What Can a Veteran with an MBA Do?

A former soldier and recent MBA graduate is standing in an office holding a clipboard.What can a veteran with an MBA do to make the transition to life after service as smooth as possible? For many, the decision on what to pursue next can be incredibly difficult. Fortunately, a broad variety of skills that veterans gain during their time in service are transferable to new career paths, such as healthcare. By moving from one highly structured organization to the next, veterans can ease back into civilian life while setting attainable goals for themselves.

With experience working in an organized and team-oriented environment, many veterans may find that pursuing an advanced degree, such as a Healthcare Master of Business Administration (HCMBA), is a great opportunity to merge skills and pursue a fulfilling new profession as a civilian.

How Can Veterans Benefit from a Healthcare MBA?

Master’s degrees in business build on the leadership capabilities that every veteran develops while in the military, such as learning to follow and give orders, meeting deadlines, and operating under significant pressure. MBA programs emphasize a blend of hard and soft skills by covering analytical topics in economics, mathematics and accounting, while also cultivating expertise in communications, management and teamwork — all familiar skills for veterans.

Students who enroll in an advanced degree program, like an HCMBA, gain the additional benefit of learning about current challenges in the healthcare industry and how MBA holders can address them. What a veteran with an MBA can do to set themselves apart from other applicants involves capitalizing on prior experience or specialization training, building on the knowledge and skills learned during service, and transferring them to civilian life.

With an MBA or HCMBA, veterans can present themselves to employers as well-rounded candidates equipped with leadership abilities both in and out of the classroom. The professional network of the HCMBA program, along with its study abroad opportunities, also gives veterans a way to reacclimate to civilian life, streamlining the traditionally challenging transitional period.

Graduate Education Opportunities and Challenges for Service Members

According to an article by the U.S. Census Bureau, veterans from recent service periods have the highest level of education, with three-quarters of post-9/11 and Gulf War veterans having at least some college experience. While veterans are less likely to work in health service, with only 8.4% of veterans employed in the health sector compared with 15.6% of nonveterans, numerous fulfilling careers are available to veterans, many of which capitalize on prior knowledge and experience gained during service.

At the same time, service members face unique challenges in earning their degrees. Readjusting to civilian life after being on active or reserve duty can take time and exact a significant mental and emotional toll. Although a relatively high percentage of veterans had graduate degrees, like master’s, Ph.D. and MBA degrees, according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), other assessments have found that the graduation rates of veterans are lower than those of other students at many institutions.

In addition to the overarching challenges of adjusting to life after service, other hurdles, such as needing to fill out extensive paperwork to qualify for benefits under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill), have impeded the educational journeys of many veterans.

What to Know About the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program

The Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) was signed into law in 2008 and took effect in 2009. It provides a wide range of possible benefits to service members who have served 90 days or more cumulatively since September 11, 2001, and received an honorable discharge. Veterans with 30 days or more of continuous service and a discharge related to a service-connected disability are also eligible. Active duty members and the spouses and children of veterans can receive some Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits as well.

A key component of the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s benefits structure is the Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP). The YRP allows participating institutions to contribute additional funds toward student tuition and fees, beyond what the bill’s basic provisions cover (the Post-9/11 GI Bill has different maximum payment amounts for public and private schools). As of August 1, 2021, the Post-9/11 GI Bill paid up to $26,048.81 per academic year to private institutions. This amount varies year to year.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explains that receiving YRP benefits requires a student to be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is available to service members meeting any of the following criteria:

  • A minimum of 36 months of aggregate service time (also known as being at 100%)
  • A Purple Heart and an honorable discharge, with any duration of service
  • Children of service members who are at 100%
  • Spouses of service members who are at 100%, as of August 1, 2022
  • Discharged with a service-connected disability after having served at least 30 continuous days since September 11, 2001

Moreover, a service member student’s selected school must participate in the YRP, have not already provided benefits to the maximum number of participants stipulated in its participation agreement and certify student enrollment with the VA.

Institutions that participate in the YRP do so voluntarily and may elect to issue waivers beyond the maximum amount of tuition and fee reimbursement allowed under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The VA will match the waiver amount and contribute it directly to the institution for the costs in question.

Explore the Benefits for HCMBA Students

Returning to civilian life can be an exciting but challenging prospect with myriad different choices to make. Pursuing an advanced degree allows veterans to take control of their lives and prepares them for a variety of different careers by equipping graduates with the practical skills with which to move forward. For those who want to work in healthcare, but do not wish to pursue medicine, an option like an HCMBA may be the perfect fit, combining administrative skills with a desire to help others.

If you are a veteran interested in pursuing an advanced degree that prepares you for a high-level career in healthcare administration, with its participation in programs such as the YRP, the online HCMBA from George Washington University may be right for you. Eligible service members who are approved for the program will receive additional funding for tuition and fees which currently exceed the maximum base amount allowable by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Designated a Military Friendly School and ranked among the best schools for veterans by Military Times, GW offers service members who enroll in one of its degree programs guaranteed deferments for military deployments and obligations, as well as guidance from faculty mentors who also are service members.

With its fully online program, comprehensive and customizable curriculum, and diverse network, GW provides service members excellent flexibility while they work toward their degrees. For more information on how we support our service member students, visit the GW Office of Veteran Services, and discover what a veteran can do with an MBA and a fulfilling new career in healthcare.

Recommended Readings

How We Can Expect the Healthcare Industry to Change in the Future

How to Become a Hospital CFO

Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in Healthcare


CNN, Department of Veterans Affairs Fast Facts

Military.com, “The GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program Explained”

Military.com, "Veterans Bring Exceptional Skills, Including Soft Skills"

Pew Research Center, “How Veterans and Non-Veterans Fare in the U.S. Job Market”

Pew Research Center, “The Changing face of America’s Veteran Population”

U.S. Census Bureau, Census Bureau Releases New Report on Veterans

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "A Closer Look at Veterans in the Labor Force"

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Demographics

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation of Veterans Summary

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation of Veterans—2020

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, Yellow Ribbon Program