Sunday, September 16, 2007

Leadership. Responsibility. Teamwork. These qualities are highly valued and encouraged in the U.S. military. They also come in very handy in the business world.

So, why not combine the two careers?

That’s the view of MilitaryMBA, a network that helps military officers who are pursuing or thinking about pursuing MBA degrees, and the MBA Tour, a recruiting organization for business schools.

The link makes sense, said Peter von Loesecke, chief executive officer of MBA Tour. Military officers “have good leadership skills, good work ethic and employers want them,” he said. As a result, so do business schools.

“Every top MBA school likes to bring military people in,” said Greg Eisenbarth, executive director of MilitaryMBA.

The MBA Tour and Military MBA joined forces to hold a career fair Tuesday at the Washington Convention Center. A few dozen curious military officers heard from others like them about how an MBA could benefit their careers.

Business schools have long looked to the military — both active members, those transitioning out of service and those who have retired — as potential MBA candidates, Mr. von Loesecke and Mr. Eisenbarth said.

Mr. Eisenbarth said the numbers explain why. The average U.S. and European MBA salary level at the end of 2003 was $75,846. For those with military experience, the salary was $102,275, according to National Center for Education Statistics information collected by MilitaryMBA.

Job placement dropped more than 25 percent for most MBA graduates from 2001 to 2004, but MBAs with military experience are seeing 100 percent rates of employment after graduation, with as many as three job offers, Mr. Eisenbarth said.

Lt. Col. Jim Dykes, an Army veteran of more than 20 years who has his MBA, said the military taught him how to make decisions in an ever-changing environment — a skill that was stressed in business school classes.

But the transition wasn’t seamless. Col. Dykes, who teaches ROTC cadets at Wake Forest University, said shifting to a profit-making frame of mind was an adjustment, since the military’s goal isn’t to make money.

“For the most part I think you find that the leadership skills you need both in the military and business fields are somewhat similar,” he said.

Monica Gray, who works at the admissions office at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said many military personnel are surprised to hear that business schools want them.

“They are extremely attractive candidates to banks and consulting firms,” she said, citing critical-thinking skills, leadership, commitment and other qualities. “What we try to emphasize to them is these are skills that are transferable.”

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