Enlisted veterans are not well-represented in the top MBA programs, regardless of how we define the “top” programs. When we look into why this is the case, we find very little information available. For example, class profiles of schools rarely provide a breakdown of how many veterans in their program were officers versus enlisted personnel. However, if you explore the pages of veteran alumni or browse through LinkedIn profiles, you’ll quickly notice that the majority of veterans you come across are former officers. This observation became increasingly evident to me during the admission process as I interacted with more students in the alumni clubs.
Now, don’t misunderstand me—I genuinely appreciate the presence of veterans in business schools. The purpose of this post is to emphasize the value that an MBA can offer and to reassure other enlisted veterans that they can indeed succeed in business school. In fact, the schools, students, and alumni are all eager to support your success.
A path to unlocking career opportunities and high earnings
Graduates from top MBA programs consistently secure high-paying jobs, often earning six-figure salaries right after graduation. In certain industries like consulting, it’s not uncommon to make nearly $200k in your first year out of school. When you compare these figures to the pay scale of an E5 or E6 military rank, it becomes clear that these opportunities can be truly life-changing. Need proof? Take a look at the latest UC Berkeley Haas Employment Report, which reveals that the median salary and sign-on bonus for graduates entering the consulting field surpasses $195k.
However, the benefits of top MBA programs extend far beyond financial gain. They also provide unique opportunities that would be challenging to attain otherwise. For instance, if your post-military aspiration is to become a banker on Wall Street, achieving this goal straight out of the service would be extremely difficult. Yet, with a full-time MBA program, you can build valuable networks with veterans already working at these prestigious firms. You can collaborate with career management teams to refine your resume, and seek advice and guidance from faculty mentors and students who have recently completed similar internships. These resources serve as the tools you may need to turn your dream into reality!
Maximizing GI Bill Benefits for Veterans
Many veterans find themselves as part of a small group of 5-10% in a much larger student body, indicating that the majority of their classmates do not have access to the GI Bill. While some students may have scholarships, many do not, leading them to take out loans to secure high-paying jobs that these top programs offer. Despite the high costs, the benefits of this education often outweigh the financial burden. Moreover, for veterans who do have GI Bill support, the scales are further tipped in favor of pursuing higher education, granting them the luxury of not solely focusing on landing the highest paying jobs upon graduation—something their peers may not have the privilege to do.
For veterans with less than 100% eligibility for the GI Bill, there are several outstanding public schools available which can help maximize your benefits. These institutions can be excellent choices for veterans who don’t qualify for the yellow ribbon program but still have remaining benefits. Let’s consider the example of a soldier who completes a two-year contract and is eligible for 80% benefits. If she utilizes her benefits at a private school, the GI Bill will cover up to 80% of the maximum private school tuition, which amounts to approximately $21,000 annually (based on a maximum private school tuition of $26,042). This leaves a significant funding gap, especially considering that some private schools charge $75,000-80,000 for tuition alone.
However, if she opts for a public school, the GI Bill will cover 80% of the total in-state tuition. Taking UC Berkeley as an example, with in-state tuition at approximately $65,000, the GI Bill would pay a substantial $52,000 annually, solely for tuition expenses!
A few great public schools to consider:
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Los Angeles
- Indiana University
- University of Minnesota
- UNC, Chapel Hill
- University of Texas, Austin
- University of Virginia
Valuable resources for veterans
Exploring different MBA programs can be made easier with the support of veterans clubs at business schools. The students involved in these clubs offer valuable assistance, ranging from resume updates and sharing insider information about the school and admissions process to interview preparation. These services, which admissions consultants often charge a hefty fee for, are typically provided by fellow veterans who are eager to pay it forward by helping you along your journey.
Another highly regarded source of support, recommended by veterans I’ve spoken to, is Service2School. Established in 2011, this nonprofit organization consists of veterans who have already gone through the admissions process or are recent alumni. As of January 2022, they have partnered with business schools such as UC Berkeley, the University of Minnesota, and Vanderbilt. Regardless of your chosen school, their guidebook is an exceptional resource for understanding the business school application process—an invaluable tool that I wish I had discovered during my own application journey.
Enlisted veterans’ unique perspective is an advantage
While it may seem that officers have an advantage in admissions due to their experience leading larger groups, such as platoons or companies of a hundred soldiers or more, any form of leadership experience sets you apart from your civilian peers at business school. Not all of your classmates will have had direct reports, so it’s the impact you had in your role that truly matters.
As veterans, you bring a unique perspective to the table. The military, being an incredibly large institution, has a distinct culture that is absent in the private sector. The differentiation between officers and enlisted personnel, the structure of contracts, and the nature of orders are notable aspects that make the military truly unique. The underrepresentation of enlisted veterans means that you offer a particularly valuable perspective in the classroom. Highlight your ability to make an impact and influence from below in your applications. Admissions officers strive to cultivate diversity within their classrooms, so leverage this aspect to your advantage!
For enlisted veterans considering a career in business, pursuing an MBA can be a rewarding and financially lucrative path. Top MBA programs attract recruiters from various roles and industries, so if you haven’t considered a business degree, take a look at the employment reports of the top schools. These reports, along with the informational pages on a school’s website, provide a comprehensive overview of the career opportunities available to graduates. Remember, there are numerous individuals willing to support you throughout this journey. The opportunity is yours for the taking, so why wait? Start your journey today!Log in or Register to save this content for later.