GI Bills and scholarships, there are also federally backed loans, grants, work-study programs, fellowships and assistantships. Loans should be used as a last resort as they require payback once out in the workforce. It’s a daunting feeling coming out of school already burdened with debt.
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